Coconut water is all the rage in the health and sports community. Jean Tong, the nutritionist with Halley Medical Aesthetics, explains the rationale behind the hype.
Coconut water. It is not unusual to see packets of them prominently displayed in sports clubs and gyms these days, and they are hard to miss in supermarkets too. Lauded as “mother nature’s sports drink,” many of us would have been asked one time or another by our HIIT trainer or yoga instructor to try this “natural alternative” instead of a sports drink. But is it really as good as publicised?
Good source of several nutrients
Coconut water contains several biologically-active constituents, and these comprise water, sugars (such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose), proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. The important vitamins in coconut water include the whole array of water-soluble B vitamins needed as coenzymes for enzymatic reactions vital for cellular functions.
Deficiencies in these B-group vitamins may lead to certain health conditions. For example, vitamin B6 deficiency can affect various processes in the body such as renal dysfunction and inflammation. Coconut water is also rich in a handful of minerals that are important electrolytes which our body needs, such as:
- potassium (important positive ions inside our cells which regulate heartbeat and muscle functions);
- calcium (important for bone and teeth health);
- magnesium (important for maintaining the electrical potential of our cells and muscle functions); and
- phosphorous (important for bone health, aids in muscles contractions and regulating nerve functions).
Potential source of rehydration fluid
Coconut water’s low sugar content, plus its balanced isotonic minerals composition of electrolytes like sodium and potassium, makes it a potentially refreshing post-exercise rehydration drink. Coconut water’s basic ions composition – sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium – may help replenish the loss of electrolytes in your body through sweat and urine.
Reported protection against heart attack and control of hypertension
A scientific study also reports that coconut water has cardioprotective effects, protecting against heart attack. But what many websites do not reveal is that it is a study done in the laboratory on rats. It is also reported to help control hypertension or high blood pressure. Potassium and magnesium minerals in coconut water have also been found to help in vasorelaxation or the reduction in tension of the blood vessel walls.
As with many foods that we consume, coconut water has its merits. It contains vitamins and minerals that our body needs. It also hydrates our body. But as Lillian Cheung, DSc, RD, of Harvard School of Public Health says in a report by WebMD: “There is a lot of hype about coconut water, yet the research is just not there to support many of the claims and much more research is needed.”
Whether you are a recreational athlete or professional one, drinking coconut water is all right but so is drinking plain ol’ water. The latter is calorie free, costs less than coconut water, and is easily accessible.