By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Water has always been essential to our bodies’ health and hydration; but we’re now seeing so many different kinds of waters on the market, many of which claim to be essential to our overall wellness. Two of the hottest waters on the market right now that boast important nutrients are coconut and maple.
But how important are they for our overall health? We’re here to help you understand the importance of water and to compare the nutrition content of some of the hottest waters currently on the market.
Simple, Plain Water:
Our bodies are made up of 70% water, so drinking water is important for our daily needs. For most people, the recommended amount of water per day ranges from 64-80 oz (8-10 cups, 8 oz each) depending on your activity level and pending other health issues. Aside from hydration, water plays a key part in fat metabolism and in regulating hunger and satiety among other important roles.
Why not water exclusively?
Yes, water is important to overall health, but water alone doesn’t meet our needs for electrolytes. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium play key roles in hydration, in sending electrical impulses throughout our bodies, and in muscle contraction amongst other things. The key role electrolytes play is in fluid balance and in helping to get the water into our muscles and tissues. To fill our need for extra electrolytes, we rely more heavily on electrolyte-rich beverages, which is where these 2 “hot” waters may come into the picture.
1. Coconut Water:
Coconut water, made from the water that sits in the middle of the coconut, is loaded with the electrolyte potassium (also found in bananas and other vegetables) and is key for heart health, balancing blood pressure, and also for hydration. Coconut water can make for a great replacement for other sports beverage and/or in addition to other sports drinks; athletes who exercise for longer periods of time usually need to add in some extra salt and carbohydrates to their coconut water hydration regimen as its low in sodium and also in carbohydrates.
All-in-all coconut water is a great and healthy choice next time you step out for a run, walk or even as a great way to get some extra electrolytes. Depending on the type of coconut water you purchase (and based on the all-natural, unflavored variety) an 8 oz. serving provides roughly 45 calories, 500-600 mg of potassium, (in some) 200 mg sodium, 2 grams of protein, and 9 grams of carbohydrates. You can use it as a pre- or post-exercise source of electrolytes, but it’s also important to bump up your water intake 8-16 oz. as well for 60+ minutes of exercise.
2. Maple Water:
Maple water is a new member on the shelf in the water aisle, and it’s making coconut water just a little nervous, but why? Maple water is made from the sap of the maple tree; however, it’s not nearly as sweet or as sticky as maple syrup. Maple water (straight from the tree) has to be concentrated heavily to make the sweet syrup you put on your pancakes; in fact, it takes 40 gallons of this maple water boiled down to make one gallon of maple syrup.
While coconut water is rich in some electrolytes, maple water is naturally rich in other important nutrients and electrolytes; including manganese, iron, and some calcium. Manganese is an important nutrient that plays a key role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism and aids with calcium absorption. Manganese has also been touted as beneficial to blood sugar regulation and is key for brain and nerve function. Another incredible function of manganese is its role as part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) that helps to fight free radicals in our bodies in addition to playing a role in aging, heart health and cancer prevention. Another benefit of maple in general is its rich source of antioxidants, though research is still pending on whether the major antioxidant benefits are available in the maple water versus the more concentrated maple syrup they’ve been found in previously.
To compare the nutrient profile of coconut water to maple water, maple water has less potassium, but offers other nutrients and electrolytes; it also has around the same amount of calories as maple water: 50 per 8 oz, and naturally has about half of the sugar as coconut water. Coconut waters often have a lot of added other ingredients, whereas maple water is generally sold as its own product.
So which one should you choose?
First and foremost, you should always start with a foundation of plain water (or one that’s naturally sweetened by infusing with your favorite fruits or vegetables) and use maple and coconut waters to optimize your hydration and for added extra flavor. The answer to which is better is simple, they’re both great.
Both coconut and maple water offer different and wonderful nutrients that can be beneficial in optimizing hydration and nutritional status. You should drink them as part of a healthful balanced plan every day capping at 16-20 oz per day unless you’re more active and are requiring extra electrolytes lost through sweat (in which case you may want to choose coconut water).
Always seek out the most natural option that contains the least amount of added ingredients and sweeteners. For right now, it seems all (or most) maple waters sold are in their natural form, but when selecting a coconut water you’ll still need to be weary of choosing an all-natural, unflavored variety.
To keep it simple, make your own tasty water.
Although I love the occasional coconut or maple water, my favorite type of water is made in my own kitchen. I’ll often cut up fresh fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, lemons, oranges, strawberries, ginger and add them to a pitcher of water- allowing the natural flavor to soak in and infuse my water. This provides a flavorful, healthy and easy alternative and addition to other waters.