When the ever-moving wellness spotlight lingered over coconut water—the fluid harvested from inside coconuts—you, like many of us, probably wondered: Is coconut water actually healthy? So many diet trends are overhyped—but nutritionists say this one holds some weight. In other words, the health benefits of coconut water are aplenty.
Below, we break down the research-backed perks of nature’s sports drink—just know if you plan on reaping any of them, Jennifer Christman, R.D.N., L.D.N., C.P.T., director of clinical nutrition at Optavia recommends checking nutritional labels first. “Stick with options that are 100% coconut water and free of unnecessary additives, like sugars,” she says.
Coconut water benefits
Coconut water is most well-known for its ability to match Gatorade’s electrolytes (which we’ll go over later), but that’s not its only asset:
It’s plentiful in key nutrients
“Depending on the brand, 8 oz. of store-bought coconut water has around 500 milligrams (mg) of potassium, 30 to 40 mg of sodium, and 4% of the recommended daily value for magnesium and calcium,” explains Joanna Gregg, R.D., a MyFitnessPal registered dietitian. “If your diet is lacking in any of these nutrients, coconut water may be beneficial for reaching your daily needs.”
It’s a natural source of electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals not found in water that help maintain various important bodily functions including hydration, muscle function, and a balanced blood pH, per the National Library of Medicine. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, and while sports drinks may help replenish them after a good workout, they often come with unnecessary added sugars. Pure coconut water, on the other hand, does not—and one cup contains more than double the amount of electrolytes than the same yield of a traditional sports drink.
It’s high in potassium
Megan Meyer, Ph.D., a nutrition immunology and science communication expert puts special emphasis on coconut water’s potassium content, an electrolyte that supports muscle function, among other processes. “The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans have identified potassium as one of the four nutrients of concern for Americans,” she explains. “Insufficient potassium intake can elevate blood pressure, deplete calcium in bones, and increase the risk of kidney stones.” As previously mentioned, a cup of coconut water delivers 500 mg of the nutrient.
It may support heart health
On the topic of potassium, getting extra of it via coconut water may benefit your heart health. That’s because potassium may “help relax blood vessels in order to promote healthy blood flow and regulate blood pressure levels,” says Sarah Olszewski, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., a registered dietitian and Cure nutrition advisor. This is especially the case if you overdo it on sodium, which tends to raise blood pressure—having a dose of potassium can counteract those effects, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
It’s low in calories
It’s natural to wonder if coconut water is a good drink for weight loss—and because it’s a tasty bev that’s lower in calories than alternatives like juice and soda, experts give it a thumbs up. However, it will never be as good for losing weight as plain ’ole, calorie-free water.
“Substituting high-calorie beverages with coconut water can be a healthier choice for individuals looking to manage their weight,” says Olszewski. “However, some packaged coconut water products may contain added sugars and higher calorie content, which may not be conducive to weight loss. It’s crucial to read labels and opt for pure, unsweetened coconut water when possible.”
Drinking enough water on a daily basis is one of the best things you can do for your health. In fact, Meyer notes that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women and men drink about nine and 13 cups per day, respectively. “Coconut water can help people meet their hydration needs, since it is about 95% water,” she adds.
It may be a powerful antioxidant
“Coconut water contains antioxidants that may help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body and protect cells from oxidative stress,” explains Olszewski. Animal-based studies have explored this theory with positive results, but more research is warranted in humans to determine how powerful its preventive effects really are.
Is it good to drink coconut water every day?
Drinking coconut water daily can be a part of a healthy diet, especially for those who live in especially hot climates and workout a lot, says Olszewski. However, some individuals with specific health conditions like kidney disease “should exercise caution with the amount of coconut water they consume,” she adds. This is because the potassium in coconut water may cause undue stress on vulnerable kidneys, per the AHA.
Kayla Blanton is a freelance writer who reports on all things health and nutrition for Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and Prevention. Her hobbies include perpetual coffee sipping and pretending to be a Chopped contestant while cooking.