Diabetes is a condition that results in having high blood-glucose levels, has become a common household name.
A survey by World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that the number of people who have diabetes has increased from being 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps the cells of the body to take up the consumed glucose for getting energy.
In the absence or inadequate levels of insulin, the glucose levels in the blood become high. This eventually leads to diabetes which can further harm our kidneys, heart, etc.
How about having something that won’t comprise on your sweet taste and would rather be beneficial for diabetes?
Here is where Coconut water comes into the picture. Before getting to know about its role in diabetes, let’s know more about it.
What is coconut water?
Coconut water is a clear liquid present in the coconut which in turn is obtained from the coconut tree.
Scientifically known as Cocos nucifera, this tree belongs to the palm family and is predominantly grown in Southeast Asia.
Coconut water is assimilated through roots from the ground into the fruit.
The water that is found in the coconut is the endosperm. Endosperm is a tissue, present in many seeds that provide food/nutrition to the developing embryo.
This is found to be in liquid form in young green coconuts and later develops into creamy white tissue, as the endosperm divides and gets deposited on its inner surface.
Coconut water consists of sugars, various vitamins, and minerals, amino acids and phytohormones(hormones that regulate plant growth).
Now let us examine how these constituents of coconut water can help the diabetic patients to control their blood sugar levels.
5 Benefits of Coconut Water for Diabetes
Coconut water can help with diabetes in several ways. Coconut water helps to restore body defences by maintaining good electrolytic balance. It also helps to maintain blood glucose levels and helps prevent heart disorders in patients. Coconut water also promotes liver health which helps with diabetes as it helps normalize blood sugar levels.
Here are the benefits discussed in detail -
1. Coconut water helps in maintaining good electrolytic balance in the body
Diabetic patients are easily prone to electrolytic disorders. This disorder causes the imbalance of electrolytes like potassium and sodium in the body.
Loss of electrolytic balance will result in dehydration or overhydration which in turn causes kidney problems, often observed in diabetes.
Consuming coconut water helps to maintain the electrolytic balance due to the presence of these electrolytes.
404 mg (11.5% DRI) of potassium and 64mg (2.7% DRI) sodium is found to be present in it.
But how do these electrolytes maintain the balance?
These electrolytes help to carry out impulses from one cell to another by maintaining the voltages around the cell membrane.
Thus regulation of these electrolytes (homeostasis) across the cell membrane will be beneficial for helping the body to stay hydrated and also preventing kidney problems.
What does this mean?
Coconut water consumption helps restore the electrolyte and mineral balance in the body. This restores antioxidant defenses and prevents disease progression in diabetes.
2. Blood glucose levels are maintained by consuming coconut water
Coconut water helps to maintain a low glycemic index thereby lowering the high blood glucose levels of people with diabetes.
A study carried out on an animal model of diabetes, published in American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health revealed that the coconut water helped to reduce the levels of glucose in the body.
This is because it helps to increase the production insulin from the pancreas which is necessary for regulation of blood-glucose levels.
Apart from this, it also helps to restore the serum glucose, antioxidant enzymes, and lipid peroxidation levels to normal.
Thus, all these help in maintaining a low glycemic index.
Also, the presence of magnesium in coconut water is equally beneficial in improving glucose utilization and signalling of insulin in the body.
What does this mean?
Consumption of coconut water helps maintain blood sugar level due to its hypoglycemic effect. It also improves insulin activity.
3. Coconut water consumption prevents risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetes
Diabetes patients are at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases due to high blood glucose levels in the body.
High blood glucose levels in the body cause damage to blood vessels that lead to heart, developing the risk of heart disease.
A study carried out on animal model revealed that the L-arginine levels in blood plasma got increased consumption of coconut water.
The increased amount of L-arginine leads to increased formation of nitric oxide by it.
Nitric oxide helps the blood vessels to relax and improve the blood circulation to various parts of the body.
As the blood circulation gets enhanced, the risk of the effects of glucose levels on the heart is reduced, thereby preventing cardiovascular risks in people with diabetes.
What does this mean?
Coconut water is great for heart health. Its nutrient value helps prevent the development of heart disease in diabetes.
4. Coconut water protects liver health
The lipid metabolism of the body gets significantly improved by coconut water which in turn is beneficial for burning of sugar and fats in the body.
It was observed in the animal model study that the bile conversion by the liver was enhanced with coconut water supplementation.
As bile helps to improve the lipid metabolism, the sugar levels remain to the basal level in the body thereby reducing diabetic effects.
What does this mean?
Research shows that coconut water consumption optimizes liver function and this helps in normalizing blood sugar levels.
5. Coconut water boosts antioxidant defences
Coconut water consists of many biologically active compounds that help to boost the antioxidant enzymes in the body.
As the antioxidant-functioning is enhanced, the oxidative stress that results in the formation of free radicals gets reduced.
The antioxidant helps to inhibit lipid peroxidation as well as reverses high blood pressure which is common in diabetes.
Thus the high blood pressure which is a risk of diabetes is lowered by the action of antioxidants.
What does this mean?
Antioxidants in coconut water boost body’s natural antioxidant defenses and reduces the risk of metabolic and heart disease in diabetes.
How to Use Coconut Water for Diabetes
There is no prescribed dosage of coconut water for diabetes. It can be included in the diet and consumed as 100-200ml per day.
It can often be supplemented with other food items to enhance the benefits.
Some supplementary food items like kefir and vegetable juices are consumed along with coconut juice.
Kefir is a probiotic (consisting of beneficial microorganism) food item, and when three tablespoons of it are added to a glass of coconut water, it also improves the gastrointestinal activity.
Ensure you get fresh tender coconut water. Do not opt for the packaged ones that contain added sugar.
A quick list of precautions:
As mentioned previously, coconut water has a good amount of potassium present in it. Consuming excess of coconut water may lead to high potassium levels in the body. The high amount of potassium leads to the breakdown of muscle cells and also kidney diseases.
Apart from this, its excess may also cause an electrolytic imbalance in the body and lead to hyperkalemia that is high potassium blood level.
Avoid packaged coconut water that contains added sugar.
Avoid consuming coconut water at the same time as taking any medications.
If you have been advised to avoid or reduce intake of certain minerals in the diet, then please consult a health practitioner before consuming coconut water.
Coconut water has become so popular nowadays that it has been given the title of Mother Nature’s wonder drink.
Its beneficial effect of improving insulin levels and hence maintaining blood glucose levels is a boon for diabetes patients.
Overall, dietary intake of coconut water is safe and beneficial for diabetes therapy. So, do include it in your diet to enjoy its benefits!