Now that summer is in full swing, it's safe to say that everyone is looking for delicious ways to stay cool and hydrated. And here in New York, I've seen people sipping coconut water everywhere from my spin class to the subway. It got me thinking: Is the tropical beverage all it's cracked up to be? And if I bring home a crate of the stuff, what can I do other than sip it through a straw? Will it bode well in my overnight oats? Can I mix it with some booze for a vacay-inspired cocktail? The answers: yes and yes! Read on to find out what else I learned about the trendy, coconutty sip!
FIRST, LET'S DIVE INTO THE BENEFITS…
It's "Cleaner" Than Sports Drinks
First thing's first: Unless you're exercising for more than an hour, you really don't need to rehydrate with anything but water. Your body simply doesn't need the extra nutrients or sugar. That said, if you've got a long workout ahead of you, bringing along an electrolyte-infused beverage (like coconut water) can help you stay on your A-game. While conventional sports drink like Gatorade and Powerade are among the most popular options for athletes, you're better off skipping them. Not only are they overflowing with calories and sugar, some of the flavors are made with icky chemicals and additives like brominated vegetable oil, a flame retardant that just so happens to also make a handy beverage emulsifier. BVO may negatively affect thyroid hormones and contribute to internal inflammation, which has been linked to obesity. (Um, OMG!) Conventional sports drinks also contain high-fructose corn syrup, a high-glycemic-index sweetener that can spike blood sugar levels and promote body fat storage. Coconut water, on the other hand, doesn't contain any of that and is a far better choice for your long, hardcore workouts.
It's Packed with Potassium
Potassium (which is found abundantly in bananas) is crucial for the kidneys and other body organs to function normally—and most Americans don't get enough of it. In fact, a recent study found that only 0.3 percent of the population, or 3 in every 1,000 Americans, consume the recommended 3,510 milligrams of daily potassium. While sipping a cup of coconut water won't fulfill your daily allotment, it does have 470 milligrams per cup. Upping your potassium intake can help ward off stroke and high blood pressure–and even early death in women, according to a study in the journal Stroke. What's more, electrolytes like potassium are crucial for muscle health and recovery. The faster you recover, the more quickly you'll be able to get back in the gym to continue sculpting the body of your dreams.
It May Be Good for Your Heart
Get this: A study published in the Journal of Cell & Tissue Research found that coconut water helped reduce blood pressure and cholesterol in rats, suggesting that the drink may be good for your ticker. Sounds like a solid reason to sip the stuff from time to time, if you ask us.
It Has Some Calcium & Magnesium
Coconut water's big three minerals are potassium, magnesium, and calcium, a nutrient that plays a leading role in bone health. While a cup of the stuff only contains 4 percent of the day's recommended intake of the latter two nutrients, that's still more than a regular bottle of water can claim. Wondering why you should worry about magnesium? While it's not often talked about, magnesium is paramount to a healthy diet, as it helps with muscle contraction and relaxation, and also helps boost lipolysis, a process by which your body releases fat from its stores.
It Will Excite Your Taste Buds
While all of the health perks mentioned above are great and all, there's no denying that the biggest benefit of coconut water is the taste. Sometimes you just need to drink something besides regular ol' water, and it isn't always possible to whip up a batch of detox water when you're away from home. In short, coconut water is one of the best-flavored hydrators for those who are constantly on the go.
NOW, THE FUN PART: SIPPING & EATING IT…
Use It To Make Popsicles
Nothing—and we mean nothing—is better than a popsicle on a scorching summer afternoon, especially when it's made with coconut water. (Hello, piña colada on a stick!) To whip up a batch at home, put your favorite fruits into a popsicle mold (we like berries, mango, and pineapple) and then fill the rest up with unsweetened coconut water. Place the molds in the freezer and allow them to solidify. This should take six to eight hours. Once they're ready to serve, run the bottom of the popsicle molds under warm water so they pop out in one piece. Super simple!
Mix Up a Dressing
If you're a fan of fruit-topped salads, you'll love the added flavor a coconut water-based dressing brings to the table. All you need to whip up a batch is 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut water, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Simply whisk all of the ingredients together and drizzle it over your favorite salad. For even more skinny and delicious ways to make a dressing, check out these 12 Tips to Make Healthy Salad Dressings.
