Most of us know we need to stay hydrated (drink fluids) to stay alive, and to drink enough fluids to stay healthy. Yet many people feel they ‘need to drink more water”. So what does this really mean? Let’s explore…
Why is adequate hydration important?
Since water is the key nutrient needed for most biologic functions to occur in the body, and since the body is 60% water, you might guess that getting enough water is essential for good health and you would be right. Dehydration can cause fuzzy thinking, dizziness upon standing, headaches, decreased ability to do physical work, muscle cramps, low back pain, chapped lips and constipation.
How much fluid is enough?
The current guidelines emphasize that for healthy adults, drinking to avoid thirst should be the main guide. Studies differ as to whether most Americans get adequate hydration or not, adequate being generally 7 to 9 cups of fluids daily for adults.
Increased needs for fluids include times of exercise, heat and humidity, and during illnesses which cause fever, vomiting or diarrhea. A job or activity which restricts the ability to drink freely and adequately could cause problems. Also, seniors often experience a decreased sense of thirst. So for some, counting cups of fluid is a healthy thing to do.
Which drinks count toward fluid needs?
It is okay to count coffee or tea as fluids, even though they contain caffeine. Alcohol on the other hand, causes the body to dehydrate and so is not counted. Sweet drinks like pop and juice can count as fluid, but will cause their own health problems because of the extra sugar and calories. Water is the healthiest fluid replacement we know for general hydration needs.
Can drinking water help with weight loss?
Most studies say no. Some show a pre-meal intake of water helped people eat less and lose more weight. Watery foods like soup, fruit, vegetables and salad make us feel full more quickly and do help with weight loss. Eating watery foods each meal is a healthy way to get more fluid as well as controlling calories.
Bored of plain water?
Try infusing it with fruits and herbs: keep a jug of water in the fridge and drop 1 cup of a variety of lemon or lime wedges, cucumber slices and/or cut up cranberries, cherries or chunked watermelon in the water. Let it sit a few hours and it should have a nice flavor with negligible calories. Thin slices of ginger or fresh basil or mint leaves also add an infusion of subtle flavor. Enjoy!