Is coconut water worth the money, or is it just a lot of hype?

The answer depends on how balanced your diet is. The beauty of coconut water is that it delivers a nice dose of potassium along with just a few calories of sugar, giving you an energizing boost and helping maintain healthy potassium levels to maintain your blood pressure and prevent diseases including kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.

Why our bodies need potassium

Our caveman ancestors routinely got anywhere from 4,000 – 10,000 mg of potassium daily, largely from consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. This is the amount of potassium your body was genetically engineered to thrive on. Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes in the human body. After ingestion, potassium is stored inside our cells, creating an electrical gradient across the cell membrane that enables the cell to function. This is particularly important for nerve and muscle cells, including the heart.

If we are getting more than enough potassium to meet our body’s needs our kidneys are designed to filter out the excess in the urine. A healthy kidney is able to easily excrete more potassium than anyone could reasonably consume in a day. So for healthy people, getting too much potassium is never a problem.

But we can certainly be deficient in potassium, and most people are. The main reason is that we’ve reduced the amount of high potassium foods in our diet in favor of calorie-rich foods like pasta, rice and bread. For example, a cup of spaghetti has twice as many calories but only one third the potassium of a medium apple. Most of us wouldn’t think twice about eating a cup of cooked spaghetti, but how many of us have 3-6 apples a day?

Low potassium levels and blood pressure

Low potassium levels are a major contributor to the age-related condition of high blood pressure. About 75% of us will have high blood pressure by the time we reach 60 years old. There are a number of lifestyle factors that contribute to hypertension, but low potassium is one of the most important.

If we aren’t getting 10 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day it is unlikely that we are getting to the bare minimum of 4,000 milligrams of potassium daily that our ancestors got, and that a modern healthy body needs. This is where coconut water comes in. A typical 16oz coconut water has nearly 1,000 mg of potassium – one fourth of your daily requirement! If you aren’t sure that you are getting enough potassium, reaching for a bottle of coconut water is a great way to boost your intake and reach your goals.

What about the excess sugar?

It is true that coconut water has some natural sugars, about 22 grams in that 16 ounce bottle. This is less than half the sugar of a typical soft drink, and much less than typical fruit juices. If you have diabetes that is not well controlled, you might want to enjoy coconut water along with food, which will slow the sugar absorption, or just limit yourself to getting potassium from whole fruits and vegetables.

Of course, avoid any processed versions of coconut water, especially those that include added sugars, other fruit juices, or other ingredients. You just want coconut water straight from the coconut, just like our ancestors would have enjoyed.

Other foods high in potassium

In addition to coconut water, here’s a few other high potassium foods to think about introducing to your daily routine. Notice how many foods have more potassium than a banana!

  • 1 cup cooked spinach, 839mg
  • 3 oz salmon, 534 mg
  • ½ avocado, 485 mg
  • 1 medium cucumber, 442 mg
  • 1 cup mushrooms, 428 mg
  • 1 banana, 422 mg
  • 1 wedge watermelon (1/16 total), 320 mg
  • 1 tbsp. molasses, 293 mg
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder, 125 mg