7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Water
By Jessica DiGiacinto and Franziska Spritzler — Medically reviewed by Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD, Nutrition — Updated on August 11, 2021
In recent years, coconut water has become quite the trendy beverage.
In addition to being naturally sweet and hydrating, coconut water is loaded with several important nutrients, including minerals that many people don’t get enough of.
Here are 7 health benefits of coconut water.
- Good source of several nutrients
benefits of coconut water
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Coconuts grow in tropical climates on trees scientifically known as Cocos nucifera, and are botanically considered a fruit.
Coconut water is the liquid found in the center of a young, green coconut. It helps nourish the fruit. As the coconut matures, which takes around 10–12 months, some of the liquid remains while the rest ripens into the solid white flesh known as coconut meat (1Trusted Source).
Coconut water typically comes from young coconuts about 6–7 months of age, though it’s also found in mature fruit. An average green coconut provides about 1/2–1 cup of coconut water.
Coconut water contains 94% water and very little fat. It should not be confused with coconut milk, which is made by adding water to grated coconut meat. Coconut milk contains about 50% water and is quite high in fat (1Trusted Source).
One cup (240 ml) contains 60 calories, as well as (2Trusted Source):
Carbs: 15 grams
Sugar: 8 grams
Calcium: 4% of the daily value (DV)
Magnesium: 4% of the DV
Phosphorus: 2% of the DV
Potassium: 15% of the DV
Coconut water is the liquid found in young coconuts and a natural source of several important minerals.
- May have antioxidant properties
Free radicals are unstable molecules produced in your cells during metabolism. Their production increases in response to stress or injury.
When there are too many free radicals, your body enters a state of oxidative stress, which can damage your cells and increase disease risk (3).
Research on animals has shown that coconut water contains antioxidants that may help modify free radicals so they no longer cause harm (4, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
In one 2012 study, insulin-resistant rats on a high fructose diet were treated with coconut water. Free radical activity decreased, as did blood pressure, triglycerides, and insulin levels (5Trusted Source).
Another study from 2014 found that damaged rat livers showed significant improvement in oxidative stress when treated with coconut water compared with livers that received no treatment (6Trusted Source).
A third study from 2016 highlighted the benefits of coconut water extract on rats fed a high fat diet. Not only did the coconut water help decrease cholesterol markers, but it also showed “antioxidant potency (4).”
While these studies are interesting, it’s important to note that no studies involving humans and the antioxidant power of coconut water have been done to date, and each of the animal studies used different dosages and parameters.
Coconut water contains antioxidants that have shown to be beneficial in research involving rats and mice, but human studies are lacking.
- May help lower blood sugar for people living with diabetes
Research has shown that coconut water can lower blood sugar levels and improve other health markers in animals with diabetes (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
In a study from 2015, rats with diabetes that were treated with coconut water maintained better blood sugar levels than the control group. The same study also found that the rats given coconut water had lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, indicating better long-term blood sugar control (9Trusted Source).
A more recent study from 2021 involving rats with diabetes also found that that coconut water reduced blood glucose (10Trusted Source).
More studies are needed to confirm these effects in humans.
However, another added blood sugar benefit of coconut water is that it’s a good source of magnesium, which may increase insulin sensitivity and decrease blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes (11Trusted Source, 12).
With all this in mind, it’s important to note that coconut water contains carbs (which are broken down into sugars in the body), so if you are living with diabetes or prediabetes, talk with your doctor or a dietitian before adding it to your diet.
Studies on animals with diabetes suggest that coconut water may improve blood sugar control, but more research involving humans needs to be done.
- May help prevent kidney stones
Drinking enough fluids is important for kidney stone prevention.
Although plain water is a good choice, two small studies suggest that coconut water might be even better.
Kidney stones are created when calcium, oxalate, and other compounds combine to form crystals in your urine. These crystals can then form tiny stones. While some people are more susceptible than others, kidney stones affect about 12% of the world’s population (13)Trusted Source.
In a 2013 study in rats with kidney stones, coconut water prevented crystals from sticking to the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract. It also reduced the number of crystals formed in the urine (14Trusted Source).
In a study from 2018 that involved eight people, researchers found that coconut water increased the urination of potassium, chloride, and citrate in individuals without kidney stones, meaning coconut water might help flush out the system and keep the likelihood of stones low (15).
Because one study involved animals and the other is so small, much more research needs to be done concerning the benefits of coconut water in reducing the possibility of kidney stones.
Early research suggests that water from coconuts may help prevent kidney stones by reducing crystal and stone formation. However, more studies have to be done — specifically involving humans.
- May support heart health
Drinking coconut water may help reduce heart disease risk (16).
In an older study from 2008, researchers fed rats a diet rich in fats and cholesterol. They also fed one group high doses of coconut water (4 ml per 100 grams of body weight).
After 45 days, the coconut water group had a reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels similar to the effects of a statin drug used to lower cholesterol (17Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that this was a very high dose. In human terms, it would be equivalent to a 150-pound (68-kg) person consuming 91 ounces (2.7 liters) of coconut water per day.
A 2005 study suggests that coconut water may also be beneficial for lowering blood pressure in individuals living with high blood pressure, but more research needs to be done in that area (18Trusted Source).
One of the reasons coconut water may be connected to lowered blood pressure is its impressive potassium content (500mg of potassium in 8 ounces). Potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with high or normal blood pressure (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
While there is some evidence that coconut water may be good for heart health, more research centering on humans needs to be done.
- Beneficial after prolonged exercise
Coconut water may be the perfect beverage for restoring hydration and replenishing electrolytes lost during exercise.
Electrolytes are minerals that play several important roles in your body, including maintaining proper fluid balance. A few vital electrolytes include potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium (21Trusted Source).
Because coconut water contains electrolytes like potassium and magnesium, several studies have found that it may be more beneficial than water for rehydration after exercise (22, 23, 24).
In fact, one small 2014 study out of Brazil found that coconut water improved exercise capacity better than water or a sports drink during a very hot day (22).
Coconut water is effective at replenishing fluids and electrolytes after exercise. It’s comparable to other sports beverages.
- Delicious source of hydration
Natural coconut water is slightly sweet with a subtle, nutty flavor. It’s also fairly low in calories and carbs.
It’s freshest directly out of the fruit, but if you aren’t able to fill your fridge with fresh coconuts, there are many brands of coconut water on the shelves today.
Just be sure to read the ingredients to verify you’re getting 100% coconut water. Some bottled brands can contain added sugar or flavoring agents.
You can use this tropical liquid as a base for smoothies, chia seed pudding, vinaigrette dressing, or substituted for plain water whenever you want a bit of natural sweetness.
Coconut water can be consumed directly from green coconuts or bought in bottles. Avoid brands with added sugar, sweeteners, or flavors.
The bottom line
Coconut water is a delicious, electrolyte-filled, natural beverage that may benefit your heart, moderate your blood sugar, help improve kidney health, and keep you refreshed and hydrated after a workout.
Although more controlled studies involving humans are needed to confirm many of these qualities, the research to date is encouraging.
If you want to start sipping this tropical drink, there should be an array of brands on the shelves of your local grocery store — just be sure to avoid products with added sugar.
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