Sometimes called “nature’s sports beverage,” coconut water has gained popularity as a quick source of sugar, electrolytes, and hydration.

It’s a thin, sweet liquid, extracted from the inside of young, green coconuts.

Unlike coconut meat, which is rich in fat, coconut water consists mostly of carbs (1).

For this reason, and because many companies add ingredients like sugar, flavorings, and other fruit juices, people with diabetes may wonder whether this is drink affects their blood sugar levels.

This article reviews whether coconut water is a good option for people with diabetes.

Is coconut water high in sugar?

Coconut water has a sweet taste due to naturally occurring sugars.

However, its sugar content varies depending on the amount of sugar added by the manufacturer.

The following table compares 8 ounces (240 ml) of unsweetened and sweetened coconut water (2, 3).

Unsweetened coconut waterSweetened coconut water
Calories4491
Carbs10.5 grams22.5 grams
Fiber0 grams0 grams
Sugar9.5 grams18 grams

Sweetened coconut water has around twice as much sugar as unsweetened coconut water. In comparison, an 8-ounce (240-ml) can of Pepsi contains 27 grams of sugar (2, 3, 4).

Therefore, unsweetened coconut water is a much better choice than many other sweetened beverages, including sugary soda, for those with diabetes or anyone looking to lower their sugar intake.

What’s more, coconut water is an excellent source of potassium, manganese, and vitamin C, providing 9%, 24%, and 27% of the Daily Value (DV), respectively, in just 8 ounces (240 ml) (2).

summary

Sweetened coconut water has twice as much sugar as unsweetened varieties. Choose unsweetened coconut water over other sugary beverages like soda if you’re looking to decrease your sugar intake.

Is coconut water good for diabetes?

There is little research on coconut water and its effect on diabetes.

However, some animal studies have shown improvements in blood sugar control with coconut water consumption (5, 6, 7).

In one study, rats were injected with a diabetes-inducing drug called alloxan and fed mature coconut water for 45 days.

Animals fed coconut water had significant improvements in blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c), and oxidative stress, compared with the control group (7). 

The researchers attributed these results to the high potassium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin C, and L-arginine content of coconut water, which all helped improve insulin sensitivity (7, 8, 9, 10).

Still, most of these studies used mature coconut water, which is much higher in fat, compared with coconut water from young coconuts. Therefore, it’s unknown whether regular coconut water may have the same effects (5, 6, 7).

While unsweetened coconut water is a source of natural sugars, it’s a much better choice than other sugar-sweetened beverages and will have a lower effect on your blood sugar levels.

Nevertheless, try to limit your intake to 1–2 cups (240–480 ml) per day.

summary

Animal studies show that consuming mature coconut water may lower blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C levels. Yet, more research is needed. Choose unsweetened coconut water and limit your intake to 1–2 cups (240–480 ml) per day.

The bottom line

Coconut water is a hydrating, nutrient-dense beverage.

It’s rich in vitamins and minerals while being a moderate source of sugar. However, you should avoid sugar-sweetened coconut water, which can ramp up your calorie intake and blood sugar levels.

If you have diabetes and want to try coconut water, be sure to choose an unsweetened variety and limit your intake to 1–2 cups (240–280 ml) per day.