Is Coconut Water Good for Hydration? Expert Insights

Coconut water contains fluids, vitamins, minerals, and plenty of electrolytes, which can help you stay hydrated and offer many other health benefits.

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by
Kelsey Kunik, RDN
— Signos
RDN
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
April 23, 2024
March 25, 2024
— Updated:

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After a workout, spending a day in the sun, or an unfortunate bout of sickness, a rehydration drink is just what you need. While water helps replenish fluids, it doesn’t have the minerals and electrolytes your body needs to replace after losing fluids through sweat or sickness. There are plenty of rehydration drinks and electrolyte water brands available in stores. Still, coconut water could be a good choice if you’re looking for a more natural way to stay hydrated (or rehydrate). 

Coconut water is good for hydration as it helps replace fluid and contains electrolytes like potassium and magnesium while offering many other health benefits. In this article, we’ll cover the health benefits of coconut water, nutrition facts, reasons you may want to skip it, and learn if coconut water is more hydrating than plain water.

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Understanding the Benefits of Coconut Water

While coconut water can help with hydration by adding to your daily fluid intake, the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it contains also have plenty of other health benefits. Here are a few ways drinking coconut water can benefit your health. 

  • Good Source of Electrolytes: Coconut water is an electrolyte powerhouse when it comes to potassium, magnesium, and sometimes sodium. With over 10 percent of the daily value (DV) for these minerals in just one cup of coconut water, it can help you maintain or regain hydration.
  • Helps to Improve Blood Sugar: While unsweetened coconut water has 9 grams of carbohydrates per cup and has a direct effect on blood sugar, animal studies have found that over time, coconut water can help reduce blood sugars in rats who have type two diabetes and even improve retinal damage caused by diabetes.1 Plus, staying hydrated is a key step in managing your blood sugar
  • Promotes Strong Bones and Teeth: Coconut water is a good source of magnesium and has small amounts of calcium, both of which are necessary for building strong bones and teeth. Lower levels of magnesium are related to a higher risk of osteoporosis.2 With as much as 20 percent of the population not eating enough magnesium, adding coconut water to your diet can help you reach your goals. 
  • It Helps Prevent Kidney Stones: For the 12 percent of the population that struggles with kidney stones, drinking enough fluid is key to reducing stone formation.3 One animal study found that coconut water may have a slight edge over regular water as it stops crystal deposits from adhering to renal tissue and reduces oxidative stress in the kidneys.4
  • Protects Against Free Radicals: Several varieties of coconut, including the most commonly consumed, the green dwarf coconut, are high in antioxidants, including ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid.5 These antioxidants help fight free radicals and other damaging reactive substances. The type of coconut used for various coconut waters can vary, meaning not all coconut water will have the same antioxidant activity. 
  • A Low-Calorie Beverage: Instead of reaching for soda or juice, which can come with a lot of extra sugar and calories, coconut water is naturally sweetened and low in calories. Not all coconut water is low-calorie; some have sweeteners or juices added, so read nutrition labels before purchasing. 
  • Improve Skin Hydration and Elasticity: The flavonoids in young coconut water could help improve skin healing and appearance, especially in women with low estrogen levels. In a December 2021 animal study, rats who received a daily dose of coconut water experienced the same reduction in skin aging and atrophy as rats who received the hormone replacement therapy estradiol benzoate.6

Possible Downsides of Coconut Water

a coconut cut in half

While coconut water is an overall healthy beverage choice, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. While it is a relatively low-calorie and low-sugar drink compared to many other sports drinks, juices, or sodas, it still has 46 calories and 9 grams of carbohydrates per cup. Plus, many coconut water brands are sold with extra sweeteners and juices. This is important if you’re drinking more than a couple of cups a day, as the sugar can begin to add up, especially for people who have diabetes. For those with chronic or acute kidney conditions, the high amount of potassium could also cause issues. 

While coconut water provides hydration during minor losses, it may not be enough of a rehydration beverage after a long, strenuous workout. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 300 to 600 milligrams of sodium per hour during prolonged exercise. Depending on the brand or coconut water you choose, it may or may not have enough sodium to support these rehydration needs.7

Finally, not everyone enjoys the flavor of coconut water, although this is a highly individual preference. If you want to enjoy the benefits but don’t love the taste of natural coconut water, look for brands that offer unsweetened, naturally flavored water featuring coconut water.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Related: </strong><a href="can-dehydration-cause-high-blood-pressure">Blood Pressure and Dehydration: What’s the Link? 3 Facts</a>.</p>

Coconut Water: Nutrition Facts

Coconut water comes from young, green coconuts, the fruit of coconut palm (Cocus nucifera).8 Coconut water differs from coconut milk, which includes the grated endosperm of the coconut, grated and mixed with water. There are several different brands of coconut water, which may have various preservatives, flavors, and added sugar, but plain coconut water with no additives is a relatively healthy, low-calorie beverage. 

One cup (240 mL) of coconut water has:9 

Calories: 46 kcal

Carbs: 9 grams

Fiber: 2.5 grams

Sugar: 6 grams

Protein: 1.7 grams

Fat: 0.5 grams

Saturated fat: 0.4 grams

Magnesium: 60 milligrams, 14% DV

Potassium: 600 milligrams, 13% DV

Sodium: 252 milligrams, 11% DV

Vitamin B2: 0.14 milligrams, 11% DV

Vitamin C: 5.8 milligrams, 6% DV

Calcium: 58 milligrams, 4% DV

Who Should Not Drink Coconut Water?

green coconuts

While coconut water is a nutritious and hydrating beverage for the average, healthy adult, there are some people who may want to steer clear of this drink and stick to drinking plain water for their health. If you have a particular medical condition or take specific medications, coconut water can be detrimental to your health. Here are some people who may want to avoid coconut water or drink it with caution. 

