Two weeks ago, I posted on the importance of protein and suggested that you take some time to determine how much is the right amount for you. This week, our food diary follow-up is more simple but just as important to a healthy diet: the importance of water.
Water is important for a properly functioning body. Staying hydrated can rid you of stress, headaches, tension, and cravings for sweets, all of which are caused by dehydration.
We Need Water For Good Health. Because our bodies are 70% water, we need a constant supply in order to function properly. Everyday we must replace the fluids that our bodies use and lose through breath, sweat, urine, and stools. We can even promote weight loss by speeding up our metabolisms and lessening our desire for food, particularly sweets. In addition, increasing your water intake allows your body to efficiently eliminate waste products by increasing the need to urinate and therefore flushing more toxins out of your body, which can help reduce problems like acid reflux, ulcers, gastritis, and ailments of the colon, kidneys, bladder, and urethra.
How Much? We need at least 64 ounces, though recent studies suggest that we need much more and that different people need differing amounts depending on their weight, level of physical activity, climate, and diet. For example, a larger person will most likely need more water than a smaller person; a person living in the desert will need more water than a person living in a humid environment; a person who exercises regularly will need additional fluids to replace those lost through perspiration; and a person who eats a diet full of water-rich foods will need to drink less water than a person who does not.
What You Eat Helps Determine How Much Water You Need. Three main categories of foods will require you to take in additional fluids to maintain hydration and efficient elimination of waste products from your body: sugar, caffeine, and meats.
For example, sugar is 99.5% carbohydrates and only 0.5% water, so you need large amounts of water to balance the intake of refined sugar. This is why sweets make you thirsty. Similarly, caffeine is a diuretic that increases your need for water, so you will need to increase your water intake for every caffeinated beverage that you consume. Lastly, consider the amount of meat in your diet because a high-protein diet demands a large amount of water for metabolism and efficient elimination. (This explains why high-protein diets like Atkins have high initial success rates: the body siphons its own water reserves in order to metabolize the protein, resulting in water weight loss.)
Get Your Water From Food Too. In her book Food and Healing, Dr. AnneMarie Colbin details the water content in various foods:
- Lettuce, iceberg: 95.5% water
- Carrots: 91.2% water
- Cow’s milk: 87.4% water
- Apple, raw: 84.4% water
- Grapes, green: 81.6% water
- Potato, baked: 75.1% water
- Brown rice, cooked: 70.3% water
- Kidney beans, canned, cooked: 69.0% water
- Fish, cod, broiled: 64.6% water
- Chicken, broiled, no skin: 63.8% water
- Beef, T-bone, broiled: 36.4% water
- White bread: 35.5% water
- Sugar: 0.5% water
Knowing the water content of the food you eat is important: it will help you determine how much supplementary water your body needs to obtain through drinks.
Get The Fluids You Need – Not Just From Water. Any beverage without caffeine or added sugar is hydrating. Good choices include real fruit juices (without added sugar, so check the label) and herbal coffees and teas. Herbal teas do not contain any tea leaves. They are generally made from flowers, herbs, spices, and other plants; because they are brewed like tea, they are called “tea.” Check the contents of your tea; if it has any kind of tea in it—whether black, white, or green; or contains leaves or tips—then it is not herbal. Herbal teas can be great hot or iced. Brew some at home, add stevia or agave nectar (both natural sweeteners) if you want a little sweetness, and keep it in the fridge. Delis and groceries sell many good varieties of bottled herbal teas; find the ones you like most.
The same is true for herbal coffee, which is not the same as decaf and, unfortunately, is not widely available. You can, however, purchase it at most health food stores. My favorite brand is Teeccino (www.teeccino.com), made from carob, chicory root, and other herbs, and brewed in the coffee pot like regular coffee.
Ultimately, remaining hydrated and ensuring that your body is working as an efficient elimination system is not difficult. And you might feel much better by simply drinking and eating more water each day.
Batmanghelidj, Fereydoon, M.D., Your Body’s Many Cries for Water: You Are Not Sick, You Are Thirsty; Global Health Solutions, Inc., 2001 (2d ed.).
Cherniske, Stephen, M.S., Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug; Warner Books, 1998.
Colbin, AnneMarie, Food and Healing: How what you eat determines your health, your well-being, and the quality of your life; Ballantine Books, 1986.
Gittleman, Ann Louise, M.S., C.N.S., get the sugar out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet; Three Rivers Press, 1996.
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D., “Can You Drink Too Much Water?,” at About.com.
Lipski, Elizabeth, Ph.D., CCN, Digestive Wellness: How to strengthen the immune system and prevent disease through healthy digestion; McGraw-Hill, 2004.
Lipman, Frank, M.D., Total Renewal: 7 Steps to Resilience, Vitality, & Long-Term Health; Penguin, 2003.
Rosenthal, Joshua, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness; Integrative Nutrition Publishing, 2008.
Steward, H. Leighton, Morrison C. Bethea, M.D., Sam S. Andrews, M.D., Luis A Balart, M.D., Sugar Busters! Cut Sugar to Trim Fat; Ballantine Books, 1995.
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