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April 21, 2012
Coconut Water Nutrition

(Article reprinted from: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/coconut-water.html)

“Coconut water is the juice in the interior or endosperm of young coconut. The water is one of the nature’s most refreshing drinks consumed worldwide for its nutritious and health benefiting properties.

Its juicy water is usually obtained by opening a tender, green, healthy, and undamaged coconut. The liquid is clear, sweet, and sterile and composed of unique chemicals such as sugars, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, enzymes, amino acids, cytokine, and phyto-hormones. In general, young and slightly immature nuts harvested when they are about 5-7 months of age for drinking purpose.

Botanically, coconut plant belongs to the Arecaceae family of palm trees and has scientific name: Cocos nucifera.

Each nut may contain about 200 to 1000 ml of water depending on cultivar type and size. Any nuts younger than 5 months age tend to be bitter in taste and devoid of nutrients. Whereas, older nuts have less water and their endosperm becomes thicker as white edible meat (kernel). Coconut milk obtained from the meat is therefore should not be confused with coconut water.

Coconut palm flourishes well along the costal tropical environments. A coconut tree may yield several hundred tender nuts each season. Several hundred species of coconut palm grown all over the tropics, so taste and flavor of water thus vary according to saline content, distance from sea shore, mainland etc.

Health benefits of coconut water

  • Coconut water is a very refreshing drink to beat tropical summer thirst. The juice is packed with simple sugar, electrolytes, and minerals to replenish hydration levels in the body.
  • Research studies suggest that cytokinins (e.g., kinetin and trans-zeatin) in coconut water showed significant anti-ageing, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-thrombotic effects.
  • Coconut water has been generally offered to patients with diarrhea in many tropic regions to replace fluid loss from the gastrointestinal tract and reduce the need for intravenous therapy. The osmolarity of tender coconut water is slightly greater than that of WHO recommended ORS (Oral Rehydration Therapy) osmolarity. Presence of other biological constituents like amino acids, enzymes, minerals, and fatty acids may account for this higher osmolarity. However, unlike WHO-ORS, its water is very low in sodium and chlorides, but rich in sugars and amino acids. This well-balanced fluid composition with much needed calories would be an ideal drink than any other brand of soft drink beverages in dehydration conditions.
  • Coconut water is composed of many naturally occurring bioactive enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, diastase, peroxidase, RNA polymerases etc. Altogether, these enzymes aid in digestion and metabolism.
  • Despite very light consistency, its water has much better composition of minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc than some of fruits like oranges. (Compare mineral composition oforanges).
  • Its water is also a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folates. These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.
  • Coconut water contains a very good amount of electrolyte potassium. 100 ml of water has 250 mg of potassium and 105 mg of sodium. Together, these electrolytes help replenish electrolytes deficiency in the body due to diarrhea (loose stools).
  • In addition, fresh coconut water has small amount of vitamin-C (ascorbic acid); provides about 2.4 mcg or 4% of RDA. Vitamin C is a water-soluble ant-oxidant.

 

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Coconut water (Cocus nucifera), Fresh,
Nutrition Value per 100 g
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 19 Kcal 1%
Carbohydrates 3.71 g 3%
Protein 0.72 g 1.5%
Total Fat 0.20 g 1%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.1 g 3%
Vitamins
Folates 3 µg 0.75%
Niacin 0.080 mg 0.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.043 mg <1%
Pyridoxine 0.032 mg 2.5%
Riboflavin 0.057 mg 4%
Thiamin 0.030 mg 2.5%
Vitamin C 2.4 mg 4%
Vitamin A 0 IU 0%
Vitamin E 0 mg 0%
Vitamin K 0 mcg 0%
Electrolytes
Sodium 105 mg 7%
Potassium 250 mg 5%
Minerals
Calcium 24 mg 2.4%
Copper 40 mcg 4.5%
Iron 0.29 mg 3.5%
Magnesium 25 mg 6%
Manganese 0.142 mg %
Zinc 0.10 mg 1%
Phyto-nutrients
Auxin (Gibberlin) Present
Carotene, beta 0 µg
Cytokines Present
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 µg
Leucoanthocyanin Present

Selection and storage

tender coconuts ready for drink
Tender coconuts ready to use.

Fresh tender coconuts are readily available in the markets in tropical countries all around the year. However, in the semitropical and cold regions they have to be imported. These days, however, shelled tender coconuts are made available in USA and Canada imported from Thailand and Malaysia.

In the stores canned coconut water available, however, they have some added preservative and not up to the mark in vitamins and enzyme levels.

Tender nuts can be stored at room temperature for about 5-10 days. Once opened the water should be used soon otherwise it will turn sour in taste and off flavored. Instead, store in refrigerator if not used immediately.

 

Preparation and serving tips

coconut drink coconut water juice
Refreshing coconut drink. Iced coconut juice with tender coconut meat topping.
Photo courtesy: Andrew currie.

Tender coconuts chiseled at bottom end using long sickle and the tip of the shell is cut open. The water is then sipped using straw. Otherwise, the whole nut is tilted upside down to transfer its water in to wide mouthed bottle or bowl.

  • Drink coconut water without any additions.
  • Iced coconut water can be a refreshing drink.
  • Fresh water can be made special drink adding lemon slices, mint leaves, orange zest etc.
  • Gel like meat (kernel) in the young tender coconuts is very sweet and delicious.

 

Safety profile

Coconut water is a universally appealing drink. There are no known reactions of any sort notified so far using it. It is not only cherished in healthy but is considered safe in pregnancy, infants as well as in diseased conditions as well. (Medical disclaimer).

Note:

The discussion in this page is solely dedicated to water or solution of young coconuts and not about coconut milk, meat, coconut oil or any products of coconut tree.”

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