You Asked: Is there any reason to drink coconut water?

 coconut waterYes. If you like the taste and don’t mind unloading your wallet, drink it by all means. But if you are thinking of making coconut water a part of your life for some perceived health benefit or as the beverage to consume to replace your electrolytes after intense exercise, forget it. So what is coconut water and why the current enthusiasm about drinking it? First, let’s make clear that coconut water is not the same as coconut milk. Coconut water is the liquid found inside young coconuts while coconut milk is expressed from the flesh of the fruit. Unlike coconut milk it contains no fat and precious little of anything else save for a good dose of potassium. It is the potassium content that has propelled the hype elevating coconut water into a “super hydrating beverage.” True, prolonged intense exercise can require the replacement of electrolytes of which potassium is one. But so is sodium, of which there is not much in coconut water. And as for the vaunted energy effect, well, coconut water does have a small amount of sugar but not enough to have any significant impact on blood glucose. Some bottled or canned coconut waters have added sugar and added sodium but studies have found that nutrient amounts listed on the label can fall significantly short of what is actually in the beverage. In any case,for most people water is perfectly adequate as a rehydrating solution and serious athletes are better off using one of the scientifically designed beverages. Of course there are athletes who maintain that they perform better with coconut water but of course there are also athletes who say they perform better when they stick coloured tape on their body. Mind over matter.

Much of the buzz about coconut water is created by ingenious marketing. As the attacks on bottled water and soda pop mount, the industry is looking for new ways to fill its coffers. And they’re turning coconut milk into the new golden boy. Throw in phrases like “potassium-rich,” “all natural,” “fat-free,” “cholesterol free,”“naturally sweet” and “super-hydrating,” then go out and hire popstars like Rihanna to endorse the product and watch sales zoom! Even better if you have someone who appears to have scientific credibility pipe in on the product’s supposed benefits. Like Barbara Mendez, who is a registered pharmacist in New York. She espouses this bit of brilliance: “fresh coconut water has not been pasteurized, therefore it contains enzymes that help to detoxify and repair the body.” Hard to know how someone with a degree in pharmacy can spread such claptrap. Enzymes are proteins that are digested when ingested. The human body makes the enzymes it needs, it does not ,and cannot rely on outside sources. And the “detoxify and repair the body” expression is a giveaway of quackery. Claims of boosting immune function, preventing infections and treating kidney stones, hangovers and cancer are blatantly absurd. And the fact that New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez likes the “purity” of coconut water or that Madonna goes into rapture when singing the praises of the product does not amount to scientific justification for forking out between two and three dollars for a serving of sugar water touted as potassium rich. Why not just drink water and eat a banana?

Joe Schwarcz

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