You’re going green in more ways than one, if your choice of summer drink is straight from a tender coconut. You don’t really need that artificial sports-drink hydrator, or even a sugar-laden home-made lime juice. Tender coconut water wins hands down, in terms of the natural electrolytes in it (sodium-potassium). “When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, so even if you hydrate, you may not be able to recover the potassium that you’ve lost,” says Lovneet Batra, Delhi-based sports nutritionist. “Also, unlike water that tends to simply go through the gut, tender coconut water has carbohydrates in the form of sugars that require digestion. This makes it stay in the gut longer, making other micronutrients present in it (magnesium, for instance) available for absorption,” she says.
Coconut water is suitable for all, including pregnant women. “If you have diabetes, kidney disease, or are over 60, do check with your doctor about intake,” says Dr Rommel Tickoo, a Delhi-based general physician. He recommends it for those who have had a bout of vomiting or diarrhoea. For children, it’s best to give it after one year, starting with a few spoonfuls a day, making sure to strain it, says Dr Sarath Gopalan, a Delhi-based paediatric- gastroenterologist.
As with most things, moderation is a good idea, and while Chennai-based consultant dietitian Dharini Krishnan says 200 ml is just fine (that’s about 1 coconut) so as not to disturb the body’s sodium-potassium ratio, Batra says young people, sportspeople, and teens who may be out in the sun a great deal can have about 2 or 3 through the day. The best time to drink it is either early in the morning, or as a rehydrator when you’re out.
It works to sip on during a workout or pre-workout, especially for those who tend to get cramps. If you’re fuelling an hour before, you can have tender coconut water upto 15 minutes prior to beginning play.
During WWII, tender coconut water was used when IV fluid wasn’t available. Not any longer. “There was a time when we said that coconut water was so sterile it could be injected into the body. Not any more. We have the issue of industrial effluents polluting our water resources,” says Krishnan.
Can parents pack the water for their children to school? “It can get fermented, so the best way to have it is fresh,” says Krishnan. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, US, “Once exposed to air and warm temperatures”, the water “rapidly deteriorates.” Although available in packaged bottles, check whether it’s been sterilised or pasteurised, as that destroys nutrients. Many brands also add sugar, so again, it’s best to drink fresh. Cool down a scorcher of a summer afternoon with these tender coconut quenchers.