If you’re into healthy drinks to take with you during your walks, chances are you’ve heard of coconut water. Coconut water is a popular new alternative to sports drinks and some say it’s more hydrating than regular water. Should you actually drink coconut water during your walks? Is coconut water healthy, and does it have less carbs, sugar and calories than sports drinks?
Coconut water is a healthier swap for soda or sports drinks, though so are most things that you can drink. It has fewer calories than juice but still contains some important nutrients. Many of its health benefits have been overstated, and you can get the same or similar hydration from water. For those who enjoy the taste or don’t like plain water, coconut water can be a great healthy option.
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What is coconut water?
Coconut water is simply the clear liquid inside a growing coconut. Crack a coconut open and coconut water will pour out. Coconut water is typically obtained from young coconuts, while older coconuts are used for coconut milk. Coconut milk is actually a blend of coconut water and shredded or grated coconut.
While some coconut water drinks have added sugar or flavoring, you can easily find pure coconut water that’s exactly the way it is when it’s extracted. While coconut water is almost entirely water, with some naturally occurring sugar and nutrients, coconut milk contains a fair amount of fat and therefore more calories. Coconut milk drinks that you may find are likely to contain added sugar or flavoring and probably wouldn’t make a good sports drink in any case.
Coconut water is the sports drink of the coconut family, while coconut milk is often used in cooking.
Coconut Water Nutrition Information:
According to the USDA, a one cup (240g) serving of coconut water has 45.6 calories. Here are the basic nutrition facts for coconut water:
Coconut water (1 cup):
- 45 calories
- 1.8 g protein
- 0.4 g fat
- 8.8 g carbohydrates
- 2.6 g fiber
- 600mg potassium (more than a banana)
Compared to a sports drink, coconut water is lower in calories and much lower in sugar. A bottle of sports drink has about 36 grams of sugar, which is about the same as about 7 or more sugar cubes! While the calories in coconut water come almost entirely from carbs, there’s less sugar in coconut water and the sugar that is there is naturally occurring.
Coconut water is also surprisingly high in fiber for a drink – 2.6g of fiber in a cup of coconut water is about the same as a banana (3.1g in a banana).
46 calories is not much, but this assumes that you stick to one cup. Many containers of coconut water have multiple servings, which would increase the total calorie count. Water is zero-calorie, zero sugar, and is perfect for hydration as well.
Why should you drink coconut water?
Most walkers do not strictly need to replenish electrolytes from a normal walk, so you can get by just fine by drinking water during a workout. If you’re doing some intense interval walking or walking for more than 1 hour, you may want to add back some electrolytes and a bit of carbs. Even then, you probably still do not need a full bottle of sugar water. If you’re not a fan of plain water, or if you like an energy boost, coconut water is often a better choice than sports drinks or energy bars. Sports drinks were really designed for serious athletes who are sweating up a storm and need immediate energy to perform at their best. If you can swap out a 150 calorie sports drink (or especially a soda) for 1 serving of coconut water, you’re saving around 100 calories. That may not seem like much, but do this every day and it adds up. If you’re doing some intense interval training or taking a brisk walk for a hour, a low-calorie energy boost can sometimes help you perform at your best.
Coconut water is probably better for you than fruit juices because it’s lower in calories and sugar and contains fiber and other important nutrients. Many people like the taste of coconut water, and if you’re able to swap out sugary fruit juices or soda for coconut water you can save a lot of calories. If you simply need something besides water with a snack or meal, coconut water is a relatively healthy option.
Why shouldn’t you drink coconut water?
Coconut water isn’t unhealthy, it’s just not strictly necessary for most walkers. Water has been shown to hydrate just as well, and it’s essentially free. Many of the “superfood” claims of coconut water, like the claim that it hydrates better than sports drinks or that it’s packed with electrolytes, don’t really hold up. If drinking water is working great for you during your walks, there’s no need to switch to coconut water if you don’t want to.
Coconut water is also often more expensive than sports drinks (or water, which is free). A single serving of coconut water might run you $1.50 to $4. If you find a lost-cost option that you like, or if you don’t mind the cost, coconut water can be a great low-calorie alternative to sports drinks or juices.
Calories in coconut water (plus comparisons)
As mentioned above, there are about 46 calories in one cup of coconut water. That’s much less than a sports drink or an energy bar (energy bars range from around 150-250 calories. Sports drinks have about 130-150 calories for a 20 oz. bottle). While sports drinks are essentially sugar and water, coconut water has a bit of protein and a decent amount of fiber for a beverage.
