We can actually live longer without food than water, such is its importance to the body. The body is around 80% water, therefore it makes absolute sense that we need to keep it continually hydrated.
However, it’s not just about drinking litres of water; the body needs plenty of variety in how we hydrate ourselves.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares some interesting facts about hydration and how to keep your body topped up!
Why is water so important?
Whilst the body contains a very high percentage of water, this isn’t just plain H20; bodily fluid contains a complicated makeup of various solutes. However, when looking at normal daily needs, plain and preferably filtered water is one of the best ways of replenishing and maintaining the body’s fluid content. As a general rule, you should be looking to drink between 1 ½ to 2 litres of water daily.
Because so much of bodily fluid is made up of ‘water’, it makes sense that if we’re dehydrated, it’s going to affect all bodily functions. The brain can become foggy, energy levels will quickly drop, the skin can look dull and lifeless and constipation is often a problem. However, severe dehydration will lead to much more serious issues. Thankfully, this extreme would never happen in normal everyday life, although mild symptoms can quickly occur, especially during the summer months.
A great way of assessing your hydration levels is to look at the colour of your urine. Apart from the first ‘pee’ of the day, your urine should be almost clear! And, on that subject, if you’re worried that as soon as you start drinking more fluid, you’ll be constantly in the toilet, this may happen for the first couple of weeks or so, particularly if you’re generally de-hydrated. However, after that time, the body will adjust and you’ll not need to ‘go’ as frequently!
Which foods are good for rehydration?
As the body is not just pure water, it makes sense that it needs a variety of liquids and food to effectively maintain good hydration. Many foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, have a very high water content, hence they will help to keep you hydrated. Indeed, these foods also contain electrolytes, so they will help maintain and rehydrate the body really well.
If you’re having a vegetable juice each day, this will also count towards your daily fluid quota. And, of course, if it’s really hot or you’re exercising hard, then having a juice as part of your overall nutritional programme will certainly be a good plan. Cucumbers, watermelon, papaya, celery, strawberries and butternut squash are all great to eat regularly, particularly during the summer, in order to keep the body optimally hydrated.
Milk (often thought of as a food) is also another great way of rehydrating, and has been found to be very effective. Drinking a small glass daily is a great idea and will also increase your calcium intake.
Are some drinks better than others?
Water, juices and milk are some of the best fluids to drink. However, there are also some that are best in moderation. Caffeinated drinks can often act as diuretics, which means the body tends to lose more fluid. Additionally, black tea contains tannins which may deplete the body of certain minerals, generally the essential electrolytes. Therefore it’s best to not drink too many in one day; one or two caffeinated drinks daily should be the maximum
Often when the sun comes out, we often reach for a glass of wine! Whilst this can be a great way of relaxing and socialising with friends and family, if you overdo it, the tell-tale headache the next morning is generally a sign of dehydration. It’s more important than ever to make sure you’re doing all the right things to stay hydrated if you’re drinking alcohol as well. Alternating with a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink is a good idea
But what if water doesn’t float your boat?
Some people really don’t like drinking plain water. The great news is that herbal and fruit teas are a great alternative. You can also try a small amount of fruit juice diluted with water. This is especially good if you’ve exercised hard as it rehydrates quickly.
Additionally, water flavoured with mint, sliced ginger and cucumber is delicious. In fact, any fruit can be added to water to produce a great-tasting drink that is really effective at rehydration.
So make sure you get enough water this summer and keep your body topped up for optimum health benefits.
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