Article courtesy of Los Angeles Times
Every couple of years a food or beverage is crowned with what nutrition experts call a “health halo.” Some of the foods – wild salmon, blueberries, flax seeds – deserve it. But others gain status for no apparent reason. Acai berry, anyone?
It’s not that the trendy food is unhealthful. It’s just that if you’re already eating a well-balanced diet it’s unnecessary. And possibly expensive. The latest entrant in this category: coconut water.
Coconut water – the mildly sweet liquid from the center of young, green coconuts – has been popular in tropical areas since, well, as long as people have lived among coconut palm trees. In recent years it has found its way onto the shelves of mainstream grocery stores, often with fruit juice or sugar added. A 14-ounce serving can cost as much as $3.50.
“Coconut water is a good source of potassium, but bananas and potatoes contain just as much or even more, and they’re much less expensive,” says Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University.
It’s true that many Americans fall short of the recommended daily intake of potassium, but Blake says there are better ways to meet the requirement. “With the potassium-rich whole foods you also get fiber and other nutrients, which is why I prefer them.”
People can certainly eat the “meat” of the coconut for potassium and fiber, but they’ll also get 26 grams of saturated fat per cup.
We depend on potassium for muscle function, and that’s why coconut water is marketed as an alternative to sports beverages. At a presentation during the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting last month, researchers reported that coconut water is a viable sugar-free substitute for drinks such as Powerade and Gatorade.