Just open any gossip magazine and you are sure to read about the latest health and beauty trend sported by Hollywood stars – coconut water. Taking over the shelves of every supermarket and health food store this beverage has rapidly shot to health drink fame, but are the health benefits for real or is this just another super food having its time in …the spotlight?

For more than 4,000 years, coconut water has been revered as a natural source of nutrition, wellness, beauty and hydration, so to call this a new phase maybe jumping the gun! In times of famine and war, coconut water has been used as an intravenous fluid and saved many lives (coconut water’s electrolyte content is very similar to human plasma) and it’s the only natural substance that can be safely injected into the human blood stream. Now modern science has validated its effectiveness.

So far so good..

What Is Coconut Water?Coconut water is the liquid that is found inside young coconuts before they mature, at which point the water solidifies to form the flesh of the coconut. It contains no fat and is very low in calories (about 50 calories for one cup), most of them from natural sugars. In addition to water and sugar, coconut water also contains minerals such as potassium and magnesium. In fact, coconut water has more potassium than a banana! The commercial coconut water that you find sold in bottles, is pasteurized and may have added pulp, so fresh is always best.

Is Coconut Water Really That Healthy?

Coconut water contains a very good amount of electrolyte potassium, which is what a lot of the health claims made for coconut water is based on. Together, these electrolytes help replenish electrolytes deficiency in the body (ie exercise, dreaded ‘Bali Belly). Need more hard hitting research facts.. then read on!

What are the Health Benefits of Coconut Water?

• Research studies suggest that cytokinins (e.g., kinetin and trans-zeatin) in coconut water showed significant anti-ageing (big tick), anti-carcinogenic (anti cancer) and anti-thrombotic effects.

• Coconut water is composed of many naturally occurring bioactive enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, diastase, peroxidase, RNA polymerases etc. Altogether, these enzymes aid in digestion and metabolism.

• Despite very light consistency, its water has much better composition of minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc than some of fruits like oranges.

• Its water is also a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folates. These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.

• In addition, fresh coconut water has small amount of vitamin-C (ascorbic acid); provides about 2.4 mcg or 4% of RDA. Vitamin C is a water-soluble ant-oxidant.What does that all mean?

• It promotes heart health – Consuming foods or beverages rich in potassium, including coconut water, may help reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke.

• It promotes kidney health – Diets high in potassium, magnesium, and fluids are thought to reduce the risk of kidney stones, so it’s not surprising that coconut water is reported to help prevent or resolve kidney stones.

• It fights aging – Coconut water also contains compounds that seem to protect cells against aging and cancer—in test tubes anyway. It’s exciting to think that drinking coconut water could make us immune to aging and disease. But we really should know better by now. The world is chock-a-bloc with compounds that stop aging and disease in petri dishes. And yet, we don’t seem to have solved the problem of aging and disease.

Is Coconut Water Better Than Sports Drinks After Exercising?

Basically, coconut water is like natural Gatorade. Like Gatorade, it contains water, simple carbohydrates (or, sugar), and electrolytes (or, minerals). Compared to a sports drink made with refined sugars, artificial flavoring, and blue food coloring, I’d say coconut water represents a solid upgrade. However, the benefits of sports drinks—whether natural or artificial—tend to be somewhat oversold. (Most people don’t actually exercise hard enough to need sport drinks/electrolyte replacements.

Here are my general guidelines for sports drinks:

If you’re exercising very hard for more than 60 minutes, or in extremely hot conditions, a drink containing sugar and minerals can enhance your performance. Otherwise, plain water works just as well—and saves you some calories.)How to Get the Benefits of Coconut WaterAt the end of the day, coconut water is a reasonably nutritious, natural beverage that appears to have health benefits similar to those available from fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t replace fruits and vegetables, but if you just like the way it tastes (or the amazing testimonials have gotten to you), there’s nothing wrong with including it your diet as well. Just remember to account for the sugar and calories it provides.

Coconut water can certainly be part of a healthy diet, and if you like the taste, then drink up. After all, it’s certainly better for you than sugary sodas.