Coconut Water: Benefits Of This Sports Drink Alternative

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COCONUT WATER
Billed as a healthier alternative to sports drinks, global coconut water sales have been soaring over the past couple years and there are now more brands than we can keep track of. | Getty

Coconut water seems to be everywhere these days and it's not just because Rihanna and other celebrities are drinking it.

Billed as a healthier alternative to sports drinks, global coconut water sales have been soaring over the past couple years and there are now more brands than we can keep track of.

So, what is all the fuss about? It's always important to stay hydrated, but it's particularly key during the summer months, when we're sweating more and outside in the heat. There's always water and neon-shaded performance drinks, but coconut water offers a natural alternative.

Coconut water and coconut milk are not one and the same. Coconut water is a clear liquid found inside young green coconuts, and coconut milk is a mix of coconut water and the white coconut flesh. Coconut water doesn't taste the same as coconut flesh, but it's still delicious: sweet, with a nutty flavour.

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John Isner, a pro tennis player, credited coconut water with keeping him going during his 11-hour match at Wimbledon. "For hydration I drink coconut water prior to a match and on court," Isner told Tennis Identity in 2010. "It's loaded with potassium and electrolytes which help keep me from cramping no matter how much I'm sweating."

So with the weather getting steamy, it might be a good idea to keep a can of coconut water close by. But before you switch our your sports drink, read our 12 facts about coconut water to find out if it's the right choice for you.

Low In Calories: Coconut milk is high in calories because of its fat content, but coconut water is a low-cal drink: a cup has just 45 calories.

Fat Free: Coconut water is also virtually fat free, with just 0.5 grams per cup. It also provides a small dose of healthy omega fatty acids, with 4.8 milligrams of omega-6 fats.

Hydrating: A study published in the journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2012 found that coconut water was equally effective at rehydrating after a tough workout when compared to a sports drink.

Loaded With Potassium: There are 600 milligrams of potassium in a serving of coconut water, which is 17 per cent of the recommended daily amount and more than what's found in a medium-sized banana.

Low Glycemic: With an estimated glycemic load of just three, coconut water is a good alternative to drinks that have added sugar and could cause a spike in your blood sugar when you drink them.

Electrolytes: Electrolytes are used by your cells to carry electrical impulses across themselves and to other cells. When you exercise heavily, you lose electrolytes — specifically sodium and potassium — in your sweat, and they need to be replenished. Coconut water can help with this, as it contains both those electrolytes, as well as others like calcium and magnesium.

Low Sodium: You will find some sodium in coconut water — about 250 milligrams per cup — and that's part of what makes it hydrating as it replaces sodium lost through sweat. But the sodium count is lower than what's found in many sports drinks, which is good news for those who are watching their intake.

Enzymes: Fresh or raw coconut water — and you can tap green coconuts and drink the water right from them— contains naturally occurring enzymes. It's believed that these enzymes could have antioxidant properties, but there's no reliable research on this potential benefit yet.

A Source Of Other Nutrients: Along with potassium, a cup of coconut water has 15 per cent of the daily value for magnesium, 17 per cent for manganese, and 10 per cent for vitamin C.

Watch For Added Sugars And Flavours: If you buy flavoured coconut water, be aware that you might also be getting extra calories. Avoid those with added sugars, which should be kept to a minimum in your diet.

You May Need More Sodium If You're An Intense Athlete: Low sodium might not be the right choice if you're an intense athlete, because you'll be losing more sodium through sweat than the average person. If that describes you, you might want to stick with a conventional sports drink.

Avoid If You're On A Diet With Restricted Potassium: As with other high-potassium foods, avoid coconut water if you have to restrict potassium for health reasons.

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