Debunking Superfoods #1: Coconut Water Kills More Old People Than Bananas

I chose Coconut Water as my first article in the Superfoods series because it is one that I had to debunk for myself. Many traditional cultural cuisine lovers like myself have turned to this drink for a sweet kick of hydration. Coconut water is also medicinal in some cases. In WW2, military doctors used it in IV’s to treat the wounded when a saline solution wasn’t readily available. It’s rich in potassium, which can help people with muscle or nerve issues. You can even use coconut water to treat diarrhea! Seems AMAZING right?! (I probably shouldn’t be that enthusiastic about that last one, but I digress.)  

Coconut water, in my opinion, isn’t a terrible choice, but only as an occasional treat, like a Frappé or Boba Tea. Yet, just like coffee milkshakes and tapioca pearls, this isn’t a very nutritional choice or a healthy one for some people. Coconut water can actually “cause an over-abundance of potassium in the blood” which can mess up kidneys or worsen high blood pressure issues. In fact, hyperkalemia (or high potassium in the blood) can be made worse by coconut water if you take medications for high blood pressure, NSAIDs (like ibuprofen), antibiotics, and certain supplements. The high potassium content is one of the reasons why people in India and Cambodia have used green coconut water to kill the elderly, making them drink large quantities of it until they keel over.  

On the branding side, companies have pushed out coconut water products with some pretty spectacular claims. This beverage is literally the water inside a coconut, and corporations have been marketing it as a sort of natural sports drink. It’s touted as being full of electrolytes and a healthier choice than plain water (the “electrolytes” are the potassium, of course). There were also claims that it lowers blood sugar, guards against infection, and helps to lower cholesterol. However, not only does this qualify as misbranding as a treatment, but it is dangerously incorrect. The amount of sugar in coconut water is usually at least 4 grams per serving. For someone wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle who also needs to regulate their blood sugar, that can be a major issue.

The FDA  warned multiple companies against misleading statements and branding. Some companies, like Vita Coco, were even sued for misbranding. Claiming their product contained “15 times the electrolytes found in sports drinks”, there was a suit brought against them after it was found to be false. Vita Coco denied any wrong-doing, of course, and they settled out of court for $10 million in 2012.  

Coconut water is not a terrible drink choice. It can provide some healthy aspects that many may be missing in their regular nutrition intake. But it can also be dangerous to anyone with a sensitivity to potassium, such as people with kidney issues or high blood pressure.  This is, again, not an everyday drink and certainly not a superfood, as many companies would like you to believe. Water has 0 calories, and coconut water has 45 per cup. Water has 0 sugar and coconut water usually touts at least 1 teaspoon’s worth. If you are concerned about personal health and striving to be as healthy as possible, plain water still seems to be the best option over coconut water.

What other “superfoods” should I cover in this series? Let us know, by commenting below, and share this post to your friends!

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