Heathy Habits: Eating for hydration

Midwest summers are hot and humid, which means sweating bullets and water loss from the body.  The body needs water to maintain homeostasis.  Homeostasis is the body’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment regardless of changes in the external environment. Water is one of six things the body needs, but we will focus on water for this article.  The other things the body needs are carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.  Food provides nutrients the body needs for homeostasis.  

We lose a total of 3 to 4 liters a day with sensible and insensible water losses.  Insensible water loss is not easily measurable because it comes from the respiratory system.  We lose water through breath, sweat, and feces.  Sensible water loss is measurable, such as blood, urine diarrhea, and vomit.  The amount of water we lose depends on our activity level, weight, environment, and health status.  The body is approximately 60% water, which tells us water is valuable.  There is a general formula that dietitians like to use to approximate how much water you should drink.  The recommended water intake varies depending on the person.

Adequate water intake for men is about 15-16 cups per day and 11-12 cups for women.  Water intake includes food and liquid you drink from a cup. It’s hard to know the water content of food, but we can have a general idea by getting to know our food.  Roughly 20% of water intake comes from food. Vegetables and fruit have higher water content than their processed counterparts. Below, you will find a list of the high water content foods and some tips for acceptable liquids to drink.  

Fruit and Vegetables with high water content:

Cucumbers- they are about 95% water with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals such as B, C and K vitamins, and phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium.  The vitamins and minerals help with blood clotting, metabolism, calcium level regulation, iron absorption, growth and repair of tissues, and water and electrolyte balance. 

Iceberg lettuce- is roughly 95% water. Iceberg lettuce is best used as a filler with other densely nutritious greens such as arugula or spinach  (90% water).  

Watermelon- is an excellent source of water and lycopene, which protects cells. 

Zucchini- is another vegetable with close to 95% water content.  Zucchini contains antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lutein, which are great for eye health.  

Strawberries- have high water content and beneficial flavonoids. Flavonoids help fight free radicals and regulate cell activity.

Cauliflower- is not everyone’s favorite, but it does pack a punch with its cancer-fighting properties. Add steamed cauliflower to your boiled potatoes before mashing for more moisture and nutrients.

Keep the sugar content of drinks low because it adds calories. Sugar also causes the intestines to pull water from the body to dilute it.  Overall, water is good to maintain hydration.  If you find you’re dehydrated, fruit and vegetables are great because they contain electrolytes.  Skim milk, Pedialyte, or Liquid I.V. are other options.  

Berning J., Byrd-Bredbenner C., Kelley D., Moe G. Wardlaw’s Perspectives in Nutrition. 10th edition. McGraw Hill Education; 2016


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