It is just after 9:00 on a mid-June morning, and it is already pushing 40 degrees Celsius outside my office door. For those readers who still follow the imperial temperature readings, that translates to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That also translates to SCORCHER, and we haven't even reached the high temperature for the day. As I came in from a very short walk with my dogs this morning I saw their big pink tongues lollygagging out of the side of their mouths as they headed straight for their water bowl to take a big long drink to cool off and rehydrate. I did the same - except I opted for a glass of mineral water with a squeeze of fresh lemon instead of their slobbery dog bowl. This was instant inspiration for me to write about the importance of hydration on hot summery days (and every day).
We all know that water is essential for life. We've been told this since we were kids. Yet so many of us fail to achieve adequate water intake every day whether it's because of a dislike of drinking water, a "faulty" thirst signalling system within the body or just getting too busy to remember to drink enough.
We need to consume a minimum of 48 ounces per day just to replace the water we lose from urination, sweating and breathing. Add in a workout, sweating a scorching hot summer day, or drinking diuretics such as coffee and alcohol, and our needs exceed the 48 ounce minimum. In my practice, I coach all of my clients to drink a minimum of 2L (approx. 68 ounces) of fresh filtered water each day, more if their lifestyle requires it.
Outside of the fact that our bodies are composed of over 60% water (our heart and brain are approximately 73% water and our lungs are 83%), water has many vital functions within the body, including:
According to Wirthlin Worldwide, a market research organization, 20% of us drink no water at all, and 42% of us consume a mere 2 glasses or fewer. At the same time, we are consuming, on average, 1.8 cups of coffee, 1.3 cups of soft drinks, 1.2 cups of milk and 1.1 cups of juice per day. While some of these items (milk and juice) help provide hydration to the body, beverages like coffee and some soft drinks act as diuretics, so we actually can end up with a negative net hydration value at the end of a day! Dehydration is linked to a laundry list of chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, cataracts, chronic fatigue syndrome, colitis, heartburn, constipation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney stones, and more. Just drinking 2 to 4 cups per day is not enough to maintain adequate hydration.
Drinking plain old water is obviously the best way to rehydrate your body, and doing so is a non-negotiable for maintaining overall health for every single system of the body. However, in addition to hydrating with your glass, you can also hydrate with what's on your plate. The following foods are high in water content and provide the added bonus of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which nourish and protect the body from disease.
Cucumbers are about 95% water making them super hydrating. They're also an excellent source of silica, a trace mineral that contributes to the strength of our connective tissue. And, as we women know, cucumbers work magic for helping reduce swelling within the body - especially that under eye "luggage" from running ourselves ragged.
Also boasting 95% water content, celery is another way to hydrate with food and enjoy a nutritional boost at the same time. Celery contains phytochemical (aka plant chemical) compounds called "coumarins" which have been shown to be useful in cancer prevention and enhancing the activity of certain white blood cells. Coumarin compounds also help tone the vascular system, lower blood pressure and some research shows that they can be helpful in cases of migraine headaches. Celery also boasts rich levels of potassium and sodium which are electrolytes often depleted when we are dehydrated.
If you're not eating watermelon on sweltering hot days, are you even doing summer properly? I mean come on! As its name implies, watermelon is mostly water - approximately 91% of its flesh is made up of water. Because it has such a high water content and lower calorie content than most other fruits, it delivers more nutrients per calorie which is an incredible health benefit. Watermelon is loaded with some of the most powerful antioxidants in nature, including lycopene - a red carotenoid pigment that also gives tomatoes their red colour.
Here in Southern Ontario we are heading into peak strawberry season (which means my face and fingers are pretty much going to be stained red for the next month, and I will not apologize for it). Like watermelon, strawberries are about 91% water content. They are also little red nutritional powerhouses, loaded with vitamins C and K, dietary fiber, manganese and B vitamins. But, as with all berries, they are extra special because of their high flavonoid content. They are high in one particular flavonoid called "anthocyanidin" which makes them a powerful protector against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.
This one may seem a little surprising, but this cruciferous beauty is approximately 92% water by weight which makes it a great addition to your daily hydration plan. Cauliflower is high in vitamins C and K, as well as a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, phosphorus and B vitamins. If you missed my recent blog post on Cauliflower, check it out for some new and exciting ways to add it into your diet (and improve your hydration!).
I love the sweetness of a ripe cantaloupe on a hot summer day. Cantaloupes are about 90% water content so with that gorgeous flavour comes some pretty great hydration value. Added benefits include a host of vital nutrients including vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, B vitamins and carotenes which are a powerful antioxidant and the precursor for vitamin A. Cantaloupe has also been shown to contain a compound called adenosine which is often used in patients with heart disease to help keep the blood thin and relief angina attacks.
A good rule of thumb every day is to have a glass of water every two hours during your awake time to ensure you are getting adequate hydration for optimal health. By including hydrating foods we can go the extra mile to ensure that we reach our water intake goals.
Check out my Quick 'n' Easy Meal Plan for an entire week's worth of nutrient-dense recipes that includes some of the hydrating foods in this article. You'll also get a comprehensive shopping list and handy preparation guide to keep you on track and organized. Eating healthy has never been easier or faster. Get in, get nourished, and be on your way in less than 30 minutes per recipe!
If you would like to explore how working with a nutritionist can help you reach your health and wellness goals, book your free 30-minute consultation session where we can discuss how I can help.
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!