Coconut water has gone from a niche drink to a popular thirst-quenching product that is available almost everywhere.
In this article, we’re talking about coconut water from immature (green) coconuts, rather than coconut flavored beverages.
Coconut water is a delicious and nutritious drink that is safe to drink in pregnancy. There are many important minerals in coconut water that can be beneficial to pregnant women, although there are some instances where you should avoid high consumption.
For most, coconut water is safe, though having too much of it may be an issue if you have underlying health conditions such as diabetes or low blood pressure, which we’ll talk about in this article.
There are also some surprising myths around coconut water that we’ll share with you here, too.
The Benefits of Coconut Water During Pregnancy: Is It Good?
Coconut water comes from young coconuts – also called ‘tender’, or ‘green’ coconuts, and is distinct from coconut milk or from sweetened canned beverages labeled as coconut drinks (so check the label to make sure you’re drinking ‘real’ coconut water).
Pure coconut water is fat-free with no cholesterol and is low in calories.
One cup of coconut water contains approximately:
- 46 calories
- 8.9 g carbs
- 57.6 mg calcium
Plus the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
It also contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and traces of feel-good tyrosine (Source: USDA).
That’s quite a nutritional package! So what are the benefits if you’re drinking coconut water during pregnancy?
The recommended daily allowance of potassium for pregnant women is 4,000 mg per day, and studies show that overall, we are not getting enough potassium.
Potassium is important for pregnant women as it helps the body store protein and glucose, and is therefore essential for growth (Source: NCBI).
Another benefit of coconut water’s potassium during pregnancy is that high potassium intake has been linked to prevention of hypertension (Source: Nature.com) and a reduced risk of stroke (Source: NCBI).
The calcium in coconut water is important for healthy development of the skeleton of the fetus, with the bulk of that development occurring from the middle of the second trimester onward.
Women who have a daily calcium intake of 1171 mg during pregnancy absorb 57% of that during the second trimester and much more during the third trimester: 72% (Source: Springer).
Not only that, but calcium, like potassium, also decreases the risk of developing hypertensive disorders during pregnancy which has been associated with a higher risk of preterm birth.
In addition, women eating high amounts of calcium have been known to have a lower risk of preeclampsia (high blood pressure often occurring after week 20 of pregnancy) (Source: Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India).
Because a significant amount of calcium is sent to the fetus through the placenta in the last trimester of pregnancy, it is particularly important to keep your calcium levels up.
Low calcium intake has been linked to an increased risk of women losing bone mass and potentially developing osteoporosis later in life (Source: NCBI).
Magnesium is another important mineral for pregnancy as several studies have shown that most people aren’t getting enough of it.
Magnesium supplementation has been shown to reduce pre-delivery bleeding, low birth weight newborns, and preterm births. So getting magnesium in your diet is equally important (Source: Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research).
Iron is another important micro nutrient for pregnancy, with pregnant women needing 27 mg per day as opposed to 15-18 mg per day.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and affects both mother and child (Source: PMC).
Tip: Iron is so important during pregnancy we’ve also put together a list of foods high in iron, if you’re trying to increase your intake.
Copper is also essential, as it helps remove pregnancy oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body).
Without this protection, there is a greater risk of preeclampsia, poor growth of the fetus, and miscarriage (Source: NCBI).
Coconut water is also very hydrating because it’s almost 95% water, so it’s an excellent post-workout drink, too (Source: USDA).
When Should I Start Drinking Coconut Water In Pregnancy?
You can start drinking coconut water at any time during pregnancy, even in the first trimester. You and your baby can benefit from the nutrients in coconut water from early pregnancy onwards.
The first trimester is when you may get tired or dehydrated, which is all the more reason for giving yourself those minerals and electrolytes.
The good news is that there’s no bad time to drink coconut water during pregnancy. You can even use coconut water to make yourself some delicious mocktails!
Coconut water is not the only way to hydrate or get nutrients, though. There are other options to try, and we cover some of them in this article.
