Coconut water is a valued native food of the Pacific Islands where Hawaiians call it neolani (no-way lah-nee), which means ‘dew of the heavens’. This reverence is understood once you are aware of the many benefits coconut water has to offer.
Coconut water, also referred to as coconut juice, is the liquid inside the coconut. It is the most popular beverage consumed in the tropics where it is not only considered a refreshing beverage but an invigorating health tonic. Coconut water from young or green coconuts is the water to drink – this is the water you see vacationers drinking on the beach, this is the water that is popular in the tropics, this is the water that has the health benefits.
Coconut water has a long history of use as both a food and as a medicine. Women are encouraged to drink coconut water when pregnant and nursing so their milk will provide all the nutrients necessary for a healthy baby. The first food an infant receives as it begins weaning is coconut water and coconut jelly (soft immature coconut meat).
Coconut water contains a variety of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, enzymes, and other phytonutrients. Coconuts are grown near the sea, so the roots have access to a continual supply of mineral-rich salt water. These minerals are absorbed by the roots and find their way into the fruit of the coconut. For this reason, coconut water is a good source of the major minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium (it contains more potassium than banana). It also contains a variety of trace elements. All of these minerals are in the form of electrolytes so they are easily absorbed by the human body. Many of the health benefits attributed to coconut water can be traced to its mineral content.
Coconut water is essentially fat-free and is relatively low in sugar compared to other fruit juices – it contains only a fifth of the sugar that you get from an equal amount of fresh grape or apple juice but still has a mildly sweet, delightful taste, making it an excellent alternative to fruit juice and sodas.
It has long been the belief that coconut water can cure disease and ensure good health. According to tradition, coconut water is useful in preventing and relieving many health problems including dehydration, constipation, digestive disturbances, malnutrition, fatigue, heatstroke, boils, diarrhoea, kidney stones, osteoporosis, urinary tract infections, and sterility. Modern medical science is now confirming the effectiveness of coconut water for many of these conditions.
Over the last two decades coconut water has also been used as a treatment for cholera, dysentery, influenza, and other infectious diseases that promote dehydration.
Forms of dietary fiber and amino acids in coconut water may help to moderate sugar absorption and improve insulin sensitivity.
Coconut water is reported to clear up bladder infections, remove kidney stones, and improve sexual vitality. Medical research has shown that the consumption of coconut water can be very effective in dissolving kidney stones: Dr Eugenio Macalalag, director of the Urology Department of the Chinese General Hospital in the Philippines, reports that consuming coconut water only 2 to 3 times a week results in a significant reduction in stone size and expulsion, eliminating the need for surgery.1
High blood pressure, one of the primary risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke, is reduced thanks to the potassium and magnesium in coconut water.2
Nature’s sports drink
The most research to date on coconut water has been in regard to its efficacy in treating dehydration and heatstroke. Because of the nutritional content of coconut water, fluids and electrolytes are absorbed more quickly and more efficiently into the bloodstream than with other beverages and fluids. It is so effective at relieving dehydration and heatstroke that it is being successfully marketed as a natural sports drink.
The health benefits associated with coconut water are many. This article has merely touched the surface. For a more complete description along with summaries of medical studies, case histories, news, historical accounts and references, read Dr Fife’s book, Coconut Water for Health and Healing (available to purchase online from Amazon.com). In the meanwhile, get hold of some coconut water!*
*Green coconuts are not often readily available in the grocery stores, but Harrewyn Organics (www.harrewynorganics. com) distributes to the following stores nationwide: Wellness Warehouse and Organic Living in Cape Town; Fresh Earth, Fruits and Roots, Weleda Bryanston, Weleda Pineslopes, and Thrupps in Johannesburg; and Earth Mother and Lifestyle Health in KwaZulu Natal.
- Macalalag E.V. and Macalalag A.L. Bukolysis: young coconut water renoclysis for urinary stone dissolution. Int Surg 1987; (72):247.
- Alleyne T., et al. The control of hypertension by use of coconut water and mauby: two tropical food drinks. West Indian Med J 2005; (54):3-8.