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Calorie Count Blog

Coconut Water: A New Health Food?

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 10:00 AM in Healthy Eating

By Carolyn Richardson and Mary Hartley, RD

You don’t need to watch Tom Hanks in Cast Away to help you discover coconut water any more.  Coconut water is popping up in high-end grocery stores nationwide, and business is booming with no signs of slowing down.  Not to be confused with coconut milk, made from the white pulp inside the coconut, coconut water is the clear fluid found in young green coconuts.  But before you go and buy a case of coconut water at Whole Foods, consider the truth behind the hype of this buzzworthy tropical drink.

Coconut water, unlike coconut milk, is not high in fat nor does it break the calorie bank.  An 8-ounce serving of coconut water has 46 to 60 calories, whereas the same amount of coconut milk has 552 calories. Coconut water is loaded with minerals including potassium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.  What’s more, the minerals in coconut water have the same electrolytic balance that we have in our blood.

Potassium Power

Coconut water’s major nutritional claim is its colossal 600 mg of potassium per 8-ounce serving. That’s more than twice as much as in a banana.  Potassium helps to balance sodium’s water-retaining properties.  It also helps to prevent high blood pressure as shown in the DASH Diet trials.  Heart patients, in particular, and kidney patients too, have to balance their potassium intake with their medications. 

Coconut Water as a Sports Drink

Because of its high potassium content, some manufacturers are touting coconut water as a sports drink.  But this may be misleading.  Gabe Mirkin, MD maintains that healthy athletes don’t typically have a potassium deficiency because the kidneys conserve potassium and very little is lost in sweat.  While the potassium in coconut water will help with hydration, it is actually a low sodium food with only 40 mg of sodium in 8-ounces.  Coconut water, therefore, does not replace sodium, the main electrolyte lost by sweating during strenuous exercise; however, certain brands may contain more sodium to mimic the sodium in sports drinks.  Nevertheless, because coconut water is a natural source of key electrolytes, it is a great alternative to some highly processed sugary sports drinks.

The Price

While the relative healthfulness of coconut water is debated, there’s no controversy over the fact it is not budget-friendly.  One 8oz. serving of the liquid could run anywhere from $2 to $3.  Buying cases will help alleviate the pocket pain, but if you’re a newbie to the scene, the admission to test your coconut water taste buds is steep.  The reason is access.  It’s generally shipped from Brazil, Thailand and other tropical regions where coconut trees abound.  Also, you can only find coconut water available regularly at high-end health food markets like Whole Foods and Gelson’s, although I’ve caught it on sale in a few major grocery chains.

The Business

As the celebrity of coconut water increases, some stars and industry giants have lent their funds to its success.  Vita Coco, one of the independently owned coconut water companies recently received an investment from Madonna.  Zico, which is one of the few brands made from concentrate, has Coca Cola’s financial support.  But one of the biggest stories is of O.N.E. Coconut Water distributed by PepsiCo. The brand is readying for the release of Jamba Juice branded coconut water/juice blends later this year.  Other brands of coconut water include Naked, Amy and Brian’s Coconut Juice, and Taste Nirvana, which has been available at major chain grocers like Ralph’s.  With so many new brands popping up, you can expect coconut water to become a staple very soon.

Your thoughts....

What’s the verdict on coconut water? Chug it or chuck it?

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I love coconut water. My family is from the caribbean so whenever I go to visit there is an abundance of green coconut ready to be cut open. The water is so delicious and refreshing and the young green coconut meat is soft and yummy. The mature brown coconut meat is hard and still delicious. I adore anything coconut.

It's not just in high end grocery stores. You can find it readily at stop and shop and indian groceries. I find it helps my legs to cramp less when I run and it tastes good too!

I want to try it. I've heard a little about it before, but I never payed much attention until this article. I'll look at whole foods next time I go.

Ohh I love coconut water... my family has been traveling many many times to Thailand over the last couple of years because we are in the clothing industry and we have our clothes (tuxedos) tailored there.... hehe no wonder I loved it so.. It's so healthy. But I always had it in the back of my mind that it had high calorie count because of the coconut milk that is high in calories. I will definitely add this to my diet food list that I am using right now.. so far so good. Always good to have new things in my arsenal...

What is the extra kicker for me is the potassium source as I am not allowed to eat bananas ;)




Is it safe for kids?  My daughter who is 6 and has Celiac Disease gets leg cramps a lot.  I might give it a try.

I live in India and coconut water from roadside stores (where they just slice the top off the young coconut and give you) costs a mere 20 rupees (10 cents US). Hoorah! I shall make a point of having one every day now on the way to work ....

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I am always fearful to drink it. Afraid of tooth decay. I'm not one to carry around a toothbrush and toothpaste.  Is their enough sugar in the water to be problematic?

