Elixir of youth. Hangover cure. Labour and birthing aid. Sports drink. Drink of choice for the Hollywood starlet. Coconut water is fast gaining reputation as the ‘super drink’ of choice, with its many benefits now being backed up by scientific studies.
As a coconut water fan, I jumped at the chance to go to an event hosted by Vita Coco on Wednesday to learn more about the science behind it. I also got to sup on various delicious flavours of coconut water (although I have to confess my favourite is still straight up, natural).
1. Yes it could be considered something of a beauty elixir – amongst other Hollywood A-listers Madge, Gwinny, Ri-Ri and Sienna are huge fans. Coconut water is naturally rich in antioxidants, recently backed up by laboratory studies. It contains plant chemicals cytokinins, which have shown anti-aging and anti-carcinogenic effects, vitamins B and C and the minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosporous and sodium.
2. Coconut water is naturally isotonic. To be considered isotonic, a drink needs to contain 5-6% sugars. Coconut water is 5% naturally occurring sugars. An isotonic drink is quickly absorbed by the body making it both thirst quenching and more importantly rehydrating. So at times of need, such as after sports or illness, during labour or in the post natal period (or a big night out), an isotonic drink can be more effective than plain water. A recent study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in December 2012, found coconut water to be as effective in rehydrating athletes as conventional sports drinks.
According to www.consciouscoconuts.com, coconut water is a universal donor and is identical to human blood plasma. It has the same level of electrolytic balance that we have in our blood and apparently, during the Pacific War of 1941-45, coconut water was used to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers. Coconut water was also reportedly used as an IV drip in WWII.
3. Coconut water is chemical and sugar free. Unlike conventional sports drinks which contain a cocktail of sugars, sweeteners, artificial flavourings and basically chemicals which can be very acid forming in the body, coconut water contains no nasties. Recent studies have shown runners who suffered with gastric issues from conventional sports drinks reacted much better to coconut water as a rehydration drink with fewer tummy complaints.
4. Coconut water is rich in potassium. Recent WHO guidelines state we should all consume 3500mg potassium, daily. It’s a vital mineral for controlling blood pressure and heart disease. One 350ml of pure coconut water contains 50% more potassium than a banana!
5. One 35oml portion of Vita Coco also contains your entire RDA of vitamin C!
6. Anecdotal mum research fact (on my test subject of one) – coconut water is much easier to get down a poorly baby/toddler than conventional rehydration salts!
You can buy Vita Coco (my favourite brand, since it’s ethically produced and not from concentrate) in Waitrose, larger supermarkets, Holland and Barrett and online via Amazon at www.vitacoco.com/uk.
Sports Nutrition expert Anita Bean