Marinate Meat In It
Looking for a way to take your tropical-inspired meat dishes to the next level? Marinate them in a coconut water-based mixture. The simplest way to pull it off is to combine 1 cup of coconut water with 2 cups of pineapple juice. Pork or chicken that's been soaked in the concoction pairs great with a pineapple salsa. If spicy marinades are more your thing, combine 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut water with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and garlic and salt to taste. And for even more way to add some heat to your diet, check out these 20 Spicy Recipes That Fire Up Your Metabolism.
Pour It in a Cocktail
If you like piña coladas but hate the excess sugar and calories, you might want to consider mixing up a cocktail with coconut water. In an ice filled cup, combine 2-ounces of pineapple juice, 1-ounce of unsweetened coconut water, and 1-ounce of white rum. Garnish your glass with some fresh pineapple slices and a lime wedge to catch a delightful buzz for a mere 100 calories and 7 grams of sugar. That's a far cry from the 500 calories you'd find in the classic blended variety. To make sure you're always prepared to whip up something healthy, be sure to stock up on these 40 Things Healthy Cooks Always Have in Their Kitchen.
Make Chia Seed Pudding
Here at Eat This, Not That! We're big fans of chia pudding. And that's because it's one of the few dishes that enables healthy eaters to up their daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids while consuming a not-so-bad-for-you dessert. And for those who are crazy for coconuts, it also serves as the perfect blank canvas to add your favorite flavor to the mix. Here's one way to make it: Mix 2 cups of unsweetened coconut water with a ⅔ cup of chia seeds, a ½ tablespoon of honey, and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pour into two small mason jars (one for you and one for a friend) and top with your favorite fruits before digging in.
Concoct a Summer Soup
When I know I have a busy week ahead, I like to make a big batch of soup—it's easy to make, super portable, pairs great with a salad, and stay good for days. And this holds true in the summer, too. Except instead of whipping up popular varieties like chicken noodle and three bean chili, I make a light summer soup that can be served cold. (It's like a smoothie, but better because you can eat it with a spoon which, I swear, leaves me feeling far more satiated.) One of the tastiest recipes I've come across is a chilled avocado soup by food blogger, Kimberly Moore—and it just so happens to feature coconut water. (Not to mention you make it right in the food processor so it's ready in less than 5 minutes!) Sound like something you'd like to try? Click here for the full recipe.
Add it to a Smoothie or Juice
Chef, TV host, and all-around flat belly hottie Candice Kumai is a huge fan of sipping her nutrition—she even wrote an entire book filled with slimming green drinks. One of our favorites? The Green Vanilla Almond Smoothie, which boasts an impressive 11 grams of protein and, yes, you guessed it: refreshing coconut water. To make her addictively delicious sip at home, combine 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut water with 1 cups of baby spinach, ½ a frozen banana, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of vanilla protein powder and 1/2 cup of ice, and blend until smooth. For even more creamy, delicious weight-loss recipes, click here for Zero Belly Smoothies! There's no easier way to flatten your belly in just 30 seconds.
Use it in Your Oats
If you're anything like us, you like overnight oats for their portability, make-ahead-ability (that's totally a word, right?), and versatility. And while you may change up your mix-ins and toppings on the reg, many people don't think to change their liquid of choice. But we challenge you to think outside the milk aisle, and consider incorporating some coconut water into your next batch. You might be eating your oats in your 10 am meeting, but if you swap the tropical beverage in for your regular liquid, your taste buds will think they're a million miles away on a breezy beach. Paired with coconut shreds, bananas slices, and berries, it's sure to become a new favorite. For even more hot cereal inspiration, check out these 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes!
Make Coco-Cold Brew
Yes, coconut water-cold brew is a thing, and we promise it will rock your mornings! To make a cup, mix
1 cup of unsweetened coconut water with a ½ cup of coffee concentrate, add ice and top off your cup with some milk. That's it! Since the coconut water is a bit on the sweet side, it eliminates the need to add sugar or artificial sweeteners, two things that have been linked to stomach fat when consumed regularly. #Winning!
Cook An Asian-Inspired Side Dish
Plain ol' rice can be boring—but it's a common side dish, especially when you're talking about Asian cuisine. To elevate your starchy side to the next level, cook your rice in a pot of coconut water and plain water (a 2:1 ratio works best). For a more coconutty flavor, nix the water altogether and cook the rice in pure coconut water. The resulting dish will be sweet and nutty—the perfect complement to Thai and other Asian dishes. Top your bowl with lemongrass to elevate the flavor further.