The main competitor for coconut water is regular water. Regular water is zero calories, and hydrates more or less just as well. If you end up drinking 2 cups of coconut water during your daily walk, that’s about 90 extra calories you’re taking in daily.
You can also swap fruit juice for coconut water. Fruit juices have more calories and sugar than you may realize. When you think about it, a fruit is mostly sugar, fiber, nutrients and water. Juicing removes most of the fiber, leaving sugar and water with fruit nutrients. 1 cup of orange juice is about 111 calories, with 26g of sugar.
1 cup of coconut water is about 8 oz, which means that if you were to drink 20-oz of coconut water you’d be getting about 115 calories. That’s not too much lower than a sports drink, but you can always mix in water with your coconut water to get more volume for less calories.
How long will it take to walk off a cup of coconut water?
1 cup of coconut water
- 150 lb walker – 10 minutes
- 180 lb walker – 8 minutes
- 205 lb walker – 6 minutes
Of course, this assumes that you only drink 1 cup and that your coconut water doesn’t have added sugar or calories added.
Carbs in coconut water
There are around 9 grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of coconut water, 2.6g of which is fiber which isn’t fully digested. A 20-oz bottle of sports drink contains about 35 g of carbs, all of which is added sugar. A 12-oz soda has 39 g of carbs (!!!), which again is pure sugar. Carbs aren’t bad for you, but added sugar has no nutritional value and can contribute to all sorts of health issues.
If you happen to be an endurance athlete or if you like to play competitive sports, you may be in a situation where you need a carb boost just to keep going at peak efficiency. Even serious, brisk walkers typically don’t need a huge influx of carbs to power their walks, however. Coconut water companies used to claim that coconut water was “super-hydrating,” but studies found that there was basically no difference in hydration when athletes drank coconut water, sports drinks and pure water.
Fiber in coconut water
1 cup of coconut water contains about 2.6g of fiber – almost as much as a banana and about the same as a serving of many fiber supplements. Fiber cannot be fully digested by your body, which means it passes through your digestive system like a tiny broom that helps keep you regular. It also helps you feel more full, which is especially helpful for a beverage. Most sports drinks are pure sugar, which doesn’t fill you up at all.
Fiber has several important health benefits. It helps you feel full longer, which can reduce feelings of hunger and help with weight loss. If you’re tempted to eat something bigger post-workout, a single banana may help you lose weight and burn fat in the long run. It also helps clear out your digestive system and supports bowel health and regularity. Many people take fiber supplements to increase their fiber intake, but a humble banana can give you the same fiber content as about 1-1.5 servings of a fiber supplement. Fiber pills or powder can’t help you hit your step goals and give you an energy burst like a banana can!
Fat in coconut water
Coconut water has very little fat. That’s not necessarily good or bad, but just a feature of the water inside of a coconut.
Protein in coconut water
1 cup of coconut water has almost 2 grams of protein. That’s not going to move the needle much in terms of your protein intake, but it’s slightly better than the 0 grams of protein you’ll find in soda or sports drinks.
Sugar in coconut water
Coconut water contains around 6-9g of sugar per serving. That’s about 1/6 the sugar of a 20-oz sports drink or 12-oz cola. 20 oz of coconut water would have more sugar, of course, but you can always mix water in with coconut water at home for a lower-calorie, lower-sugar concoction. Combined with the fiber and small amount of protein in coconut water, it’ll keep you feeling a bit more full than a sports drink with less of a sugar rush and sugar crash.
Other health benefits of coconut water
Packed with potassium
Like a banana, coconut water is high in potassium. Coconut water has been shown to help lower systolic blood pressure in studies, probably due to the potassium content. Lowering your blood pressure can help reduce your risk of stroke, so making sure you get enough potassium daily is important. You can get potassium in other ways (like eating bananas or many other foods), so you don’t strictly need to get your potassium from coconut water.
The truth about coconut water is somewhere in the middle between “it’s an electrolyte-packed super hydrator” and “don’t bother wasting your money.” It’s lower calorie than most juices and sports drinks, and is actually packed with useful nutrition. You’ll get fiber and potassium, as well as a bit of sugar for an energy boost. Swapping out juice or soda with coconut water can help you save a good amount of calories as well. Just don’t expect that you’ll suddenly never get tired or thirsty during your walks, or that you can give up water.
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