I take a diuretic for blood pressure and have to watch my potassium levels.  Bananas our out for sugar reasons.  I was using V-8 juice, but found the salt too much this summer.  (Don't really like low salt V-8.)  I have a small glass of coconut water every morning with my breakfast.  I really like it.  The sugar content isn't too bad.

I luv my coconut water!!!  I drink it after every workout - so nutritious and refreshing!  Some brands include the pulp in the drink, so there's little bits to chew on as you drink it.  Make sure you read the ingredients and that you're getting the 100% coconut water and not the coconut drink which has added sugar.  I've recently seen that some brands are from concentrate - ew!

luv, luv, luv the coconut water!  It feels good to see all these cc articles that reiterate all the positive habits I'm already developing :)

I'm jazzed by the nutritional value, but I, for one, do NOT like the taste! I love coconut flavor, but something about the water just turns my stomach. I used it up gradually by adding to my daily fruit smoothie, but I don't imagine it made that kind of difference in 2-4 oz. quantities, since I'm already incorporating 1/3 of a banana; and the price differential hardly seems worth the diff. in potassium. 

I live in Thailand so this is everywhere for super cheap.  I'll have to start taking advantage of this more as I sweat like crazy in this heat and maybe it'll help some leg cramping after runs.

Coconut water is the best. It is so far the only thing that can satisfy my intense thirst in the summer time. You know the kind where you drink water all day, but still feel thirsty.

The caloric count that you note in your article for coconut milk is not totally accurate...I buy coconut milk in the non-dairy section of Whole Foods (and other health food markest) and it is only around 50 calories for 8 oz. For canned coconut milk, you can get the Lite Coconut milk and that amounts to about 250 calories.

Being born and raised in Asia, coconut water is nothing new to me. My verdict: 1. Tasty 2. Refreshing 3. Good when your body is heaty (down with fever, headache after a walk under the sun)

Go for those natural ones, right from the coconut itself rather than bottled (most of the time added sugar and preservatives/coloring)

In India, people have known the benefits of this drink for a very long time. However, the catch here is that it must be had fresh, as soon as the coconut is cut open to get maximum benefit out of it! Processed and preserved coconut water might as well be given a miss!

Can't believe coconut water is the latest food fad.  I've never had anything that tastes so disgustingly BAD!  Had to spit it out . . . and I love anything coconut, usually.  But this doesn't taste like coconut at all.  To spend that much, especially if you are not the type of athlete that really needs it but you think you are, is simply being a sucker. 

But it's great in a shake... one cup of fresh coconut milk, some coconut water, half and avocado, a handful of frozen blueberries, half a banana...and if you can get fresh eggs from a farm and you're not grossed out by raw eggs, throw one in there...this will start your day in an amazing healthy way...just mix everything in a blender and enjoy!!!

It is NOT expensive if you don't get the kind from a specialty store. A 12 oz can from the Hispanic and/or Asian section of your grocery store or Walmart is only 76 cents. Go there instead

 No one is afraid of tooth decay after drinking this?

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I'm curious of the sugar content as I have candida and can't have anything with sugar. I have not purchased any myself so I don't know how it scores for sugar .... thanks

I am in the Navy and I work out daily. I drink this as a recovery drink after each work out. I prefer the ZICO brand because it is sold at Trader Joes for $1.49. I use to drink the Goya brand with the pulp but it is too expensive. I had found that there are a number of other brands from Thailand also. If you visit an oriental super market you can find a variety of brands there. I have been drinking this for a while and I have my regular dental check up. It is mandatory for us in the military to have frequent dental check up and I always ACE the exam. So no worries about tooth decay here. Go get you some COCO water after your work out.

Original Post by: moreninhaboy

 No one is afraid of tooth decay after drinking this?

Coconut water is very low in sugar.  It has about 1/3 as much sugar as an equal amount of juice.

I live in Jamaica and coconuts are in abundance here. As a matter of fact I grew up with so many coconut trees around me you would think we had a coconut farm. I drink coconut water every chance I get...I drink it over regular H2O if I can get it. So refreshing, so good for you in many ways...heart healthy too!

Original Post by: kristianelambert

But it's great in a shake... one cup of fresh coconut milk, some coconut water, half and avocado, a handful of frozen blueberries, half a banana...and if you can get fresh eggs from a farm and you're not grossed out by raw eggs, throw one in there...this will start your day in an amazing healthy way...just mix everything in a blender and enjoy!!!

Are you buying the ones in tins, etc? I've tried the commercialized ones and yes, very disgusting. But try the real thing, straight from a green coconut with soft "meat". You'll love it!

I get them for $1 at the Christmas Tree Shops here in northern New England.  People look at me funny and say "ewww!" when I buy 3-5 bottles at once. 

