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Fresh coconut water is a staple in many diets around the world, including those of India and other tropical countries. But it goes beyond being a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink. Here's a rundown of its research-backed benefits, such as decreased blood glucose and body weight for improved health
Coconut water is nature's gift in one complete package. It's the liquid found in the center of a young, green coconut, helping nourish the fruit. Its wide range of applications is justified by its unique chemical composition of sugars, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, as well as phytohormones.[i]
The average green coconut offers about one-half to 1 cup of coconut water. One cup contains 46 calories along with 9 grams (g) of carbohydrates, 3 g of fiber, 2 g of protein, 11% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of sodium and 17% of the RDI of potassium.[ii]
Coconut is known to be an excellent alternative to sports drinks, a natural refreshing beverage that could be used for whole-body rehydration post-exercise.[iii] Nature also filters coconut water through an intensive purification process, eliminating safety issues commonly tied with municipal water systems and even sports beverages comprising synthetic ingredients.
Let's recap some of the whole-body benefits of consuming fresh coconut water, starting with a 2018 study looking into its effects on body weight and glucose levels.
Slashing Blood Glucose and Excess Pounds Naturally
A group of researchers sought to compare the effects of higher saturated fatty acid and fiber intake, as provided by fresh coconut, and monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) and fiber intake via a combination of groundnut oil and groundnuts.[iv] They then measured indicators such as blood insulin and glucose levels, along with blood pressure, in healthy adults.
The researchers divided the 80 healthy subjects they recruited into two randomized groups, consuming a standardized diet along with either 100 g of fresh coconut or an equal amount of groundnuts and groundnut oil for 90 days.
The results showed that fasting blood sugar in both groups was significantly reduced. Yet they also observed a significant reduction in body weight in the coconut group, along with a notable increase in diastolic pressure in the groundnut group.
The researchers noted, "Fresh coconut-added diet helps reduce blood glucose levels and body weight in normal healthy individuals." This supports previous studies that vouch for the blood-sugar lowering action of the natural drink, offering potential anti-diabetes benefits despite its naturally sweet taste.[v]
Interestingly, while groundnut intake reflected an increase in diastolic pressure, coconut was shown in previous research to push down systolic and diastolic pressures in hypertensive subjects.[vi] Additional animal research shows coconut water prevents and reverses fructose feeding-induced high blood pressure, along with reducing oxidative stress and insulin resistance.[vii]
Coconut water vinegar, too, has been promoted as a food ingredient with potential anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory effects, thanks to alterations in the gut microbiota due to increased populations of Bacteroides and Akkermansia genera bacteria.[viii]
Other Wondrous Health Benefits of Coconut
- Anti-ulcer properties: Both coconut water and coconut milk demonstrate strong anti-ulcer activity against chemicals such as indomethacin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).[ix]
- Lipid-lowering action: Coconut water has a lipid-modulating effect similar to the drug lovastatin in rats fed a fat- and cholesterol-enriched diet.[x]
- Alzheimer's disease protection: In a novel study, young coconut juice showed positive future implications in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease in menopausal women.[xi]
- Sperm preservation: A coconut water-based extender, ACP-116c, along with 20% egg yolk and 3% glycerol, was effective for the cryopreservation of semen.[xii]
- Antibacterial benefits: Three peptides were purified and identified from green coconut water, exhibiting remarkable antimicrobial action against pathogenic bacteria.[xiii]
- Kidney stone fighter: In a study on rats with kidney stones, coconut water barred crystals from sticking to the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract. In addition, it slashed the number of crystals formed in the urine.[xiv]
While pure, clear water remains the beverage of choice to stay cool and hydrated, some ice-cold natural coconut water can be a sound option, replacing electrolytes lost from sweating without the added sugar. Its close kin, coconut oil, is equally celebrated for its own set of healing and nourishing benefits.
[i] Yong JW et al "The chemical composition and biological properties of coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) water" Molecules. 2009 Dec 9;14(12):5144-64.
[ii] SELF Nutrition Data https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3115/2
[iii] Mohamed S et al "Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water" J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002 Mar;21(2):93-104.
[iv] Venogupal V et al "Diet Enriched With Fresh Coconut Decreases Blood Glucose Levels and Body Weight in Normal Adults" J Complement Integr Med. 2018 Feb 20;15(3).
[v] "Hypoglycemic and antioxidant potential of coconut water in experimental diabetes" Food Funct. 2012 Jul;3(7):753-7
[vi] T Alleyne et al "The control of hypertension by use of coconut water and mauby: two tropical food drinks" West Indian Med J. 2005 Jan;54(1):3-8.
[vii] Therapeutic effects of tender coconut water on oxidative stress in fructose fed insulin resistant hypertensive rats. act Source: Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2012 Apr ;5(4):270-6.
[viii] Nurul Elyani et al "Dietary coconut water vinegar for improvement of obesity-associated inflammation in high-fat-diet-treated mice" Food Nutr Res. 2017 ;61(1):1368322. Epub 2017 Sep 21.
[ix] R O Nneli et al "Antiulcerogenic effects of coconut (Cocos nucifera) extract in rats" Phytother Res. 2008 Jul;22(7):970-2.
[x] V G Sandhya et al "Comparative evaluation of the hypolipidemic effects of coconut water and lovastatin in rats fed fat-cholesterol enriched diet" Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Dec;46(12):3586-92. Epub 2008 Sep 3.
[xi] Nisaudah R et al "Young coconut juice, a potential therapeutic agent that could significantly reduce some pathologies associated with Alzheimer's disease: novel findings" Br J Nutr. 2011 Mar ;105(5):738-46. Epub 2010 Nov 30.
[xii] M A Silva et al "Cryopreservation of collared peccaries (Tayassu tajacu) semen using a powdered coconut water (ACP-116c) based extender plus various concentrations of egg yolk and glycerol" Theriogenology. 2012 Apr 24. Epub 2012 Apr 24.
[xiii] Santi M et al "Identification and structural insights of three novel antimicrobial peptides isolated from green coconut water" Peptides. 2009 Apr;30(4):633-7. Epub 2008 Dec 6.
[xiv] Gandhi M et al "Prophylactic effect of coconut water (Cocos nucifera L.) on ethylene glycol induced nephrocalcinosis in male wistar rat" Int Braz J Urol. 2013 Jan-Feb;39(1):108-17.