Healthy hydration strategies

By Shauna Schultz, RD

With higher temperatures approaching, staying hydrated is key, with water as an ideal choice since it quenches thirst so effectively. Water is an essential nutrient; we cannot live without it. The human body is 60 to 65 percent water, and that water plays roles that are indispensable. It regulates body temperature, transports nutrients, protects organs and tissues, lubricates joints, and helps eliminate wastes.
So how much do we need, and what are the best ways to stay hydrated? Water needs vary according to climate, health status, activity level, and body size, but general guidelines from the Dietary Reference Intakes recommend 13 cups (104 fluid ounces) per day for men, and 9 cups (72 fluid ounces) per day for women. Staying ahead of the game is important, since the sensation of thirst already signals mild dehydration, and even mild dehydration has consequences. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, rapid pulse, low blood pressure, lack of energy, headache, decreased athletic performance, and concentrated urine.
While many different beverages contain water, not all beverages are created equal. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that most Americans, especially young adults, choose high calorie beverages that contain about 600 calories a day for men, and 350 calories a day for women (based on a 20-year-old). And what about caffeine? Although caffeine is a mild diuretic, moderate consumption appears to be okay and can be easily offset with a slight increase in overall fluids. Just avoid sugar-laden beverages; they contribute empty calories and little to no nutrition. You can even help meet your fluid needs with food – some fruits, vegetables and soups are up to 95 to 99 percent water!
Is drinking enough water each day difficult for you? Try adding variety to plain water by infusing it with fresh fruit. Lime, orange and/or lemon slices, cucumber and mint, strawberry and basil, grapefruit and rosemary, blueberries and thyme or melon are all great combinations. You can even find reusable water bottles with a built-in infuser. Sparkling water is another fun option, as is herbal tea.
Unsure if you are meeting your daily water need? Instead of worrying about reaching a numeric goal, you can simply check the color of your urine. It’s an easy trick I recommend all the time that enables people to check their hydration status. If your urine is clear to pale yellow then you are probably well hydrated. If your urine is dark, then it’s time to drink up!
The reality is, a healthy person can easily meet their hydration needs by including a variety of fruits and vegetables in their diet and drinking liquids (preferably water) throughout the day. For a fun way to hydrate, add nutrients, and keep cool, try the following recipe that also freezes well for popsicles.

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