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Ask Tufts Experts October 2012 Issue

Q: I enjoyed your Special Report on potassium (March). Coconut water supposedly has only a few calories and as much potassium in a glass as four bananas. Is this indeed an easy way to ramp up your potassium, and are there any downsides?

Answer :  Health & Nutrition Letter editor Irwin H. Rosenberg, MD, replies, “There are no downsides to the consumption of coconut water that I am aware of.” He adds, “Interestingly, coconut water was used as a folk remedy in rehydration for cholera.”

Literally the liquid contained in young coconuts, “coconut water” is indeed high in potassium—600 milligrams in a cup, about an eighth of the Adequate Intake (AI) for adults. That’s actually about the amount in one and a half medium bananas, not four, but still a good contribution to your intake of this important mineral. Better still, a glass of coconut water contains only 46 calories. The only potential negative to be aware of is that coconut water is also relatively high in sodium, at 252 milligrams, whereas bananas have almost no sodium.

Those who prescribed coconut milk for rehydration were on to something, too. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that coconut water replenishes athletes’ body fluids as well as a sports drink and better than water.

As for other health benefits touted by coconut-water marketers, however, be skeptical. A class-action suit has recently been settled against the makers of one of the leading coconut-water brands, Vita Coco, which charged that the company misrepresented the health benefits and nutritional content.

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