Golf Digest WomanJanuary 19, 2011

Wellness Wednesday: The merits of coconut water

Every Wednesday, we're going to ask experts to shed light on the latest fitness, nutrition and gear trends for women golfers. This week, we called upon nutritional coach Cate Munroe to expound upon the virtues of coconut water. Drink up!

Golf Digest Woman: What exactly is coconut water, and how many nutrients and calories does it have?

Cate Munroe: Coconut water is the milky liquid inside of a young coconut. (Don't confuse this fluid with coconut milk, which is a man made product from the meat of an older coconut.) Coconut water is 95 percent water and contains five essential electrolytes: sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous. A low calorie beverage, with only 45 calories per eight-ounce serving, coconut water contains zero fat and cholesterol. But beware, it is naturally high in sugar, about 10-25 grams per serving!

GDW: When we play golf, why should we replace sports drinks with coconut water?

CM: Coconut water has 15 times the electrolytes found in most sports drinks. And it's a natural food, not a manmade product like a sports drink. Most sports drinks have a lot of added sugars like high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and artificial coloring. But plain coconut water contains naturally occurring sugar and minimal (if any) other ingredients. It's also much lower in calories.

__GDW:__Should we even replace water during our rounds with coconut water?

CM: The best fluid you can drink during your round is plain cool water.

__GDW:__Are there different types of coconut water? If so, which ones should we drink?

CM: Select one with the least amount of ingredients and sugar content. Coconuts from various parts of the world also differ in taste. For example, Brazilian coconuts tend to be sweeter, while Indian coconuts tend to be saltier.

__GDW:__Is it most effective to drink coconut water before, during or after our rounds?

CM: It's best to stick with water most of the time. Most people don't exercise heavily enough to need a sports drink. You'll need an electrolyte replacement, such as coconut water, if you sweat excessively for more than an hour, and sodium replacement if you're active and sweating for more than three hours. Because of its high sugar content, I don't recommend consuming more than one serving of coconut water a day.

__GDW:__If coconut water is so healthy, why does coconut meat get such a bad rap?

CM: Coconut oil got the bad rap from researchers who were testing hydrogenated coconut oil. But as we're well aware now, all hydrogenated oils are unhealthy. Coconut meat is actually extremely healthful, containing medium-chain fatty acids to boost your metabolism and Lauric acid to strengthen your immune system.

__GDW:__I've seen different flavors of coconut water. Are they artificially flavored, or do they naturally come in various flavors?

CM: It really depends on the brand. Good brands with natural ingredients include: Vita Coco, Zico, O.N.E., and Harvest Bay.

__GDW:__Coconut water has a distinct tang that isn't automatically pleasant. How could someone acquire a taste for it?

CM: Although I recommend plain coconut water first, if you don't like the taste, you can try different flavors. Or flavor it yourself with Stevia, an all-natural sweetener with zero calories and zero grams of sugar. But it's best to avoid drinking sweetened beverages, because it'll likely increase your sugar cravings.

And remember, coconut water tastes best cold or at room temperature. So keep it in the insulated hydration pocket of your golf bag. If you don't like any kind of coconut water, but you still want a better alternative to sugary sports drinks, then consider diluting fruit juice with 50 percent water and add a pinch of salt.

--Ashley Mayo