Hydration for health
by Nick Rose, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator
This article was originally published in August 2012
Q: Do I really need to drink eight glasses of water each day?
Water is so important that our bodies require more water than any other single nutrient. In fact, we actually need nine to 13 cups of water per day (depending on our body weight); the eight cups per day recommendation assumes that you are getting at least two to three cups of water daily from fruits, vegetables, soups, etc.
We all learned in grade school that the human body is two-thirds water, and without water, we would die of dehydration in a couple of days. This is all still true and hopefully by now we also know hydration is critical for flushing toxins from our bodies and carrying nutrients to our cells. Newer research suggests that dehydration even contributes to moodiness and impaired cognitive function. But don’t rely on your “thirst” as your only reminder that it’s time to take a sip. By the time you feel “thirsty,” your body is already two percent dehydrated.
In the summertime, when we sweat a little bit more, hydration becomes even more important. Electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, sodium) are lost through sweat and therefore need to be replenished. Under normal circumstances, we get adequate electrolytes from normal dietary variety; it is only under extreme physical activity (greater than 90 minutes) that we need to “supplement” with these electrolytes. Coconut water is a great way to rehydrate under these more extreme circumstances; I call coconut water Nature’s Sports Drink — because it contains natural sugars and electrolytes, similar to sports drinks, such as Vitamin Water. Bananas, avocados, papayas, apricots and figs are all great sources of potassium.
Fruit and vegetable juices, teas, milk, coconut water and kombucha all count toward your eight glasses of “water” each day. Keep in mind that most of these beverages also provide calories, while water is always calorie free. Whole fruits and vegetables count too, especially fruits, such as watermelon and grapes, which contain more than 90 percent water — counting toward both your daily water requirement and your five cups per day of fresh produce that you are supposed to be eating. So the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less water you need to “drink.”
Nick’s hydration tips
Water is the best way to stay hydrated but if you have a hard time drinking eight glasses a day, here are a few tips to make water more appealing.
- Chill — Many people, especially kids, prefer cold water to room-temperature water. Always keep a pitcher of water in the fridge so you have cold water within arms reach.
- Infuse — Add a few slices of citrus, mint, ginger or even cucumbers to provide more zing. Adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice also helps alkalize the water in your body, and may help with GERD (acid reflux).
- Sparkle — PCC offers a variety of carbonated waters (both plain and flavored). These are free of added sugars and calories yet still have the flavors and fizz of soda pop. You even can make your own fruit soda by mixing sparkling water with a fruit juice concentrate.
- Dilute — Add water to your favorite summer fruit juices and lemonade to lower their sugar content and to keep you hydrated. Start with 10 percent water to get used to the substitution, then work your way up to 50 percent water mixed with 50 percent juice.
- Brew — Both hot and iced teas count toward your daily water requirement.
- Make — Create fresh fruit coolers: place sparkling water and ice in a blender, and toss in some melon, berries or citrus fruit. You will have a refreshing drink that is full of flavor, not artificial ingredients. Try our recipe for Agua Fresca Cooler.
- Filter — Consider using a water filter to improve the taste of your water. For more information on water filters and your options for filtered water at PCC, check out our Sound Consumer article, “A clean drink of water.”
- Bottle it — Always keep a filled water bottle in the car, at work or on the go.