Benefits of Coconut water

Whether it’s the oil, fruit or water, health frenzied people are buying coconut products for its alleged health properties. Moneybags journalist, Danielle Van Wyk, asks if there are indeed any benefits to drinking coconut water.

Coconut oil versus coconut water

While both originated from the coconut fruit, coconut oil and coconut water are different. The oil is the residue left from heating mature dried coconut meat at low temperatures. Whereas the water is comprised of the actual coconut juice i.e. the liquid sloshing around inside.

The oil is commonly used for cooking, or for various hair or skin treatments but while the water is ingested.

There are many claimed health benefits. Some reports say it cures diarrhoea and is very beneficial for purifying the entire urinary system. Others say it helps you lose weight and is good for your skin.

But what do the health professionals say?

Jessica Kotlowitz, a Camps Bay based dietician says: “Coconut water has many touted health benefits, including that it is naturally fat and cholesterol free, high in electrolytes and the perfect fluid for hydrating the body.

Most of the claims used by marketers of coconut water are unfounded and not based on reliable evidence, however coconut water does have certain health benefits, and it is indeed naturally fat and cholesterol free, high in potassium and has a relatively low sugar content of about 6g per cup.”

As it is a raw product and relatively unprocessed, it can also be used as an alternative to water.

Kotlowitz, however, adds that ‘dieters should be aware that although coconut water is low in sugar, it does still have a sugar content and does contain calories, therefore drinking large amounts of it may not aid in weight loss goals.’

Due to its added benefit of hydration, coconut water has also been highly recommended for athletes.

“While it is true that coconut water does have high potassium, which is important for hydration during sporting events, it is relatively low in sodium, meaning that it is not an ideal hydration fluid as it will not replace sodium losses via sweat.

“In addition, the carbohydrate content of coconut water is relatively low, meaning that athletes who drink coconut water during long races or events may still have to take in extra carbohydrates or sugar in order to fuel their workout. Therefore, coconut water may be slightly better than plain water for hydration but it is still not an ideal hydration fluid, especially for athletes,” added Kolowitz.

Coconut water has not been medically tested or proven for any ailments however, “it is said to be good for diabetics, cholesterol, pregnant women and even hangovers,” said Prenny Abraham, owner of coconut water distribution company, Coco V.

Is it banting friendly?

Keeping with the health benefits, a question on many lips is whether or not coconut water is good for those on a banting diet.

“I can’t comment on the acceptability for a banting diet as there are no official guidelines concerning which foods are and are not acceptable on a banting diet, besides those put forth in The Real Meal Revolution.

“I would say that coconut water is acceptable for someone on a low carbohydrate diet, provided that the carbohydrate content falls within the daily carbohydrate limit that the person is trying to stick to. If a person is following a banting diet, they would need to decide for themselves whether the carbohydrate content of coconut water is acceptable for them or not and whether it will fit in with their daily carbohydrate allowance. In general, I would consider natural coconut water a low carbohydrate food,” explained Kolowitz.

In addition, many commercial coconut waters have added sugars, this is especially the case in flavoured coconut water. So always check the labels and make sure your coconut water is sugar free, or even better, drink it straight out of the coconut.

Potential uses

“Most of us don’t get enough potassium through our diets, mostly because our primary source of potassium is fruits and vegetables and the majority of us fail to meet the recommended five portions per day.

“In addition, most of us eat way too much sodium, mainly through processed and pre-packaged foods and added salt. Coconut water is a great source of potassium and is low in sodium and is therefore a tasty and healthy alternative to plain water for those people who are lacking potassium in their diets and who want to avoid any extra sodium,” explained Kotlowitz.

For the health conscious who want to avoid sweetened beverages, but are looking for an alternative to water. She suggests “mixing still or sparkling water with your favourite fruit, veg and herbs and put it in the fridge for an hour or two to allow the flavours to infuse into the water. This way you can get all the flavour without the extra sugar and calories.”

Cost and availability

Coconut water is typically available from your local Woolworths, wellness stores and select online distributors.

Coco V is generally retailed for around R20 for a 250ml can,” said Abrahams. They also offer the added benefit of online discounts and delivery.

Woolworths, similarly has a 330 ml retailing for R22, 95.

As far as luxurious drinks are concerned it’s a reasonably affordable drink. However, if you want to save money why not buy the fruit itself and drink the contents. Buying the fruit from Pick n Pay for example will only set you back R17.99*.

*Correct as at 11 February 2016.