The Benefits of Coconut Water

By: Michele Wolfson

The first time I slurped down coconut water was on spring break in the Bahamas. The local who sold it to me promised that it would cure my hangover that was causing me much suffering. I brought the cool beverage that came straight from the coconut up to my lips, gulped it down and afterwards felt so much better! I went back home and told people about this miracle drink but then hadn't tried it again until about six months ago when it became all the rage in the U.S. For those of you who are not familiar with coconut water, it is the liquid that is found inside young coconuts before they mature, at which point the water solidifies to form the flesh of the coconut.

Coconut water went from a treat only encountered when traveling, to a juice you can find at most superstores and even in New York Bodegas. Brand leader Vita Coco reports 2009 sales volume of $20 million, 2010 sales of $40 million, and expected 2011 sales of $100 million. Competitors boast similar growth rates. In tropical locations like South America, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean, coconut water is a dietary staple for all sorts of occasions. Now that coconut water has suddenly become ubiquitous on American shelves, it's important to know the health benefits. Here is a list of 5 health benefits that coconut water has to offer:

1. Coconut water contains essential vitamins and minerals.

These vitamins include vitamins C, B6, B9, Thiamin and Riboflavin. One serving of coconut water contains about 10 percent of your daily value of vitamin C that helps boost immunity as well as prevents illnesses like cardiovascular diseases and even certain pre-natal disorders. B6 helps the body build protein by producing amino acids and helps produce neurotransmitters to regulate your mood. B9 is important for brain health and development, especially in fetuses. B1, Thiamin, maintains your nervous and circulatory systems, and B2, Riboflavin, which promotes energy metabolism, is present in coconut water.

2. Coconut water is packed with electrolytes and can reduce high blood pressure.

The beverage replaces the electrolytes lost in sweat, making it an excellent sports-drink. Electrolytes play a vital role in your body, especially in maintaining proper functionality of your nerves, heart, and other muscles. It nourishes the body with electrolytes such as potassium and sodium that needs to be replaced after heavy exercise. The high potassium and low sodium content of coconut water has a nutrient profile shown to help lower high blood pressure. Nutrient content varies slightly from brand to brand, but coconut water is naturally low in calories and fat-free. A serving has about the same amount of potassium as a banana and it is low in sodium. It also has a small amount of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Brands that add ascorbic acid as a preservative provide a good source of vitamin C.

3. Coconut water is naturally fat-free and low in calories.

Coconut water compliments a healthy diet and way of life by rehydrating the body without the accompaniment of unnecessary artificial sweeteners. Compared to other hydrating drinks, like Gatorade, coconut water replenishes the body without going overboard in the sugar and salt departments. A serving size of coconut water contains about 46 calories while other super hydrating beverages can contain hundreds of calories per serving.

4. Coconut water can help cure a hangover.

Forget the Bloody Mary... As I learned first hand after a night out on the town that went into the wee hours of the morning, coconut water calms upset stomachs and reduces vomiting. Coconut water is an all-natural remedy that is easy on the digestive tract. It is nature's greatest gift to curing a case of "the spins". In addition, coconut water has lots of dietary fiber and is considered a diuretic. Both of these benefits of coconut water aid and ease digestion while safely and naturally removing toxins from your body and because coconut water is low in sugars, it's safe to give it to children experiencing stomach pain, flu symptoms, and/or vomiting.

 5. Coconut water promotes weight-loss and energy.

Whether you are an athlete or a mom that needs to get her kids to school on time, you could appreciate a beverage that boosts energy. Coconut water increases your energy naturally unlike chemicalized energy drinks or 5-hour energy shots. Diabetics sometimes have a hard time controlling both their weight and their blood sugar. They take medications that can have serious side effects and have to revolve their lives around this serious illness. Coconut water can help alleviate symptoms and side effects through consumption.

Photo: snowpea&bokchoi

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