Research-backed

Coconut Water for Babies: Safety, Health Benefits, And Side Effects

Image : Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

In addition to being a refreshing drink, tender coconut water has diverse nutritional and medicinal use (1). Its use for sports athletes is also gaining momentum. With such uses in general, can it be given for babies as well? What is the right age to start for your baby?

In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the benefits of coconut water for babies, when you can start giving it and measures to follow while introducing the water.

Is Coconut Water Good For Babies?

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, coconut water is considered safe for children in general (2). There is no research to note the use of coconut water specifically for babies. However, coconut water is rich in electrolytes, carbohydrates, and amino acids (3), and these nutrients are required for a baby’s growth.

When Can Babies Have Coconut Water?

You may introduce coconut water after the baby attains the age of six months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that water can be added to a baby’s diet once they begin consuming solids (4). However, introduce it in one or two spoonfuls and check if there are any adverse reactions. Also, do not introduce two new foods at a time.

Nutritional Value of Coconut Water

100g of coconut water contains the following nutrients.

NameAmountRDA (per day)
Water94.99g
Energy19kCal
Sugars, total2.61g
Calcium24mg270mg (7-12 months)
Magnesium25mg60mg (7-12 months)
Phosphorus20mg275mg (7-12 months)
Potassium250mg700mg (7-12 months)
Sodium105mg200mg (7-12 months)

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture (5), World Health Organization (6), and U.S. National Institutes of Health (7)

Benefits of Coconut Water

Coconut water can have the following health benefits for babies.

  1. Refreshing source of energy: Coconut water contains carbohydrates, which can help meet your baby’s daily quota of the nutrient.
  1. Provides hydration and electrolytes: Coconut water contains potassium and sodium. It also contains minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, and manganese which are essential for bone development and health  (8). Coconut water can be used as a rehydration drink during the summer months. It can also be useful in restoring electrolyte balance in infants with diarrhea (9).
  1. May improve digestion and absorption: Some research studies have shown that regular consumption of coconut water might improve the digestion and absorption of nutrients (10). However, this warrants more research.
  1. Rich in amino acids: Coconut water is rich in amino acids, like alanine, arginine, serene, and cysteine (11). It can make coconut water a healthy source of protein for a growing baby.

Coconut water has several benefits tagged to it. But it is also important to know if there are any risks of giving coconut water to babies.

Possible Risks of Coconut Water For Babies

Coconut may pose the following risks to a baby.

  1. Allergic reaction: Allergic reactions to oral consumption of coconut are rare (12). But it is still good to be alert towards any reaction when feeding coconut water to a baby for the first time. You need to be extra careful if your baby already has other food allergies like allergy towards peanuts or other tree nuts.
  1. Hyperkalemia: Coconut water is rich in potassium. Feeding the baby very excessive amounts of coconut water may trigger a condition called hyperkalemia, where the potassium levels in the blood become high (13). However, it is unlikely to happen if the baby is fed a normal quantity of coconut water, like water and other fluids.

Measures To Follow While Giving Coconut Water To Babies

Coconut water is naturally sterile as the water permeates through the husk and is filtered (10). Therefore, you need not boil coconut water before serving it to a baby. However, keep the following measures in mind when you decide to feed coconut water to the baby.

  1. Serve fresh: Use freshly extracted water from a green coconut. If fresh coconut water is unavailable, then you may opt for packaged coconut water. However, check for the date of manufacturing and the presence of preservatives. Go for pure coconut water and not the ones made with water and coconut water concentrate.
  1. Take it slow: Introduce coconut water in small sips, and then wait for a day or two to check for allergies. If the baby is not allergic and seems to enjoy the taste, then you may give coconut water to the baby regularly. Sometimes, a food item may show cross-reactivity with other food and cause allergy. Therefore, continue to stay alert even if the baby did not show any signs initially
  1. Avoid stored coconut water: Avoid storing fresh coconut water in the refrigerator for later use since storage might alter the taste and nutritional value. In the case of packaged coconut water, you may store it for an hour after opening the bottle. However, it is best not to feed a baby from opened and stored packaged coconut water.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I give coconut water to my baby during cold and flu?

Cold and flu might cause dehydration. Therefore, you may consider giving coconut water for rehydration but consult a pediatrician before doing that.

2. Is it okay to mix coconut water with infant formula?

Most formula manufacturers recommend making formula milk only in clean and boiled drinking water. Prepare the formula as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Infant formulas already have optimum amounts of micronutrients.

3. Can I give coconut water instead of normal water to my baby?

Coconut water can be a supplementary food, but it should not replace water. Plain drinking water has no nutrients and calories, and provides only hydration. Replacing drinking water entirely with coconut water could cause the baby to consume excess nutrients. It may increase the risk of conditions like hyperkalemia – surplus potassium in the blood.

4. Can I give coconut water to my baby in winters?

Coconut water is a natural diuretic, which means it increases the production of urine. Babies are likely to urinate more during winters. Hence, more consumption of coconut water might increase the frequency. When consumed in moderation, coconut water is unlikely to cause any problems.

Coconut water is a refreshing, rehydrating, and nutritious drink. It is easy to absorb and has a good nutritional profile. However, like any other food item, it should be used in moderation and cannot be overfed. Also, prefer fresh coconut water to a packaged drink.

Have something to share about coconut water for babies? Leave a comment in the section below.

References:

1. Shubhashree Thejasvi; Therapeutic and Nutritional Values of Narikelodaka (Tender Coconut Water) -A Review; Researchgate
2. Coconut Water; Medline Plus; U.S National Library of Medicine
3. P. Chauhan et al.; A refreshing beverage from mature coconut water blended with lemon juice; National Center For Biotechnology Information (2014)
4. Starting Solid Foods; Healthy Children; American Academy of Pediatrics
5. Nuts, coconut water (liquid from coconuts); Fooddata Central; USDA
6. Feeding And Nutrition of Infants And Young Children; WHO
7. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride; National Academy of Medicine; National Center For Biotechnology Information
8. Diarrhea; Columbia University Medical Center
9. Adams W and Bratt DE; Young coconut water for home rehydration in children with mild gastroenteritis.; National Center For Biotechnology Information (1992)
10. Nwakunite and Lawrencia Chinasa; Nutritional Health Benefits of Coconut (Cocos Nucifera) Water; Innovare Academics
11. Health Benefits; Coconut Development Board, Government of India
12. Coconut Allergy; Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
13. Coconut water: Is the hype true?; Women Health

Recommended Articles: