What is coconut water?

Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside green, immature coconuts. Young coconuts are favoured for their water as it is tastier, more plentiful in volume and easier to access. Varieties of coconut yield slightly different-tasting water, depending on where they are grown.


Coconut water also differs in taste and nutrition to coconut milk and oil, both of which are made from the flesh of the coconut.

Benefits of coconut water include:

  • Natural source of minerals
  • May have antioxidant properties
  • May help manage blood sugar levels
  • May help prevent kidney stones
  • May support exercise performance

Discover our full range of health guides including the health benefits of coconut milk, how healthy coconut oil really is and the benefits of coconut flour.

Nutritional profile of coconut water

A 100ml serving of coconut water (ready to drink) provides:

More like this
  • 18Kcal / 75KJ
  • 0.2g Protein
  • 0.0g Fat
  • 4.5g Carbohydrates
  • 4.1g Sugar
  • 165mg Potassium

Commercial products will vary, with sugar levels ranging from 3-6g (about 1 tsp) per 100ml. It’s not unusual for a 330ml serving of branded coconut water to provide over 15g sugar (roughly 3 tsp).

Coconut water in a green coconut and glass tumbler

Top 5 health benefits of coconut water

1. Natural source of minerals

Coconut water is a natural source of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium. Many of us don’t get enough of these important electrolyte minerals, which play a key role throughout the body, including for heart health and skeletal and muscle function. In fact, some believe coconut water is on a par with the electrolyte balance found in many isotonic sport drinks.

It’s worth remembering, however, that although about 165-250mg of potassium is contained within a 100ml serving when compared to an average avocado, banana or potato, this is not a large amount. There are plenty of other potassium-rich foods that are likely to be cheaper and more readily available than coconut water.

2. May have antioxidant properties

Research on animals suggests that coconut water contains compounds that have a protective, antioxidant effect. Two of the phytonutrients that have these effects are shikimic acid and caffeic acid, and the benefits in the studies ranged from decreased cholesterol markers to improvements in liver health.

However, to date there have been no human studies to replicate these findings, so it’s too early to say whether the same benefits may be relevant for us.

3. May help manage blood sugar levels

Animal studies suggest that coconut water may help manage blood sugar levels and reduce the damaging effects of oxidative stress associated with conditions like diabetes. Being a source of magnesium may also contribute to coconut water’s benefits, because magnesium helps manage blood sugar levels, especially among those with diabetes. However, once again there are better food sources of magnesium – these include banana and avocado.

Although animal studies appear encouraging, more research is needed to evaluate these effects in humans.

4. May help prevent kidney stones

Adequate fluid intake is important to avoid kidney stone formation; stones are created when compounds like calcium and oxalate combine to form crystals and stones. Studies suggest that drinking coconut water not only reduces the number of stones, but also appears to prevent them from sticking to the kidneys and urinary tract.

5. May support exercise performance

It has been suggested that consuming coconut water may improve endurance and athletic performance. This is because it contains carbohydrate in the form of glucose (a simple sugar) combined with the electrolyte minerals sodium and potassium – two key components typically found in commercial sports drinks.

One study found that drinking coconut water prior to exercise improved the capacity to exercise in a high-temperature environment. Another found that coconut water drunk post-exercise helped rehydrate in a similar way to a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink, but it didn’t have any significant impact on exercise performance.

As a source of electrolytes, coconut water may be a useful post-exercise drink; however, given the research to date is inconsistent, most recreational exercisers are likely to achieve as much benefit from plain water.

More controlled studies involving humans are needed to confirm many of these properties, but if you wish to improve hydration while adding an additional source of potassium to your diet, coconut water may be a useful choice.

Is coconut water safe for everyone?

For the majority of people, coconut water is generally recognised as safe. However, if you have renal failure or a kidney condition that requires you to manage your potassium intake, it may not be an appropriate source of regular hydration.

Furthermore, coconut water is a source of simple carbs, so if you’ve been diagnosed as pre-diabetic or diabetic, check first with your GP or registered dietitian before adding significant quantities to your diet.

Allergic reactions to coconut are rare – contact dermatitis and sensitisation to the tree pollen is more common.

Overall, is coconut water healthy?

If you wish to improve hydration while adding a source of potassium to your diet, coconut water may be a useful addition as part of a varied, balanced diet. However, for those with a kidney condition or who have been advised to manage their sodium levels it may not be the ideal choice. If you do choose to drink coconut water check labels and avoid those brands with added sugar.

Like this? Now read:

10 best foods to help you stay hydrated
How much water should you drink every day?
How to stay hydrated on a run
Top 5 health benefits of drinking water
Top 5 health benefits of lemon water

Get inspired with these tasty coconut recipes

Coconut recipes

This article was last reviewed on 15 April 2024 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

Jo Lewin is a registered nutritionist (RNutr) with the Association for Nutrition with a specialism in public health. Follow her on Twitter @nutri_jo.


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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