Coconut Water Confusion

Dear PWN,

What do you make of the recent news that coconut water is just sugar water and doesn’t really help you rehydrate? I’ve been using it in smoothies. Do I need to stop?

-Alice, St. Louis, MO

Alice & other readers,

Coconut water, by definition, is the clear liquid inside a young coconut. As the coconut matures, the liquid decreases and is replaced by coconut meat. Therefore, young coconuts have the most water.

There are naturally occurring sugars found within pure coconut water. In fact, most of the calories in a serving of coconut water come from its sugar content. Coconut water also contains high levels of potassium and other electrolytes, which is why it is often marketed as a solid beverage choice for athletes.

People who consume many servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day will have no issue getting ample amounts of electrolytes and potassium into their diet. Therefore, water works fine for hydration. However, after a hot yoga class, long training run, or intense workout, a serving of coconut water can help quickly replenish electrolytes. The sugar in coconut water also provides energy.

So, to answer your question, coconut water does help you rehydrate. All of its sugars are natural, but they are still sugar. In terms of sports drinks, coconut water is the best. However, I recommend pure water still be your beverage of choice. Save the coconut water for those days when you feel especially depleted: right before or after an intense workout; those mornings when you wake up feeling like you possibly had one too many cocktails the night before; or other times of dehydration.

If you simply enjoy the taste, that is fine! Just be sure to consume coconut water with some protein and healthy fats so your blood sugar stays under control, and watch your sugar intake throughout the day.

Finally, beware of flavored coconut water or those claiming to be energy drinks. Read their labels carefully – any ingredient other than “pure coconut water” can mean added sugars or flavors. These do not contribute health benefits and can increase the sugar content unnecessarily.

I hope this clears things up a bit! Thanks for raising the issue. It can be easy to get caught up in the latest food or beverage trend!