Coconut Water: Friend or Foe?

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22 Mar Coconut Water: Friend or Foe?

Coconut water has certainly been touted as one of the best all natural, healthy electrolyte replenishers and a superior beverage to commercial sports drinks. The benefits of coconut water are great: it’s an excellent thirst quencher, a good way to hydrate, and has important nutrients. It does however have some shortcomings and the point of this article is not to cause fear but to suggest good judgment use. For most people, plain water is the best beverage choice during and after exercise. For serious athletes, coconut water may fall short of your electrolyte needs.

The high amounts of potassium in coconut water is one of its top health benefits, helping boost hydration and even aiding with blood pressure lowering.  Fruits and vegetables are a good source of potassium and since many North Americans fall short of recommended servings, many are potassium deficient. However, this uncommon amount of potassium adds up when too much coconut water is consumed, potentially leading to side-effects.

It’s not clear how much daily potassium is considered a safe amount and the Institute of Medicine hasn’t set an upper limit. The Institute does however recommend 4,700mg for adults to be a sufficient daily amount.

Our heart and muscles require a delicate balance potassium to other minerals and consuming too much in a relatively short period of time may have health consequences. This is particularly true if you have a medical condition or take medications that also increase blood potassium levels.

Here is a list of causes that may raise potassium levels:

  • kidney disease
  • ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, certain antibiotics like penicillin
  • unmanaged diabetes
  • Addison’s disease
  • burns and trauma
  • hemolysis (a breakdown of red blood cells)
  • rhabdomyolysis (a breakdown of muscle tissue)

So what’s the verdict? Is coconut water a good or bad option?

Ultimately it’s all about balance, isn’t that the case with most things? Given the research, my analysis is anyone with a heart condition or kidney disease needs to avoid over consuming coconut water and I advice consulting with myself or your health care provider to determine what is a sage daily amount for potassium. It’s also not sufficient to use coconut water to replenish electrolytes with severe dehydration that can happen with diarrhea or strenuous exercise. Sodium is the main electrolyte lost through sweat and carbohydrates require replenishing after a tough workout. A customized blend around a base of coconut water can be a useful way to obtain the benefits of a natural sports drink without the nasty additives. For the remainder of us, I feel it’s perfectly fine to drink coconut water to quench your thirst as long as you limit your intake to a few servings a day.

Don’t forget about plain water!

Water is a necessity and serves a number of vital functions as such our bodies have evolved to conserve and regulate it. If you have a health condition like kidney stones or take ibuprofen or a related medication you need to pay particular attention to making certain you’re drinking enough water. We rely on water for the following vital functions:

  • keeping organs and tissues healthy (every cell requires water)
  • helping deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the body
  • “flushing” the kidneys and bladder which help keep them healthy
  • maintaining a healthy digestion
  • keeping the blood pressure and heart rate in an ideal range
  • helping keep body temperature normal.

Remember balance and moderation are the key.

Resources:

[1] Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2014 Feb;7(1):180-1.

[2] Br J Hosp Med (Lond). 2012 Sep;73(9):534.

 

 



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