We all know that hydration is key when working out and exercising. The majority of sports drinks, however, are awash with refined sugars and a long list of artificial additives, including colourings, flavourings and preservatives, which can actually do more harm than good. Thankfully there is still a deliciously wholesome, yet highly effective alternative to plain, old water – coconut water, the supreme sports drink from Mother Nature.
What is coconut water?
Not to be confused with coconut milk (a thicker coconut drink made from diluting the flesh of ground coconut with water), coconut water is a clear, light, thirst-quenching liquid tapped directly from the kernel of fresh, green organic coconuts. Coconuts grow on the coconut palm, which thrives in tropical regions such as South and Central America, Africa, the southern coastal regions of Asia and the Polynesian and Hawaiian Islands. In addition to supplying coconut water, young, green coconuts are also used to create an almost infinite array of aromatic superfood products, including:
Organic Coconut Oil – loaded with vegetable saturated fatty acids, organic coconut oil contains no trans fats, sugars, carbohydrates or salt and, as it can survive extremely high temperatures without losing any of its nutritional value or oxidising, is an ideal alternative to vegetable oils for frying, stir-frying and roasting.
Organic Coconut Sugar – a 100% natural superfood sweetener made from coconut blossom nectar that, unlike ordinary sugar, has not been heated, bleached or processed in any other way. Organic coconut sugar also boasts an extremely low Glycaemic Index value of just 35, making it is the perfect sugar substitute for diabetics.
Desiccated Coconut – made from coconut flesh that’s subsequently dried at low temperatures, desiccated coconut adds an exotic twist to breakfast granolas, raw chocolate, rawfood snacks and desserts. Gluten-free, desiccated coconut additionally absorbs a significant amount of water and can thus be used to thicken hot and cold food and drinks.
Coconut water – the supreme sports drink from Mother Nature
The Hawaiians refer to coconut water as “noelani” or “dew from heaven”. It consists of approximately 95 percent water and contains a wealth of valuable nutrients – nutrients that are particularly beneficial for those who enjoy regular sporting activities or intensive exercise.
Indeed, coconut water contains B complex vitamins and vitamin C, trace elements (including zinc, selenium, iodine, sulphur and manganese), amino acids, antioxidants and phytonutrients, and is one of the finest sources of electrolytes on our planet. Electrolytes are inorganic compounds that become ions (molecules with a positive or negative electrical charge) in solution, and are crucial for electrical signalling in the brain, heart, muscles and nervous system.
Coconut water boasts the following five electrolytes that are especially helpful during exercise:
Potassium is a mineral that:
- Assists in the communication between nerves and muscles
- Helps to move nutrients into and remove waste products out of cells
- Helps to regulate heartbeat
- Is important for kidney function
Potassium deficiency is common among athletes – coconut water contains around 295mg of potassium – just one coconut drink can contain more potassium than four bananas and up to 15 times more than most commercial sports drinks!
Sodium is an electrolyte and essential ion, which:
- Plays a pivotal role in enzyme operation and muscle contraction
- Helps to maintain an optimal balance of fluids within the human body
- Improves heart performance
- Increases glucose absorption
Unfortunately, sodium is lost from the body via sweat and, of course, this occurs most during vigorous exercise!
Magnesium is a mineral that:
- Transforms food into energy
- Ensures the healthy function of the parathyroid glands, which are important for bone health
- Helps to maintain the electrical potential of cells and thus encourage proper muscle function
Many of us do not receive the recommended daily amount of magnesium (300mg for men and 270mg for women). One cup of coconut water contains approximately 60mg of magnesium.
Phosphorous is a mineral which:
- Helps to build strong bones and teeth
- Helps to release energy from food
- Aids in muscle contraction
- Helps to regulate nerve function
One cup of coconut water contains an average of 48mg of phosphorous – adults require 550mg a day.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body that:
- Helps to build strong bones and teeth
- Regulates muscle contractions, including heartbeat
- Ensures that blood clots normally
Adults require 700mg of calcium a day – one cup of coconut water can contain up to 58mg.
The isotonic properties of coconut water
Coconut water is also isotonic, which means that it contains similar concentrations of salt and natural sugar to the human body and can therefore help to prevent dehydration and recover fluid balance after exercise and sport.
Additional health benefits of coconut water.
As well as being an exceptionally invigorating and rehydrating sports drink, coconut water:
- Supports liver and kidney function and helps to prevent kidney stones
- Helps to regulate blood pressure, improve circulation and reduce the build-up of plaque in arteries
- Boasts anti-aging properties – improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles
- Possesses anti-cancer properties – coconut water contains natural plant hormones known as cytokinins, which are believed to regulate cell growth in humans and prevent the development of cancer
- Helps to balance blood sugar and insulin levels
- Helps to prevent headaches and migraines and can aid in concentration
- Has an alkalising effect on the body
- Aids digestion and can help to prevent both diarrhoea and constipation
- Boosts the immune system
Coconut water – not just for sportsmen and women!
Coconut water is pure, hypoallergenic, extremely low in calories (it contains just 19 kcal per every 100ml), and is free from refined sugars, cholesterol, lactose, milk proteins, preservatives and colourings. It therefore makes a sensible alternative to shop bought fizzy drinks and is an ideal substitute for dairy beverages, especially for those who are either allergic to or intolerant of dairy products. Perfect directly before or immediately after exercise, coconut water can also be used as a delicious base for smoothies, green juices, and shakes, regardless of whether you are a die-hard sports fanatic or a confirmed couch potato!
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