Listen to my monthly radio program with Angela Kokott, host of Calgary Today for our segment, “You are what you eat” to get the goods on healthy eating.
We’ve all heard that you drinking enough water is important for our health. But how much do you really need per day and what are some ways to get more fluids if you have struggled to drink enough?
1. Why do we need water in the first place?
We need water and fluids in general for transport of nutrients throughout the body, digestion of food, elimination of waste, healthy bowel movements to “keep us regular” as well as to cushion organs and joints. Fluids are also important to help us regulate our body temperature. We sweat and breathe out water to regulate our body temperature.
2. How much water do we need each day?
Remember that while water is the best choice for staying hydrated, other fluids such as milk, juice, tea and even fluid -rich foods such as fruit and veggies can help get you there. Despite coffee having caffeine, which is a diuretic, all is not lost since some of the water in coffee is retained. To ensure you are not consuming too much caffeine keep coffee consumption to 2 cups (500 ml) per day.
Our fluid needs depend on our activity level, age, gender and sweat rates. Obviously hot and humid weather also increase our fluid needs as does having diarrhea or vomiting. Pregnancy and breastfeeding also increases the need for fluids in general.
As a general guideline adult males need about 3 litres (12 cups) of fluid per day and adult women need about 2.2 litres (9 cups) of fluid per day. Pregnant women need about 2.3 litres (9.5 cups) of fluid per day. Breastfeeding moms need about 3.1 litres (12.5 cups) of fluid per day.
3. What are signs of dehydration?
Some of the signs of dehydration can include thirst, flushed skin, fatigue, irritability and headache. You may also have dry mouth and lips or strong smelling dark colored urine. Other more serious signs of dehydration include lower blood pressure, higher heart rate, dizziness and fainting. Extreme dehydration can lead to blue lips, increased breathing rate, cold hands and feet, blotchy skin, high fever, confusion and lack of consciousness.
Note that you can be dehydrated before many of the signs appear. The best way to know if you are getting enough fluids is if you are urinating often and so that the urine is pale in color.
4. What are some strategies to increase our fluid consumption?
Admittedly even as a dietitian I have to focus on remembering to drink enough water and fluids throughout the day. Sometimes I can get very busy and distracted and simply forget.
If you are like me consider some of the following ideas that have worked well for me:
- Tell your coworkers that you are struggling to drink enough water and you would appreciate them giving you a gentle reminder. Nothing beats accountability with someone else!
- Drink a glass of water of fluid at each major meal or snack.
- Pack a water bottle to work and leave it on your desk as a visual cue.
- Pack a water bottle when you are running errands and on unstructured days such as weekends when you are more distracted.
5. What are some other fluid ideas if you are bored of plain water?
Try Some Tea
The Tea Association of the US says tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. Even Starbucks wants to be in the tea business. Starbucks owns Tazo and recently purchased the tea stores Teavana for over 600 million dollars.
Tea is emerging hotter than ever. Find it served hot, cold and infused into foods, cocktails and desserts.
The nutrition benefits of tea are widespread. Tea contains healthy components such as flavonoids which can be good for protecting our cardiovascular health and prevention of heart attacks, stroke and cancer.
Both green tea and black tea come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis) and contain similar amounts of antioxidants and minerals. While you may worry that tea contains too much caffeine it is cup for cup often half that of coffee.
Outside of brewing hot tea, consider a tea latte such as a London Fog, Chai tea or Vanilla Rooibos latte. Leave a large pitcher of brewed iced tea in the fridge (my favorite is pomegranate green tea served on ice). Try making a smoothie with chilled brewed tea, frozen berries, banana and yogurt.
Try Something Frozen
For many of us simply having chilled water can make all the difference in wanting to sip on our water bottle. Try freezing a portion of your water bottle the night before and in the morning topping it up with fresh water.
Regular ice cubes are great but you may want to consider making flavored ice cubes (freeze ice with lemon wedges, mint leaves, kiwi pieces or other fruits for a hint of flavor)
Make a nutritious smoothie. Since smoothies can utilize a wide range of fluids not only are they a nutritious breakfast or snack they can provide plenty of fluids such as milk and unsweetened juice. Other fluid options to blend into smoothies include coconut water or cold brewed fruit flavored herbal tea.
Try Some Bubbles
One of the most heavily utilized machines in our kitchen is a carbonated water maker. Simply adding some carbonation to make sparkling water has meant more water drinking in our home for all of us. What I like about these machines is that they are sodium free in comparison to many club soda’s on the market.
Try a sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime or a splash of unsweetened juice for flavor. The small amount of calories added with unsweetened juice can make a world of difference in helping you to get your water consumption in.