Fleming, MS, RD and Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD
Water is an essential, but often neglected, nutrient that is required for most metabolic processes in the body. Water makes up more than half of our body weight and we lose water each day through urine, sweat, and when we breathe. Water loss occurs even faster during the summer months when the temperature rises. We cannot rely on thirst as a signal to drink water in order to replace fluid losses. When you feel thirsty, you have already lost about 1% of your body water. If water loss continues, you may experience serious fatigue and cardiovascular impairments.
Consuming adequate water daily will keep you hydrated and allow you to perspire. The evaporation of sweat from the skin is important for maintaining normal body temperature. Thus, fluid balance is key - the more you sweat the more water you need to replace lost fluids. Even though a sugary beverage seems refreshing, it contains excess calories that can contribute to weight gain and chronic disease risk. Also, a sugary drink is not really hydrating; the body's normal response is to "dilute" the sugar and further promote thirst. Since your body requires more fluids in hot weather, choosing sugary beverages may cause you to consume more calories than you need, especially if additional calorie-containing beverages are used to quench the thirst caused by the sugary beverage. Therefore, water is the preferred beverage of choice for thirst.
On average, recommendations are to consume at least 8 (8oz.) glasses of water each day. The American Heart Association recognizes that the amount of water a person needs to function depends on many factors including their health condition. For example, heart disease requires a balance of fluids and electrolytes to minimize the workload of the heart. For more information, visit: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Staying-Hydrated---Staying-Healthy_UCM_441180_Article.jsp
Drinking 8 (8 oz.) glasses of water may be challenging for some, however there are many strategies that can help meet the water recommendation. A few refreshing options, espeically when it is warmer, include adding a lemon, lime or orange wedge (along with the juice and some pulp) to your water for a zesty citrus flavor or infuse it with a few sprigs of mint to give it a cool fresh taste with a hint of sweetness. After boiling vegetables, such as carrots, reserve the water and chill it overnight for a vitamin-packed burst of flavor.
You can also enjoy a "bubbly" water beverage such as seltzer water or sparkling mineral water flavored with fruit. Just make sure that the soda water is sodium-free. The virtue of water is that it is calorie free and there are endless ways to make it an enjoyable and thirst quenching beverage.
For additional ways to increase your water intake while also increasing your servings of fruit and vegetables, check out these flavored water recipes below (courtesy of Shape.com). You can drink them right away, but the flavor intensifies if it's made an hour or two ahead. It is even better the next day. If you don't want to drink fruit bits along with the water, use a small wire strainer to remove them as you pour the water into your drinking glass.
Strawberry, Basil & Cucumber Water
Orange & Vanilla Infused Water
Pineapple Ginger Delight Water
Orange, Strawberry & Mint Water
Mixed Melon Melody Water
Raspberry Lemon Water
Berry, Peach & Coconut Water
Peach Slices and Cayenne Pepper Water