Coconut Water: Not as Healthy as You May Think

Consider coconut water to be the ultimate health elixir? Read on


Photo: NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images

Coconut water is a low-cal, low-sugar beverage that makes a nice change from water. But it isn’t really the health tonic that consumers have been led to believe.

The millenial’s version of POM Juice, coconut water is one of those breakthrough beverages that people started drinking because they believed it was good for them. That idea is due to a pretty extensive marketing campaign on the part of coconut water sellers—a campaign that turned the oddly sweet, yet weirdly salty liquid into a $400-million phenom according to a recent New York Times piece.

Initially billed as a superfood, it was considered an aid in reducing the risk of a range of illnesses and diseases. Later, it was marketed to athletes and fitness junkies as a super-hydrator and one superior to water and sports drinks.

Basically, it’s neither of those things. And after two class-action lawsuits forcing the issue, coconut-water sellers have tempered their marketing.

As a health drink, its properties are fairly underwhelming.

“In terms of vitamins and minerals, it’s just trace amounts you’re getting. You’d be getting a small amount of vitamin C, in some brands,” says Toronto-based dietitian Christy Brissette.

Coconut water is usually high in potassium, but again, the amount varies by brand, says Brissett. (Bananas, mangoes and apricots are also good sources, plus as an added bonus, they contain fibre as well.)

And while some studies do suggest coconut water can be a good post-workout beverage, especially when it has added sodium, Brissette says it doesn’t quite strike the same carbohydrate-sugar balance that sports drinks do: “If you’re using it to rehydrate after exercise, it’s really not having the same impact as a sports drink would.”

That said, you likely don’t need to chug either after a typical workout. “Unless you’re exercising for an hour or more at an intense level and in intense heat, for most people drinking water is your best bet,” explains Brissette. “You don’t really need the extra calories from a sports drink or coconut water.”

The final verdict? Coconut water’s strongest selling point may just be that it offers a low-calorie (about 66 calories per 330 mL), low-sugar natural alternative to pop and other sugary drinks.