I tried the Zico brand and didn't care for the aftertaste.  It may be an acquired taste, but until the prices come down a little I don't think I'll be a convert. 

I don't care for the taste either, but I use it my and my 12-year old's daily morning smoothies in place of any of the milks (cow's, soy, almond, rice) and its taste is masked by whatever fruit (and stevia) I put in the smoothie.  It has definitely helped with leg cramps.

I was watching "Off the Map" today (new show-great by the way) and they were using Coconut water iv for a man during a surgery because they didn't have enough blood to give him a transfusion.  I thought that was very interesting-then I logged on to the computer and saw this article.  I will have to try it for my hypertension.

I tried it...and did not like it.  YUCK!

A friend introduced me to coconut water about a year ago (I've only had the Vita Coco brand), but it's expensive even in the grocery stores.  I think it's good, but I can understand how it might turn some people off. I actually think the new Spicy Hot low sodium V8 is the new super drink.  I was shocked to find that it has 1,000 mg of potassium per 8 oz serving (and it's still only 50 calories)!  That's nearly twice what's in coconut water and I get several servings out of one bottle of V8, which costs about as much as one of those coconut water containers.  Plus, V8 has 2 grams of fiber and half the sugar of coconut water, as well as 40% of your RDA of Vitamin A.  So far, only one of the grocery stores out here carries it; it seems to be flying off the shelves, so I buy about 4 bottles at a time.

The taste makes me want to vomit.  Truly, and I do not vomit.  I wish this weren't the case because I would like to potassium benefits for hydration and controlling water retention, but really, I can just barely keep a sip down.

mmm ... delicious coconut water...

Original Post by: moreninhaboy

I am always fearful to drink it. Afraid of tooth decay. I'm not one to carry around a toothbrush and toothpaste.  Is their enough sugar in the water to be problematic?

With just 8.9 grams and 6.3 grams of sugar per cup - I don't foresee ANY sugar issues - some fruit juices have more than that in them! 

I just found a brand called Melissa's Sweet Young Coconut. You can drink the coconut water straight out of it.  Sure you'll have to do the work of cutting off the top to get to it, but I bought one for $1.29 in LA, CA a few days ago. That's way cheaper than the bottled varieties, AND depending on the size of it, it offers up much more than 8 ounces!  

Original Post by: kristianelambert

The caloric count that you note in your article for coconut milk is not totally accurate...I buy coconut milk in the non-dairy section of Whole Foods (and other health food markest) and it is only around 50 calories for 8 oz. For canned coconut milk, you can get the Lite Coconut milk and that amounts to about 250 calories.

I use to wonder why there was coconut milk and coconut water.  I believe the milk is from the meat of the coconut and the water is the liquid inside the coconut (usually from green coconuts).  I think the one you buy in the large cardboard containers in the dairy section is from coconut milk but the So Delicious brand doesn't taste like coconut, I guess they do that on purpose since they're selling it as a milk substitute.  I luv using canned coconut milk (try to get the light version) for my hot chocolate- so rich and decadent tasting!  But coconut milk is totally different from coconut water when it comes to taste, nutrition and calories.

Naked Juice (or is it Naked Smoothie?) has a tropical smoothie now that uses coconut water so it has 35% less sugar in it.  I don't like that the Zico brand is from concentrate but they do have cases of it at BJ's Wholesale Club, so it's cheaper.  I try to buy my water (either harvest bay, o.n.e., naked or vita coco) on sale, otherwise I get the Amy and Brian's because it's more economical (large cans) and it's the same price to get it w/ the pulp.

Cocnut water is 60 cents in the Asian isle. I've never seen it cost more.

You can also go to asian food stores and pick it up, you don't have to go to high end stores.

I love coconut water, but only from a fresh coconut.  These tend to cost around $2.50 and a good one will yield around two cups of water.  I think the canned variety tastes bad, but I've only tried one kind, maybe some are better than others.

You can find directions on how to open a young coconut with a quick Google search, opening it up is half the fun.

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I'm open to trying it. I've heard so many great things about it. I can get a case of the Zico brand coconut water (twelve 14-oz bottles) for $31.08 at That's $2.59 per bottle! That's the best deal I've seen & I can have it delivered to my home & save some time & money. I'm even more excited to try it now!

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Another overhyped fad. I'll stick to two bananas they taste better and contain the same nutrients. I had coconut water in the past and it tastes bad unless u add sugar and other condiments. I only liked it when i added sweetner and cinnamon.

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You can get relatively large cans of (grace brand) coconut water from any west indian/ caribbean food store.  Most communities in an urban neighbourhood have at least one and they usually sell for 99 cents.  Definately cheaper than whole foods!

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