Think Coconut Water Sounds Too Good to Be True? We Have News for You

According to a registered dietitian, this wellness movement-backed beverage is packed with (legitimate) health benefits.

Coconut water has become one of the coolest sippable superfoods on the block in recent years, and there are few things more refreshing than an ice-cold glass of it after a run or yoga session. But with health claims ranging from hydration and electrolytes to being a catch-all for glowing skin and the ultimate hangover cure, it's natural to be skeptical of this stuff.

In an effort to better understand the juice found inside the coconut fruit (not to be confused with coconut milk, which is mostly coconut meat), we turned to Kaleigh McMordie, RD. She helped us cut through the wellness-y health halo touted by coconut water—and turns out, this beverage is packed with a number of legitimate health benefits.

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Antioxidants

"Coconut water contains antioxidants that can neutralize damaging free radicals that cause oxidative stress on the body," explains McMordie. Antioxidants are found in a variety of coconut plant forms and products, which do show a range in their effectiveness. Meaning? "It's best to choose fresh coconut water for the highest antioxidant activity, as heat processing will reduce antioxidant activity."

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Electrolytes

Hydration is one of coconut water's most celebrated attributes, and for good reason. According to McMordie, coconut water naturally contains the electrolytes magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium, all of which are important for maintaining fluid balance in the body. In addition to keeping you hydrated, electrolytes help balance your body's pH, control muscle contractions, and help you recover post-workout (more on this below).

RELATED: Can Beet Juice Really Boost Your Physical Fitness? We Asked an RD

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important vitamin for maintaining a healthy immune system, as well as an antioxidant. "Coconut water naturally contains about 10% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C per serving," says McMordie.

RELATED: 3 Immunity-Boosting Ingredients RDs Want You to Add to Your Diet Right Now

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Alternative to Soda

Coconut water is a great alternative to soda and other highly sweetened beverages. With a light coconut flavor, it provides taste without a bunch of added sugar, unlike soda, which may contain almost an entire day's worth of added sugar, along with artificial colors and flavors. (Also, RDs agree that soda has the ability to wreak havoc on your immune system.) Coconut water is also a great lighter option as a cocktail mixer or smoothie ingredient.

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Workout Recovery

"Coconut water is about 95% water and contains both carbohydrates and electrolytes, making it a great beverage for hydration and recovery after a workout," explains McMordie. It's naturally much lower in sugar than sports drinks and doesn't contain artificial colors or flavors.

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Which Beverage Options Are Best?

The most important thing is to read nutrition labels. Look for lower sugar coconut waters, like VitaCoco's sparkling coconut waters that contain only 4g per 12-ounce serving (the Pineapple Passionfruit flavor is delicious).

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Sources
Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Santos JL, Bispo VS, Filho AB, et al. Evaluation of chemical constituents and antioxidant activity of coconut water (Cocus nucifera L.) and caffeic acid in cell cultureAn Acad Bras Cienc. 2013;85(4):1235-1247. doi:10.1590/0001-37652013105312

  2. Lau WY, Kato H, Nosaka K. Water intake after dehydration makes muscles more susceptible to cramp but electrolytes reverse that effect. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2019;9(5):e000478. doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2018-000478

  3. Kardalas E, Paschou SA, Anagnostis P, Muscogiuri G, Siasos G, Vryonidou A. Hypokalemia: a clinical updateEndocr Connect. 2018;7(4):R135-R146. doi:10.1530/EC-18-0109

  4. USDA FoodData Central. Nuts, Coconut Water (Liquid From Coconuts).

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