Health Benefits of Coconut Water

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on March 17, 2023
3 min read

Coconut water, also known as coconut juice, is the translucent, or semi-clear, liquid inside a young coconut. Coconut water is often confused with coconut milk, but the two are not the same. Coconut milk is the creamy, white milk made by grating the inner flesh of the coconut, mixing it with hot water, and then straining. Coconut water is already in liquid form inside the young coconut.

In recent years, many athletes have turned to coconut water as an alternative to sugary sports beverages, such as Gatorade. It has also grown in popularity as a go-to electrolyte drink for people with a stomach bug or severe cases of dehydration.

Most of the health benefits of coconut water are due to its high levels of electrolytes, which include potassium, calcium and magnesium. For those who are low in these essential minerals, coconut water can be a healthy choice. For others, drinking coconut water isn’t likely to be more beneficial than drinking a glass of plain water.

Maintain Muscle Function

Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that the human body needs for muscle function. One brand of coconut water analyzed by the USDA contained 401 milligrams of potassium in an eight-ounce serving. While other brands may differ on the exact level of potassium, coconut water is consistently a high source of this valuable nutrient.  The level of potassium in coconut water is determined partly by the age of the coconut when the coconut water is extracted.

Aids in Bone Health

There are about 19.2 milligrams of calcium in one cup of coconut water, according to a sample analyzed by the USDA.  Many people don’t consume the amount of calcium needed, and insufficient calcium levels can lead to issues such as low bone density, bone loss, and weaker bones that can break more easily. 

Regulating Body Functions

One sample analyzed by the USDA contained 6 milligrams of magnesium in a 100-milliliter serving of coconut water. Magnesium has many functions in the body, including making protein, regulating blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and managing muscle and nerve function.

Failure to get enough magnesium for an extended amount of time can result in a magnesium deficiency. When the body has a magnesium deficiency, symptoms such as nausea, weakness, and fatigue can occur. Excess magnesium is excreted through urine, so too much magnesium is not a concern. 

Coconut water contains important electrolytes that help your body function.

You can find the following nutrients in coconut water:

  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Calcium

Nutrients Per Serving

A 1-cup (250 milliliters) serving of unsweetened coconut water contains:

  • Calories: 44
  • Protein: 0.5 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 10.4 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 9.6 grams

Portion Sizes

Consuming coconut water is considered low-risk, but if you have health conditions that require limiting potassium, sodium, or caloric intake, then coconut water may not be the right beverage for you. 

For those with chronic kidney disease, potassium intake should be limited. An excessive quantity of potassium can lead to a condition called hyperkalemia, which is when there’s a dangerously high level of potassium in the blood. 

Eight ounces of coconut water contains approximately 101 milligrams of sodium. A diet rich in sodium can result in an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure over a long period of time can result in kidney damage and heart disease. Sodium can also interact with blood pressure medications.

An eight-ounce serving of coconut water contains between 45 and 60 calories. If your doctor has recommended a low calorie diet, another beverage other than coconut water would be a better choice.

There are no set guidelines for how much coconut water to consume. Those who drink it regularly often enjoy one to two cups per day, while others only reach for a cup after a run instead of a standard sports drink.

Here are some ways to incorporate coconut water into your diet:

●Blend coconut water with fruit to make a smoothie

●Add a splash of pineapple juice to chilled coconut water

●Mix up a coconut water lemonade

●Use coconut water instead of milk or cream in your favorite curry