Sunday, May 8, 2011

Are you coo-coo for coconut water?

Coconut water is all the rage right now and everyone, including Hollywood stars and some athletes, are going coo-coo over it. What’s the big draw? After tasting the Zico brand last week while on a road trip in California, I can honestly say it may not be the taste or the mouth feel. I truly am a coconut lover, but the slippery liquid with the off-coconut flavor isn’t something I could enjoy drinking—for pleasure, thirst or during exercise for hydration.

The health and nutrition claims certainly draw you in. The Zico brand label states Zico pure premium coconut water is, “A miracle of hydration and replenishment with 5 essential electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus) and more potassium than a banana (Ok, true: 569mg vs. 560mg---but, really?) Zico assures rapid hydration and replenishment and has zero fat and cholesterol.” Not sure where the fat and cholesterol content factors in to its importance as a drink, other than to tell us that it does not contain any coconut oil.

Coconut water is the liquid inside young coconuts and for the first time, about 10 years ago, it was given the patent to bottle it in a way that preserves its nutrients—although they do vary among the fruit. That said, the calcium, phosphorus, magnesium are in very small amounts (30 mg calcium vs. 300 mg in 8oz of skim milk) and the potassium contained is about the same as in an equivalent amount of skim milk, as well. The high potassium content can lead to diarrhea and other GI issues, so not a great choice for athletes in intensive or endurance sports especially.
Zico is one coconut water that is enriched with sodium so it’s sodium content is about the same as an equivalent amount of skim milk or even Gatorade. From a rehydration standpoint, that is the biggest plus about the the Zico Coconut Water for use during or after exercise. Many of the other coconut waters on the market have too little sodium for them to be an effective rehydrator. Its sugar content is about the same as Gatorade so it’s low in sugar and in the right concentration for use during exercise.

There are no scientific published studies to back up the claims that it is a good sports drink. So don’t believe all you see or hear from Hollywood movie stars about a new drink or food..….it could be someone just going coo-coo for no reason at all.

Kim Larson, RD
Sports Nutrition Consultant

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