Coconut water is the aqueous part of the coconut endosperm (not to be confused with coconut milk, which is the liquid product obtained by grating the solid endosperm). It comes from green coconuts and is best drunk straight from the coconut. If you travel to or live in a tropical country you will no doubt find roadside vendors who will chop off the top of a green coconut to provide you with a refreshing drink, or will fill-up a plastic container for you to take home. Clearly, this is the freshest and best way to get your coconut water.
But coconut water is not only a refreshing drink – it also provides many health benefits.
The health benefits of coconut water
Coconut water is well known in the scientific community as a growth supplement in plant tissue culture, but there is mounting evidence that it also has health and medicinal applications (something that has been known in traditional cultures for many years).
Perhaps the most significant and useful components in coconut water are cytokinins, which have been found to have anti-aging, and anti-carcinogenic properties. One of the cytokinins – kinetin – has effective anti-platelet properties, and may be a potential therapeutic agent for treating arterial thrombosis
Coconut water contains a variety of inorganic ions, which are required for normal cellular function, and are critical for enzyme activation, bone formation, hemoglobin function, gene expression, and the metabolism of amino acids, lipids, and carbohydrates. It can serve as an effective rehydration drink to replenish the electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium,) of the human body lost during vigorous activities, diarrhea or even through detoxification. It can even be used as a short-term intravenous hydration fluid under certain emergency situations.
Coconut water also contains many vitamins which are essential for the normal functioning of the human body, such as the vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, and B9. Vitamin B6 deficiency can affect various processes of the body, such as inflammation and renal function. Vitamin B9 is the nutrient required to reduce anemia during pregnancy. Higher blood levels of vitamin B6 and folate can decrease the risk for atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases and may reduce the risk for breast cancer. In addition to vitamin B, coconut water also contains vitamin C, which is an important dietary antioxidant.
Choosing the best coconut water
As noted above, coconut water (coconut liquid endosperm) is a refreshing natural beverage that is nutritious and beneficial for health. The numerous health and medical benefits of coconut water are due to its unique chemical composition of sugars, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytohormones. These benefits can all be realized by drinking coconut water straight from the coconut, but as soon as it is subjected to various manufacturing processes, the chemical composition can change and the benefits may be lost. For example, pasteurizing it or reducing it to concentrate it with heat will destroy some of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
So in choosing your coconut water from a shop or supplier, try to buy the most natural available and avoid those that are pasteurized or made from concentrate. Also, avoid those that have added sugar or flavoring of any sort. Coconut water tastes delicious just as it is, so if a manufacturer has found it necessary to add flavoring, it is because the natural product has been spoiled in some way. As an alternative to the liquid variety, you can use the freeze-dried coconut water powder.
Recommended coconut water products
(click on an image to check pricing and order online)
Jean W. H. Yong, Liya Ge, Yan Fei Ng and Swee Ngin Tan. 2009. “The Chemical Composition and Biological Properties of Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) Water“. Molecules, 14(12), 5144-5164; doi:10.3390/molecules14125144