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Quench Your Thirst
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by Alicia Kroat, RD, LDN, Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD and Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD

It is important to maintain a healthy hydration status at all times since the body is dependent on adequate water status for normal body function. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. Infants and children, older adults, and people with chronic diseases or illnesses are at an increased risk of dehydration. Signs and symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include: fatigue, loss of appetite, flushed skin, heat intolerance, light-headedness, dark-colored urine, headache, constipation, and a dry cough.

The key to preventing dehydration is to drink fluids before you feel thirsty. The feeling of thirst diminishes with age and typically occurs after your body is dehydrated. It also is common for individuals to confuse thirst with hunger. Drinking a glass of water before grabbing a snack will help you distinguish between the two senses.

The best way to prevent dehydration is to consume adequate amounts of fluid. While some foods provide fluid we recommend that you try to consume at least 8 (8 oz.) glasses of water each day. The American Heart Association recognizes that the amount of water a person needs depends on a variety of 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

For water lovers, 64 ounces per day may be simple to achieve. For everyone else, consuming 8 glasses of water may seem like an impossible challenge. But what if you drank "decorated” water? Try adding a lemon or lime wedge, crushed mint leaves, sliced cucumbers, or strawberries. If you crave a fizzy refreshment, consider seltzer water, sparkling mineral water flavored with fruit, a combination of water and other low-calorie beverage. For example, mix half a glass of water with half a glass of crystal light lemonade. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows how substituting just 4 high calorie beverages with low calorie beverages such as water throughout the day can eliminate almost 800 calories. For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html

Other ways to increase fluid intake is to have a constant reminder to drink fluids by keeping a water bottle with you at your desk or while you are running errands. Additionally, foods high in water content also can be used as a means hydration. The University of Kentucky has published a list of food high in water content. For a complete list visit: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/enri/pubs/enri129.pdf

Fruits with greater than 90% water include: Cantaloupe, grapefruit, strawberries, and watermelon. Vegetables with greater than 90% water include: broccoli, green cabbage, red cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, iceberg lettuce, sweet peppers, radish, spinach, zucchini, red tomatoes, and green tomatoes.

Some beverages may promote dehydration and/or prolong the rehydration process.

SPORTS DRINKS à While sports drinks provide essential electrolytes, they only replenish electrolytes lost during sweating. They also may contain excessive amounts of sodium. If you are unable to consume adequate water, and enjoy the taste of sports drinks, we recommend that you dilute them to 50% water and 50% sports drink.

HIGH CARBOHYDRATE DRINKSà Many sports drinks and beverages such as fruit juices, sodas, and flavored (sweetened) waters are high in carbohydrates and calories . This may cause stomach upset when your body is trying to rehydrate.

ALCOHOL & CAFFEINE à Be aware that some beverages promote dehydration and thus should be limited. Beverages that promote dehydration include alcohol and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, teas, and colas. If you enjoy drinking tea throughout the day you should consider switching to decaffeinated teas with no sugar added or sweetened with a no calorie sweetener.

For more information on dehydration visit: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dehydration/DS00561

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