Is coconut water all it's cracked up to be?

May 22, 2012 at 6:00 a.m. ET

Is coconut water actually good for you, or is it just yet another beverage fad? We look into the nutritional content of coconut water to learn whether it's something we should be drinking.

Coconut water

We see healthy yoga fanatics and Hollywood celebs sipping coconut water all the time. But is this beverage truly a healthy drink we all need to be drinking?

What is coconut water?

Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside a coconut when you crack it open. Don't confuse it with coconut milk, which is made by steeping coconut meat in water and then pressing it, turning it into a thick liquid (which you can use in smoothies or other recipes where you'd use milk). As you might expect given how it's made, coconut milk is higher in calories and fat than coconut water (445 calories and 48 grams of fat per cup of coconut milk compared to 45 calories and half a gram of fat in the same quantity of coconut water). What many people seem to overlook when it comes to coconut water, though, is that most brands contain anywhere from 11 to 14 grams of sugar.

Can coconut water replace a sports drink?

Many people are opting for coconut water as a natural electrolyte replacement (it contains potassium and other minerals) instead of typical sports drinks, which are loaded with artificial ingredients. But a ConsumerLabs.com report found that most brands don't tout all that many electrolytes in their coconut water to begin with, so you may be better off replenishing them during your workout with something you are certain supplies what you need (and, of course, eating a well-balanced snack that includes carbs and some protein after your workout).

Plus, don't forget that unless you're taking part in a vigorous workout for more than an hour (think an hour of running, spinning or hot yoga — a leisurely stroll in the park doesn't count), you don't need to replenish your electrolytes.

So to sip or not to sip...

To quench your thirst on a regular basis, you'd be better off drinking plain water to rehydrate so you don't end up consuming extra sugar. If you prefer coconut water as a natural option after a sweaty workout, be sure to research which types meet your electrolyte needs.

More health tips

The best foods to eat after exercise
10 Hidden signs you're not eating as healthy as you think
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