Coconut is the fruit of the palm tree or Cocos Nucifera. As an unripe fruit, it is green in colour, and sweet water along with tender coconut-meat is found inside the fruit. As it matures, it turns brown, and the flesh inside too matures and becomes thick. The water in a matured coconut has more fibre and is less sweet than a tender coconut. For long it has been known that the refreshing water from coconuts can be very beneficial to our health. Tender coconut water is an excellent electrolyte that can balance your body after a workout. It is packed with essential micro-nutrients like manganese, zinc, copper, and calcium. It is also rich in iron, potassium, and sodium. It is 94 % water and has very little fat.
Tender coconut water has been prescribed for digestive discomforts like diarrhoea and to treat excessive body heat as well. It has been rejected by people with diabetes over the years, however, because the sweetness in coconut water comes from natural fructose and was thought to spike blood sugar levels immediately. Recent research done has proven that coconut water helps prevent hyperglycaemia. However, it is indicated that a diabetic should limit their intake to less than 200 ml per day. It is because coconut water does contain fructose (15% approximately) which when consumed in excess can definitely alter the blood sugar levels. Let us understand why coconut water for diabetes patients can be a good thing.
How Is Coconut Water Helpful for Diabetes?
We mention in as much detail as possible the co-relation between coconut water and blood sugar and how you can use this refreshing elixir drink to regulate your sugar levels:
1. Coconut Water is Nutrient-dense
Coconut water is packed with micronutrients, minerals, and amino acids. It is rich in vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, and sodium. This makes coconut water perfect for keeping blood sugars from fluctuating very often. Also having a nutrient-rich drink that is low on calories and has a low glycaemic index is beneficial for a person with diabetes or pre-diabetes. It does away with the need to fill up on high-calorie foods to make up for the lack of nutrition in other energy drinks.
2. It Is Low on Carbs and High in Fibre
Although coconut water is composed of natural sugars, the amount of fibres in coconut water are said to be high. Keeping carbohydrate intake at a minimum is beneficial for a person with diabetes, and it is understood that the high fibre content helps keep blood sugar under control in diabetics. A high-fibre diet is one of the key recommendations made by dietitians for better management of blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetics are encouraged to consume high fibre foods that prevent fat accumulation and reduce the stress on the pancreas.
3. It Can Promote Blood Circulation
Having diabetes can cause constriction of one’s blood vessels. This often leads to other issues like diabetic neuropathy, myopathy, and glaucoma. Even kidney failure is a subsequent possibility due to the weakening of blood vessels. This, however, can be relieved to a certain extent as coconut water is known to improve blood circulation in the human body by widening the vessels. Coconut water has also been credited with reducing atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in arteries).
4. It Helps Weight Management
Gaining fat and body weight around the abdomen region can cause excessive pressure on the pancreas and increase insulin sensitivity. It is imperative to remain active and keep body weight under control to battle diabetic complications. Weight gain from unhealthy food choices can further complicate a diabetic person’s life. Coconut water helps to keep cravings in check as it is filling even though its natural composition is mainly water. The omega-3 fatty acids help in preventing high LDL levels and also help maintain body weight.
5. It Improves Body Metabolism
The electrolytes in the drink can re-hydrate the body and boost metabolism. This can help in burning fat and maintaining sugar levels in people with diabetes. The amount of energy used per activity should be high if one wants to burn more fat.
6.It Has a Low Glycaemic Index
Coconut water and type 2 diabetes have a positive correlation because the drink has a low glycaemic index. It has a GI of 3, and it causes no immediate spike in blood sugar unlike refined flour, and alloxan treated food. Alloxan is a chemical used to bleach flours and is a scientifically proven cause of diabetes in rats. The alkaline nature of coconut water also neutralises excessive stomach acids which are a frequent occurrence in a person with diabetes. Acid reflux issues can be taken care of by drinking coconut water.
7. It Can Reduce Sugar Cravings
We definitely don’t say that coconut water cures diabetes, but it is beneficial for people with diabetes. Coconut water is a very filling and naturally sweet drink. Having a sweet beverage once in a while can reduce cravings for other unhealthy sweets. A cola-based drink or a piece of cake made with refined flour can do so much damage to the body by increasing blood sugar levels. Coconut water, on the other hand, causes no spike in sugar levels and satiates the palate’s need for sugar, too.
8. It is High In Potassium
Potassium is a mineral that is very important for nerve function. As discussed earlier, deteriorating nerve functions are a key marker in diabetes and having potassium-rich foods can reduce this risk. There is caution to be applied only if you have a weakened kidney as too much potassium is potentially harmful to people with kidney complications.
9. It Is Rich in Magnesium
Magnesium has been known to increase insulin sensitivity. This is an indicator of how sensitive the human body is in relation to insulin released by the body. Low sensitivity would mean that one requires higher amounts of insulin to process the same amount of blood sugar as a non-diabetic person.
10. It is Antioxidant-rich
Coconut water is a drink that is loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants play a crucial role in our body because they stall the ageing process of organs and tissue by scavenging free radicals that damage cells. Oxidation releases these free radicals that are catalytic to ageing. A diabetic person’s body ages much faster than a normal person because higher blood sugars lead to greater oxidative stress. Coconut water is therefore beneficial in scavenging the free radicals in a diabetic and reducing the rapid ageing.
Coconut water should not be mixed with coconut milk. This is a fat-rich liquid that is extracted by squeezing grated coconut. It has 50% of water and is a very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Apart from all the benefits listed above, coconut water is known to hydrate the body, prevent kidney stone formation, and is also known to support better heart health.
Controlled studies need to confirm the positive effects in humans as it has been confirmed in rats who have definitely shown lower A1C levels. A1C level test is conducted to check long-term sugar control. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to note that the study on the effect of coconut water on lab rats has shown remarkably positive results and should be pursued further with human trials to establish the beneficial effects in humans as well.