I’ll never forget the first time my dad brought home fresh coconuts he had collected during a business trip to a tropical clime. Dad the engineer was visibly excited and his enthusiasm was contagious.
“Gather ’round, kids!” he urged, having equipped himself at the kitchen table with a drill, hammer, and chisel. My mom looked on with a mixture of bemusement and worry, perhaps over the mess she expected she would have to clean up afterward.
Dad had placed some newspaper on the table to protect its surface.
“Wait until you see what’s inside,” he told us youngsters.
“Oh, yes,” gushed Mom. “Coconuts are wonderful!”
These odd, hairy, organic brown balls didn’t look all that impressive to me. I would certainly never eat that stuff.
“First, we remove the outer husk,” said Dad who deftly cleaved away the fibrous outer covering that protects the nut within.
“Next, we drill out the three holes on one end of the coconut,” he continued, doing so with practiced expertise. He was talking about the three dark circles that look like the finger holes on a bowling ball, called the eyes of the coconut.
“Be careful not to get anything in your eyes,” Mom cautioned us all. “Those hard fragments can fly around and really hurt.” She spoke as if she knew. “And I don’t want to drive anyone to the hospital at this time of night.”
“Then, we pour off the coconut juice,” demonstrated my dad who had a smug and satisfied look on his face.
Thrusting little glasses Mom had provided at us, we kids were instructed to drink the cloudy clear liquid. It was surprisingly good.
“Finally, after the nut is completely drained, we carefully crack it open, starting with the drill holes,” said Dad.
A few hammer blows later, my brother and I were amazed to see the creamy white interior of a fresh coconut for the first time. The meat was attached to a thin inner shell that Mom said wouldn’t hurt us if we ate it – so we did.
Apparently, my father was visionary.
Decades later, nutritionists are telling us about the sterling virtues of coconut water. It’s become a health trend.
Coconut water contains 94% water and almost no fat. Unlike other juices, unflavored coconut water is low in sugar and calories. Typical fruit juices have twice as many calories as unflavored coconut water.
Coconuts have the most water relative to the coconut flesh when they are about seven months old.
One cup (8 fluid ounces) of coconut water, the recommended minimum daily dose, provides the following nutrients:
- Calories: 46
- Carbs: 9 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Vitamin C: 10% of the RDI (Reference Daily Intake)
- Magnesium: 15% of the RDI
- Manganese: 17% of the RDI
- Potassium: 17% of the RDI
- Sodium: 11% of the RDI
- Calcium: 6% of the RDI
The levels of the natural electrolytes in coconut water – potassium, sodium, and manganese – change as a young coconut matures so it’s difficult to know exactly how much is in the juice you are drinking. Electrolytes are substances that become ions in solution and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. The balance of the electrolytes in our bodies is key for the normal function of our cells and our organs.
Due to its significant sodium content, people on sodium-restricted diets are advised to limit their consumption of coconut water.
One 2012 study compared how effective coconut water is for post-sports rehydration compared to plain water or Gatorade, enriched with sodium and electrolytes. All tested beverages promoted rehydration and supported subsequent exercise with little difference between body mass, fluid retention, plasma osmolality, and urine specific gravity noted in a sample of young, healthy, exercise-trained men.
Coconut water is popular in many countries as a refreshing beverage and its unique chemical composition of electrolytes and nutrients can make it a good natural substitute for a sports drink, particularly after lighter exercise. Some participants in the comparative study said that drinking coconut water and coconut water concentrate caused bloating and an upset stomach.
Chhandashri Bhattacharya, Ph.D., explained the benefits that drinking this natural electrolytic beverage offers athletes:
“Coconut water is a natural drink that has everything your average sports drink has and more. It has five times more potassium than Gatorade or Powerade. Whenever you get cramps in your muscles, potassium will help you to get rid of the cramps. It’s a healthy drink that replenishes the nutrients that your body has lost during a moderate workout.”
You can find coconut water at many groceries, packaged in cans, bottles, cartons, and other containers. Look in the water or juice aisle. The price for Powerade, Gatorade, and coconut water is about the same.
While coconut water is not a cure-all, it is a refreshing and restorative beverage that is low in calories and high in electrolytes. Why not give it a try and decide for yourself?