Coconut Water: Is It Healthy?

Everyone is buzzing about the benefits of coconut water as an alternative to sports drinks like Gatorade. But do the health claims live up to the hype?
coconut water

Everyone from celebrities and athletes to causal exercise enthusiasts is buzzing about the benefits of this “natural” alternative to sports drinks like Gatorade. Do the health claims about coconut water live up to the hype?

Yes?

Not to be confused with high-fat coconut milk made from pureed coconut flesh, coconut water is the clear liquid that comes from the inner chamber of immature coconuts. It’s low in calories (an 8 fluid ounce serving has about 42) and naturally contains numerous nutrients including important electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Most labels of coconut water will also list vitamin C, but this is due to the addition of the preservative absorbic acid; coconut is not a natural source of the vitamin.

No?

There’s nothing about coconut water that is “bad for you,” per se, but when considering it as replacement for sports drinks, it leaves a bit to be desired. When you crunch the numbers, the calories and carbohydrate content (important for energy replacement during and after workouts) are equal with about 45 calories and 14 grams of carbs in 8 ounces. The biggest difference comes in the sodium and potassium content. Since these are the two primary electrolytes lost in sweat, it’s important to replace them. Since the loss of sodium outweighs potassium during exercise, you want a beverage with a higher sodium content – this is where coconut water falls short. In an 8-ounce serving of a sports drink you’ll get 110 milligrams of sodium and 30 milligrams of potassium. Coconut water comes in at 28 milligrams of sodium and 485 milligrams potassium. This high amount of potassium can also be problematic for folks with kidney and blood pressure conditions so some should consider that before drinking large quantities.

The Verdict

While coconut water is certainly not harmful, it lacks the nutrient composition that some heavy exercisers may need for proper electrolyte replacement. Its hefty potassium content should also be considered.

Tell Us: Do you choose coconut water over sports drinks?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana's full bio »

You Might Also Like:

Next Up

The Best Coconut Waters, According to Food Network Staffers

Our favorite picks for drinking, making smoothies and more!

How Much Water Is Too Much?

Your goal is to stay hydrated without going overboard. Learn how much water intake is too much.

Rothy's Latest Shoe Collab Is Made with 72,000 Recycled Water Bottles

The tennis-inspired collection recycled thousands of evian water bottles from last year's U.S. Open.

Should You Be Adding Magnesium to Your Water?

An expert weighs in on the latest TikTok health claim.

What's the Ideal Coffee-to-Water Ratio?

We've got the so-called Golden Ratio for your morning cuppa.

7 Best Water Filters of 2024, According to Experts

From water bottles to your whole home, these are the best water filters you can buy.

Seltzer Versus Sparkling Water: What's the Difference Anyway?

Many people use the terms interchangeably. But there’s a difference.

Not Drinking Enough Water? These Products Can Help

It can be hard to remember to stay hydrated. We found water bottles, pitchers and more that can help with that.

I'm Obsessed With Larq's Self-Cleaning Water Bottle

Because who actually washes their water bottle anyway?

9 Best Reusable Water Bottles of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

We've tried dozens of reusable water bottles on the market, and these bottles are the best you can buy.