Coconut water saved my life. OK, admittedly that is a bit of hyperbole, but at the time, it felt like a lifesaver. I was a teenager and traveling alone in the southern part of Thailand and I hadn’t been eating or drinking as well, or safely, as I should have been. My system was severely out of balance and I was unable to really keep anything down, or in me for more than a few minutes, and I was slowly wasting away in the heat and humidity. I went to a pharmacy in a small Thai town, the kind that sold DDT as bug repellent, and looked over my options, which all seemed to be of the nuclear variety. The man working behind the counter, sensing my distress, suggesting I forgo the meds and just eat white rice and drink nothing but fresh coconut water for the next three days (he said it was a “Thai” cure for what I had). Considering white rice and fresh coconuts were plentiful and cheap, I went for it and within three or four days, I was back to eating fish curry and drinking beer. All bow down to the power of coconut water (and white rice)!
Since that experience two decades ago, coconut water has blown up, and is not just for those suffering from a bad stomach. The coconut water craze has yielded nearly $110 million in domestic sales this year, and that is up 100 percent from last year. The vast majority of these sales are from packaged coconut water, sold in those hydrofoil boxes that retail for about $2 to $3 a pop and are being touted as healthy, nutritious, and the ideal “sports drink.” While most people will tell you that coconut water is a huge improvement upon drinking soda, energy drinks, or the various colored liquids being passed off as “sports drinks,” is coconut water really that much better for you then, say…water? Many say yes, but many in the field of nutrition say “no.”
Sure, coconut water contains two minerals that help balance fluids in the body, sodium and potassium, neither of which are naturally occurring in water. And the body, when hot and active, often loses hydration as well as sodium and potassium. However, unless you are engaged in a super intense workout, like working toward a marathon, you are probably not losing enough sodium and potassium for concern. Most nutritionists, like Monical Reeinegal insist that water is sufficient for hydration, and even advises against relying on coconut water. As she told the Huffington Post, “If you’re a marathoner, if you’re doing Bikram yoga–and if this is really about sweat replacement, relying on coconut water to replenish your lost sodium is not a good idea.”
While I am certain some people drink coconut milk after such intense workouts, I am sure many just enjoy it for the flavor and appeal of this relatively low-sugar, low-calorie drink – I know I do. But don’t kid yourself; you likely don’t need coconut water as much as you may think.
Do you drink coconut water? If so, has it changed your life, your workout, or your health? Do you think it is much ado about nothing, or something you can’t live without?