Look for hydration in all of the right places

Story by Carolyn O'Neil
(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Mon, Jul 30, 2012
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When the mercury hits 90 and above, tempers can get pretty fired up, too. But another glass of water or a slice of watermelon might help, because irritability is a classic side effect of dehydration.

The first physical sign is thirst, of course. But other symptoms are more subtle. You might get a headache. You can become cranky, forgetful, tired and dizzy, and your skin appears dry and wrinkly.

Remember the old adage to drink eight glasses of water a day? Well, in 2004, the Institute of Medicine issued new general fluid recommendations indicating women should drink 11 cups per day and men 15 cups.

These amounts include the water in all food and beverages we consume. Iced tea, fruit juice and even hot coffee and soups all count as hydrators. It turns out that 80 percent of our water intake is from drinking water and other beverages, and the other 20 percent is from food.

Watermelon, a summertime favorite, is made up of more than 90 percent water. Other high water content foods include lettuce, peaches, broccoli and citrus fruit.

It’s worth noting that iceberg lettuce, often dismissed as having little nutritional value as compared with its dark green leafy cousins, is a better source of water. Just go easy on the blue cheese dressing.

Sports fitness experts say it’s best to drink small amounts at a time throughout the day, because the body is better able to absorb the fluids.

Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks and sweetened ice tea, because they come with a hefty calorie price tag. Studies show that Americans are consuming 220 more calories a day from sugar-sweetened beverages than they did in the 1960s.

If you want the bubbles, choose zero-calorie flavored sparkling waters or good old club soda.

Fruit juices provide nutritional benefits, too, including antioxidants and vitamins needed to help keep summer bodies at their best.

“Drinking water — either sparkling or flat and perhaps with a twist of citrus — is a great, noncaloric way to satisfy your thirst. But if you prefer 100 percent fruit juice, low-fat milk, coffee or other flavored beverages, they, too, can keep you well-hydrated,” said Kathleen Zelman, Atlanta dietitian and nutrition director for WebMD.

“Bottom line, make your beverage choices work to satisfy your nutritional needs, fluid preferences and hydration needs.”

Here’s how the percentage of water plays out in foods:

• Iceberg lettuce, cucumbers — 96 percent

• Cabbage, celery — 95 percent

• Tomatoes — 94 percent

• Watermelon, strawberries, spinach, eggplant — 92 percent

• Broccoli, citrus — 91 percent

• Carrots, pineapple, peaches, raspberries — 87 percent

• Yogurt, blueberries, plums — 85 percent

• Apples — 84 percent

• Bananas — 74 percent

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” (Atria Books, 2009).

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