According to Sanskrit, the word for coconut is kalpa vriksha, which when translated means “the tree that supplies all that is needed to live.” While this may seem an extreme statement to make about a tropical tree, it’s not so far fetched. In the years between 1941-45, coconut water was used as a substitute for blood plasma transfusions for wounded soldiers. This is because coconut water is almost identical to blood plasma, and therefore readily accepted by the human body! In fact, it is commonly called nature’s gatorade, because it is naturally isotonic; it contains the same concentration of electrolytes as the human body.
If effective rehydration of the body is to be achieved, the body’s levels of lost minerals, particularly sodium and potassium must be replenished. Since coconut palms generally grow in warm climates near the ocean water, they absorb nearly all of the minerals from the sea. This means that coconut water contains most of the minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, sulphur, and chlorides. And among the minerals more than half is potassium; therefore coconut water is excellent for hydration and replenishing lost electrolytes.
The best source of coconut water is from wildly grown coconuts, as found in Hawaii and Mexico. However, if you do not have the privilege of living in one of these areas, you can find baby Thai coconuts in health food stores and Asian markets. Because these nuts are hybrids, they have a higher sugar content, but are still effective isotonic beverages. You will typically find them wrapped in clear plastic wrap, shaved of their brown husk, giving them a white color with flat bottoms and conical tops. Do not purchase if they are moldy or have moisture under the wrap, as they are spoiled. Alternatively, there are several companies that sell coconut water in a box. Make sure that no sugar is added. Since aluminum can be toxic to our bodies, avoid coconut water sold in aluminum cans.
Please keep in mind that while coconut water is a great hydrator, it is NOT a replacement for water. Just as a plant can’t live off of a sports drink, neither can we. As a word of caution, if you have a condition which is sensitive to high levels of potassium, consult your doctor before consuming coconut water.
Br J Sports Med. 1997 Sep;31(3):175-82.
Wolfe, David. Superfoods. Berkeley, Ca.: North Atlantic Books, 2009.