It’s been called “nature’s Gatorade” for its electrolyte-replacement qualities, it’s fat free, and (at least in the opinion of some people, like me) it’s delicious. But is coconut water, the thin juice of the young coconut that’s become so trendy of late, actually that great for you? Should you consume it more often than you would, say, actual Gatorade?

The answer is: probably not. Yes, coconut water is a great source of potassium, a nutrient also found in foods such as bananas and potatoes that helps regulate blood pressure. And if you buy the unsweetened brands, it has less sugar than most fruit juices and energy drinks. That said, it is quite sweet naturally. An 11-ounce box of O.N.E. coconut water contains 14 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 1 tablespoon or 45 calories’ worth. Some brands, like Amy & Brian, come in large 17.5-ounce cans containing 20 grams of sugar (about 1.5 tablespoons and roughly 68 calories). Is it enough to worry about?

“It is not that high in sugar when you compare it to other fruit juices or Gatorade,” says Andrea Giancoli, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Indeed, 11 ounces of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice contains 44 grams of sugar, and 11 ounces of Gatorade has just under 20 grams of sugar.

That said, if you are pounding coconut water as an alternative to regular water, thinking you’re doubling up on water and extra vitamins for your health, you should probably stop. Not only are you consuming extra calories, but also new research has shown that sugar causes inflammation in the body, which in turn can lead to chronic diseases. Dietitian Amy Jamieson-Petonic, director of wellness coaching at Cleveland Clinic, says for this reason, “Occasionally drinking coconut water is fine, but I would not recommend it as a beverage.”

Image source: Flickr member snowpea&bokchoi under Creative Commons

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