The health benefits of coconut water for babies include supply of essential vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, treats gastrointestinal diseases, useful in treating cholera, improves constipation in children, effective in treating diarrhea in babies, possesses antimicrobial properties, can treat urinary tract infections and acts as a remedy for bilious fever.
Coconut is regarded as ‘wonder food’ and ‘perfect food’ by many because it is an almost complete food in most respects. Coconut has all the essential nutrients that are required for survival.
Though its name is coconut, still it does not qualify as a real nut. In fact coconut tree belongs to the palm family and it is a palm fruit. Just like most other palm trees, coconut tree grows vertically and spreads its palms. Just underneath the base of the palms, coconut fruits grow and mature. A fully grown coconut can range between 20-30 cm in length and it more or less looks like a rugby ball. This is the outer layer of the fruit which is covered in thick fibers. In the interior the real coconut fruit is sphere shaped and hard shelled. Inside this shell is the white coconut flesh and coconut water.
Young coconut fruit has lots of water inside it. This water is of particular importance. Coconut water is one of the best fluid replenishing agents known to man since ancient times. Coconut flesh develops inside the shell with the help of the water.
Coconut tree is believed to have originated in the Indo-Malay region and it is very popular in many South East Asian countries, Pacific Asian islands, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Africa and it finally reached the Americas during the Spanish conquest. Generally, coconut tree can be widely seen in tropical and sub-tropical places with above average temperatures.
Can coconut be given to my baby?
There is a debate going on whether or not coconut can be given to babies or not. This is because the flesh of coconut is hard to chew for infants. It is hard even for those infants who have grown teeth. Even grated coconut can be hard for them to digest. On the other hand, it is easy and safe to give your baby coconut water. Coconut water is known to be very safe. In fact, freshly cracked young coconut’s juice is as good as sterilized saline water. (Roberts, et al, 1979).
Health Benefits of Coconut water for babies
Here are some of the health benefits of coconut water for babies
Best source for rehydration: Coconut water is the best source of rehydration, especially during hot summers. Infants, children and aging people are the most vulnerable to heat stroke and dehydration. The best way to beat the heat is not by sweet sodas but with coconut water. Coconut water is sweet with fewer calories and also has all the essential vitamins, minerals and salts.
Remedy for gastrointestinal diseases: Coconut water is also useful as a remedy for gastrointestinal diseases such as indigestion, gastric ulcers, diarrhea, dysentery and piles. It is also useful in treating flatulence, vomiting and dyspepsia as well. When suffering from diarrhea, coconut water can be given to eliminate dehydration which often increases the risk.
For relieving constipation: Baby constipation is an issue that many parents are worried about and feeding them with coconut water on a regular basis not only restores the hydration levels, but will also help in relieving constipation. Apart from coconut water, the jellylike flesh from green coconut is usually mixed with banana and is given as one of the first foods in third world countries to prevent constipation in babies (Harald Tietze, Dr Arthur Echano, Juta Stepanovs; Coconut: Rediscovered as Medicinal Food).
Can treat cholera: Research shows that coconut water can be used to treat cholera. Coconut water mixed with 1-2 teaspoons of lime juice or a pinch of salt is helpful in cholera. It not only corrects the electrolytic balance but also reduces the acidosis in the body. Use of coconut water in areas of abundant supply can be good because it is cost effective and coconut water when taken fresh from the fruit is as sterile as any commercially available saline solution. (Roberts, et al, 1979).
After the acute stage of cholera is over, the child can be given green coconut water or barley water in thin consistency. (Nature Cure for children, Dr. H.K. Bakhru)
Possesses antibacterial properties: This might sound unreal to some people, but it is true. Coconut water can kill bacterial species in both gram positive and gram negative categories. Certain biochemicals called peptides have been identified in coconut water. These peptides possess antimicrobial properties. There is an emphasis to find new and natural drugs against microbial infections in the recent years. Numerous bacterial species are becoming increasingly immune to commercially available antibiotics. (Mandal, et al, 2009).
Treats urinary tract infections: Babies are vulnerable to urinary tract infections. These infections can be reduced by giving coconut water to your baby. Coconut water acts as a diuretic. Due to this any infections in the bladder and urinary tract are flushed out, thus reducing urinary tract infections. Also, coconut water is helpful in reducing stones in the kidney. (Bakhru, Foods That Heal,1997).
