It’s all over the supermarkets and a big splash with celebs (like Madonna). Here are the real facts about this water craze.
The talk It speeds up your metabolism.
The truth “This is an urban legend,” says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California in Davis. “There is no valid research proving it.” Another, albeit contradictory, myth: Coconut water makes you fat. This bad rap came from coconut milk, which is made from pressed coconut meat and packs 445 calories per cup, most from saturated fat. The water (the fluid in young coconuts) has only 46 calories per cup. Of course, for a truly trimming sip, opt for zero-calorie water, coffee or tea.
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The talk It’s nature’s sport drink
The truth It’s a fine postworkout chug for the average active Jane, but it falls short for more hard-core athletes. The gist: When you exercise, you sweat out a lot of sodium and some potassium. You should replace both after intense sweat sessions (more than an hour a day), so your muscles contract properly. Coconut water is a potassium powerhouse, delivering roughly 600 milligrams per cup, about 175 mg more than a banana does and 13 times what most sport drinks offer. “The problem is that it has only about 30 milligrams of sodium per cup; we lose much more than that during a long workout,” Applegate says. Thus, serious athletes may need a sport beverage with a higher sodium-to-potassium ratio, such as Gatorade or Powerade Ion4; lighter exercisers can rehydrate with whatever they like best, including coconut water or plain H²O.
The talk It makes you look younger
The truth Coconut water contains cytokinins, plant hormones shown to slow the aging process in plants and fruit flies, according to a study in Molecules. Alas, the benefits aren’t yet proven in humans. The search for the fountain of youth continues.
The talk It’s a hangover helper
The truth There’s a reason the morning after a bender is so painful: Alcohol dehydrates you, leading to nausea and headaches. Like any drink, coconut water refills your H²O stores, but plain water does the job just as well, notes Samir Zakhari, Ph.D., director of the Division of Metabolism and Health Effects at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. As for electrolytes, our kidneys preserve them when we drink, so there’s no need to replace them with coconut water. If the taste lifts your postspirits spirits, go for it; but you can save cash (and calories) with the tap.
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The talk It protects your ticker
The truth Diets high in potassium can help lower blood pressure and promote heart health, says Andrea Giancoli, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Coconut water is a good source of the mineral, but it’s better to get it from whole foods like veggies (spinach, sweet potatoes) and lowfat milk, which supply additional heart-healthy nutrients such as fiber and vitamin D.
Three more ways to crack this nut
1. Coconut milk A sweet alternative to regular dairy, coconut milk is derived from the white meat of a mature coconut, and it provides almost as much healthy potassium as coconut water does. But beware its high saturated-fat content: One cup has about 43 grams.
2. Coconut milk beverage Diluted with water, it contains about five times fewer calories than conventional coconut milk. It tastes richer than coconut water.
3. Shredded coconut Coconut meat isn’t as high in potassium or sodium as coconut water, and it has about 388 calories and 22 g of saturated fat per cup. If you’re tempted to cover yours in chocolate, opt for a snack-sized candy bar dipped in antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, which has only 80 calories and 3.5 g of saturated fat. (Don’t mind if we do, Mounds bar!)