It's all about the potassium, baby
Coconut water is one of those beverages my health conscious friends are always trying to convince me to drink more of. And though I know it's important to stay hydrated so my organs don't shut down and I don't have a pounding headache, I've never been totally clear on the exact health benefits of drinking coconut water and why coconut water is so hydrating. Turns out that there are a couple of good reasons to drink coconut water if you want to stay hydrated, according to science, and it all starts with potassium.
Your body needs electrolytes, like potassium, in order to help keep your heartbeat regular, remove waste products from cells, and generally function well. And humans need a lot of this mineral nutrient: approximately 3,510 milligrams of potassium per day for healthy adults, according to a study conducted by the World Health Organization. But, as Arthur Gallego, global director of corporate communications at Vita Coco notes, "Potassium remains a nutrient shortfall for many people," even though it's "the electrolyte that helps speed hydration in the body."
This is where coconut water comes in, because coconut water packs a lot of potassium per ounce. According to data from the US Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, one cup of coconut water has 600 milligrams of potassium. To put that in some context, a whole, large banana—the food that's probably most associated with high levels of potassium—has less than 500 milligrams of potassium.
The hydrating benefits of potassium, and, in turn, coconut water, are why many people turn to coconut water after a night of drinking. "If you’re hungover from the night before, coconut water could be a great way to start your morning," notes Gallego. Plus, the composition of coconut water is about 95 percent water, according to the USDA, so you're kickstarting your daily intake of H2O, too.
There's no reason not to drink coconut water in the morning even if you're not looking for a hangover cure, though, and there are other benefits to drinking coconut water besides hydration. As Chris Cuvelier, CEO and founder of Zola, a company that makes both coconut water and organic hydrating energy drinks, explains, "Plant powered hydration from superfruits like coconuts help you maintain mental focus, balance your pH levels, stabilize your core temperature, and deliver important nutrients that your body needs."
And you don't have to worry about drinking coconut water on an empty stomach because this beverage has a low acidity. "The beverages that upset our tummies in the morning are the ones that are acidic," explains Gallego, "like citrus juices followed by coffee." Though mixing coconut water and coffee does seem like it could be a winning combo, especially since the hydrating properties of coconut water could offset the negative effects of caffeine. Cuvelier notes that he starts every morning with a can of Zola Coconut Water with Espresso, "which is the equivalent to two shots of espresso and has potassium to hydrate."
Whether it's straight out of the coconut, blended into a smoothie, or combined with a shot of espresso, there's really no good reason not to drink coconut water in the morning—unless you're a coconut water hater who just doesn't like the taste of the stuff, in which case I really can't help you.