Remedy for bilious fever: A fever with nausea and vomiting is generally known as bilious fever. This fever can affect toddlers and children as well. Under these circumstances, coconut water can reduce the effect of the fever. Coconut water must be given in small doses and no other liquid should be given, unless otherwise specified by your pediatrician. (Bakhru, Foods That Heal,1997).
Coconut water and flesh as substitute to formula: In the islands of Samoa, the natives, for thousands of years have been using fresh green coconut water as a substitute for formula. Apart from giving coconut water, the jelly like flesh from green coconuts is given as a weaning off of mother’s milk (Bruce Fife, Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut).
Remedy for Vomiting: Vomiting is a common problem amount infants and children. The tender coconut water is a great remedy for vomiting among children as it has a soothing effect on the stomach. Drinking half a cup of coconut water twice daily can relieve the irritation of the stomach and reduce vomiting.
Treats Intestinal Worms : Use of Coconut has been an effective ancient remedy in the treatment of intestinal worms among children. A teaspoon of the freshly grounded coconut should be taken at breakfast followed by a dose of 15ml-30ml castor oil mixed in 125ml-175ml of lukewarm milk after 3hrs. It should be repeated till the condition is cured. (Nature Cure for children, Dr. H.K. Bakhru)
Other uses of coconut
Coconut is not just a standalone fruit offering just water or flesh. But so many products and foods are processed out of coconut.
Coconut milk is obtained from squeezing the fresh meat of coconut.
Coconut oil is also obtained from matured flesh. Coconut oil has many applications ranging from cooking, salad dressing and it is widely used for hair growth.
Coconut oil (virgin) also has numerous benefits in cooking because it is good source of unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are essential for the body and are also easily digested, unlike saturated fats found in cheese which take longer time to get digested and add to the pounds.
Measures to be taken while giving coconut water to your child
Here are some of the measures that can be taken while giving coconut water to your child
Prefer fresh coconut water: Coconut water is best when had directly from the green fruit. If you can find fresh green coconuts in your locality opt for them. Otherwise commercial coconut drinks are good enough. Do check for additives and date of manufacture in packaged coconut water before buying them.
Do not drink it in haste: Coconut water is not just water but a natural saline solution and it needs to be had in slowly. Taking it in haste would devoid you or your child of its benefits.
Coconut allergies are rare: Coconut allergies are generally very rare, hence you shouldn’t be too concerned about it when giving coconut water to your baby. But, do look out for any allergic symptoms as there might be a small population that is allergic to coconuts.
Coconut milk allergy: Another area of concern is coconut milk. Coconut milk can be compared to soy-milk. Just as soy-milk can trigger allergies, so does coconut milk. So, please be very careful while feeding your baby with coconut milk. Consult your pediatrician if you want to introduce coconut milk into your baby’s diet. (Rachel Morris, 2005, Life After Baby Food: Health Recipes for Toddlers and the Entire Family).
Avoid matured coconut flesh: Matured coconut flesh is not meant for babies. They do not have sufficient teeth and jaw power to chew on coconut flesh. So, do not feed it to your baby. But, you can try giving the fresh meat from green coconut. Remember the flesh from green coconut is almost transparent unlike mature coconut flesh which is white in colour. Just to be on the safe side, mash it before giving it to your baby. And it can be digested by toddlers.
Nutrition in coconut water
According to the National Nutrient Database from the United States Department of Agriculture, the nutrition found in coconut water includes
|Nutrition||Value per 100 g||Nutrition||Value per 100 g|
|Water||94.99 g||Energy||19 kcal|
|Protein||0.72 g||Total Lipid||0.20 g|
|Carbohydrate||3.71 g||Fiber||1.1 g|
|Sugars||2.61 g||Calcium||24 mg|
|Iron||0.29 mg||Magnesium||25 mg|
|Phosphorous||20 mg||Potassium||250 mg|
|Sodium||105 mg||Zinc||0.10 mg|
|Vitamin C||2.4 mg||Thiamin||0.03 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.057 mg||Niacin||0.08 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.032 mg||Folate||3 ug|