Side Effects of Drinking Coconut Water When Pregnant
Coconut water is safe to drink for most women when pregnant, but some individuals may have side effects depending on whether they already have certain medical issues.
It’s important to know that coconut water can significantly lower your blood pressure and it also can have a diuretic effect (it makes you pee more).
This means that some researchers don’t recommend coconut water for those with impaired kidney function or with severe diarrhea (Source: UFRN), or with low blood pressure.
If you have diabetes or impaired kidney function and you are on medication to lower potassium levels, you might need to avoid excessive consumption of coconut water.
This is because it’s high in potassium, so can increase the risk of developing hyperkalemia (too much potassium in the blood) (Source: Wiley.com).
Hyperkalemia has no symptoms at low levels, but at higher levels can cause heart problems, muscle weakness, or paralysis (Source: NCBI).
If there’s any question mark over whether you should drink coconut water during your pregnancy, speak to your healthcare provider first.
Is Coconut Water Pasteurized? Can I Drink it Raw?
Fresh ‘raw’ coconut water, if it’s straight from the coconut, is not pasteurized.
However, it’s still safe to drink unpasteurized coconut water straight from the nut during pregnancy because fresh coconut water is sterile (source: PubMed).
Once you have taken the water out of the coconut, it’s important to refrigerate it if you aren’t going to drink it right away.
The FDA classifies coconut water as a juice and as such is subject to the same rules for storage as juices (Source: FDA).
Young coconuts cannot be stored for more than 6 days at room temperature (Source: Agritrop).
So with fresh coconuts, the bottom line during pregnancy is to have it as fresh as possible. Otherwise, you can have store-bought coconut water.
Commercial brands of coconut water are pasteurized and are therefore safe to drink when pregnant without any concerns for bacteria. You should still drink them within a couple of days of opening, though.
Such pregnancy-safe brands include:
- Vita Coco
- Taste Nirvana
- Harmless Harvest
When purchasing your coconut water, check the label to see if sugar has been added – it’s generally a good idea to have unsweetened versions, as too much sugar during pregnancy can be harmful (source: Cleveland Clinic).
If the environment is a concern for you, check how the coconuts are harvested: are they harvested sustainably?
Also, check if the coconut water is pure or made from concentrate. The best brands are pure coconut water and contain no added sugar or additives.
Our top brand pick is Harmless Harvest raw, organic coconut water (available on Amazon), which uses coconuts that are sustainably harvested, and workers are from surrounding villages and they receive a fair wage.
This coconut water also has a higher amount of nutrients per glass, as the company uses high-pressure pasteurization (HPP) rather than heat.
The coconut water turns pink when exposed to the light because of the antioxidants and phenols. Foods that use HPP require refrigerated storage even though they are pasteurized (Source: OSU).
Can Coconut Water Help My Pregnancy Nausea?
If you are experiencing pregnancy nausea with vomiting, you are not only losing fluids, but also some essential minerals.
The good news is that coconut water can help with both.
Besides providing important minerals for you and your unborn baby, drinking coconut water can significantly decrease symptoms of morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy (Source: IJOR).
If you’re having problems with constant nausea or morning sickness, you might want to check out our guide to nausea-fighting foods during pregnancy, too.
Will Coconut Water Give me a Fair Baby?
It is a myth that drinking coconut water will give you a fair baby. There is no science to support this assertion.
Another myth is that eating coconut or drinking coconut water will make your baby have more hair, but this isn’t true either.
Contributing factors to the color of a baby’s skin and hair are complex and include the total amount of melanin produced and the variations in cell composition that drive pigmentation (Source: PLOS).
Some foods like coconut are common food taboos in certain parts of the world, including coconut, but there is no evidence to support these taboos as having any base in fact (Source: NCBI).
In conclusion, if you are in overall good health, you may find coconut water a welcome addition to your diet. You may even find it helpful to fight nausea in the first trimester, and the added nutrients provide a host of benefits for you and your unborn child.