  • People With Kidney Disease: If your kidneys are not working their best, they may not be able to get rid of potassium fast enough, causing it to build up in your blood. Some people with kidney disease or kidney disorders need to follow a lower potassium diet to avoid complications of hyperkalemia or too much potassium in the blood. Since coconut water is high in potassium, you may need to limit how much you drink. 
  • People With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): If you follow a low FODMAP diet, a diet low in Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, to help manage your IBS, you may want to avoid or limit coconut water. One cup of coconut water is considered high in fructans and sorbitol, which could trigger symptoms in some people.10
  • People Taking Potassium-Sparing Medications: If you take a potassium-sparing diuretic for high blood pressure, like Spironolactone or Amiloride, you may need to be careful of how much potassium you eat or drink to avoid hyperkalemia. Speak with your doctor or dietitian to learn how much potassium you should be getting in a day. 
  • People With a Coconut Allergy: Coconut is technically a fruit, not a tree nut. Still, some people with tree nut allergies could also be allergic to coconuts, and some people who tolerate tree nuts could have a coconut allergy. You’ll want to steer clear of coconut water if you have a coconut allergy.11

Is Coconut Water Really More Hydrating?

Coconut water is a naturally sweet drink full of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. Because of the extra nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and sodium, coconut water is slightly more hydrating than regular water, helping to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweat, vomiting, or diarrhea. Coconut water is a good choice to drink sparingly in addition to plenty of regular water on days you need to replenish lost fluids. 

Learn More About How to Improve Blood Sugar Health With Signos’ Expert Advice

The foods and drinks you choose each day strongly correlate to your overall health and wellness, including your blood sugar. You can learn more about how the food and drinks impact your blood sugar on Signos’ Blog. To learn how Signos’ can improve your health and find out if it’s a good fit for you, take our quick, free quiz!

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="what-is-the-best-water-to-drink">What is The Best Water to Drink For Your Health?</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Dai, Y., Peng, L., Zhang, X., Wu, Q., Yao, J., Xing, Q., Zheng, Y., Huang, X., Chen, S., & Xie, Q. (2021). Effects of coconut water on blood sugar and retina of rats with diabetes. PeerJ, 9, e10667. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7849505/ 
  2. Rondanelli, M., Faliva, M. A., Tartara, A., Gasparri, C., Perna, S., Infantino, V., Riva, A., Petrangolini, G., & Peroni, G. (2021). An update on magnesium and bone health. Biometals : an international journal on the role of metal ions in biology, biochemistry, and medicine, 34(4), 715–736. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8313472/ 
  3. Alelign, T., & Petros, B. (2018). Kidney Stone Disease: An Update on Current Concepts. Advances in urology, 2018, 3068365. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5817324/ 
  4. Gandhi, M., Aggarwal, M., Puri, S., & Singla, S. K. (2013). Prophylactic effect of coconut water (Cocos nucifera L.) on ethylene glycol induced nephrocalcinosis in male wistar rat. International braz j urol : official journal of the Brazilian Society of Urology, 39(1), 108–117. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23489503/ 
  5. Santos, J. L., Bispo, V. S., Filho, A. B., Pinto, I. F., Dantas, L. S., Vasconcelos, D. F., Abreu, F. F., Melo, D. A., Matos, I. A., Freitas, F. P., Gomes, O. F., Medeiros, M. H., & Matos, H. R. (2013). Evaluation of chemical constituents and antioxidant activity of coconut water (Cocus nucifera L.) and caffeic acid in cell culture. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciencias, 85(4), 1235–1247. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24141413/ 
  6. Hutapea, A. M., et al. (2022). Beneficial effects of young coconut juice on increasing skin thickness, enhancing skin whitening, and reducing skin wrinkles in ovariectomized rats. Applied Sciences, 12(3), 1584. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/12/3/1584 
  7. Kerksick, C. M., Wilborn, C. D., Roberts, M. D., Smith-Ryan, A., Kleiner, S. M., Jäger, R., Collins, R., Cooke, M., Davis, J. N., Galvan, E., Greenwood, M., Lowery, L. M., Wildman, R., Antonio, J., & Kreider, R. B. (2018). ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6090881/ 
  8. Segura-Badilla, O., Lazcano-Hernández, M., Kammar-García, A., Vera-López, O., Aguilar-Alonso, P., Ramírez-Calixto, J., & Navarro-Cruz, A. R. (2020). Use of coconut water (Cocus nucifera L) for the development of a symbiotic functional drink. Heliyon, 6(3), e03653. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7110305/ 
  9. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. (2019). Nuts, coconut water (liquid from coconuts). FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170174/nutrients 
  10. Varney, J. (2015). Debunking the myth behind SUPERFOODS. Monash FODMAP. https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/debunking-myth-behind-superfoods/ 
  11. ACAAI Public Website. Tree Nut | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/food/tree-nut/

About the author

Kelsey Kunik is a registered dietitian, health and wellness writer, and nutrition consultant

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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