As you peruse the aisles of any grocery store, you’ll undoubtedly see several varieties of coconut-flavored drinks, coconut oil and coconut waters. You’ll also see celebrities such as Jessica Alba holding their favorite brand of coconut water in social media posts.
So what’s with all the coconut hype? Its biggest advocates have claimed that it can cure a hangover, boost the immune system, prevent heart disease, elevate thyroid levels, increase sports performance and keep dehydration at bay.
But what’s the real answer behind all this hype? Should you start buying coconut drinks and oil? Let’s go over some of the facts and benefits of coconut products that have science-based support rather than following a trend “just because.”
- High in potassium: Coconut water has a high level of potassium, which can aid hydration especially after a hard workout. One study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine showed that coconut water outshined the benefits of water for athletes needing to rehydrate post-workout. And it was just as good for rehydrating as commercial sports drinks. Note: This study didn’t support coconut water as the best option for refueling muscles post-recovery. Coconut water has less sodium and fewer carbohydrates when compared with other sports drinks and might not be sufficient for athletes needing electrolytes to sustain their endurance workouts.
- Low in calories: Unflavored coconut waters have fewer calories and less sugar compared with other common beverages. So if you usually grab a soda or drink juice, you’re better off opting for coconut water because it won’t wreak as much havoc on your waistline.
Bottom line: Be wary of fitness and health hype especially when it promises to cure, prevent diseases, etc. Often marketing campaigns will promote certain products as miraculous without any science-based research to support it. When choosing coconut water, opt for unflavored varieties and drink it instead of calorie-drenched sodas and beverages. But don’t expect it to adequately repair your muscles during a long workout.
And when it comes to cooking with coconut oil, be aware that it contains a high level of saturated fat. While this saturated fat is healthier than other types of saturated fat and doesn’t have cholesterol, there are no substantiated medical findings or independent research to support that we need to consume coconut oil in large doses to improve our health or prevent certain diseases.