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Is coconut water worth the extra cash?

December 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The beverage industry knows the American consumer so well. Give us a sassy slogan and a fancy container, and most likely, we'll buy it, including one product that's making millions: Coconut water.Not to be confused with thick, rich coconut milk, coconut water is a non-acidic, slightly sweet liquid extracted from baby coconuts that offers a beneficial nutrition profile.

"It's extremely high in potassium, so it has been used around the world for hydration purposes," said registered dietitian Ashley Koff.

Koff says the potassium takes water into cells easily, which in turn helps to sweep sodium out of the system, a plus for the millions of Americans with high blood pressure or who consume foods high in sodium.

Take a quick comparison of coconut water to a sports drink and you'll notice the difference. Coconut water contains more potassium than two bananas -- not so with a sports drink. In addition, sports drinks usually contain sodium, something often called for after an intense exercise session, but not generally needed for the majority of non-exercising adults who often drink them.

"The ones that are being advertised as electrolyte waters and vitamin waters and these kinds of things, they actually aren't doing what coconut water does naturally," said Koff.

In addition, Koff reminds us that while vitamins offer many benefits, hydration isn't one of them. So if you're plunking down $2 to $3 for a functional fluid, know the nutrients in the beverage and what they are responsible for. Even more importantly, try to get a source of that nutrient in a natural form.

One of the Tetra Pak containers of 100 percent coconut water contains 60 calories, which comes from 15 grams of natural sugar, all you need for a serving. But watch out for those extras. Buying a coconut water that offers added juice or even added sugar isn't going to be a better option for the body.

Due to its popularity and success, there will probably be some coconut water copycats. So in order for you to get the real deal, make sure you check the ingredient list to get 100 percent coconut water on the label.


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