Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

How to stay hydrated with plenty of fluids this summer

Are you staying hydrated?  With the warm weather here to stay, it is especially important you remember to drink enough fluids.  Summer heat can cause us to lose more water through sweat than during cooler months.

Consider you beverages, too.  Are a significant portion of your fluids coming from diet sodas?  Or, regular sodas?  What about juice drinks or tea?  There are plenty of beverages on the market these days – ranging from bottled water, juice, tea and coffee to vitamin waters, sports drinks, sodas and energy drinks.

Most individuals can achieve sufficient hydration by consuming fluids based on thirst.  Ranges from 8 to 13 cups of water or beverages per day are often given as general guidelines to aim for proper hydration from drinks.  These numbers are estimations though, based on average intakes of fluids and that which appear to be associated with good health.  However, no specific recommendations can be set on consumption of water, since needs vary by age, gender, health status and lifestyle.  For instance, men generally require a slightly higher amount of fluid than women do.  And, athletes usually require more fluids than the general population, due to the higher respiration/sweat rates associated with increased physical activity.

The best ways to get fluids include consuming plenty of healthful fruits and vegetables, along with healthful beverages and maybe even certain soups.  Fruits and vegetables are naturally high in water content, so you do get some hydration by consuming them.  In fact, about 19-20 percent of our total fluid needs are actually achieved by eating foods like fruits and vegetables.  Then, the rest is achieved through water and other beverages.

Healthful beverages, aside from water (which we know is good for us!), include 100% juices, milk or milk alternatives (such as soy, rice, hemp, almond or goat milk) and unsweetened tea.  Soft drinks like sweetened teas, sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks usually contain high amounts of sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  They may additionally contain artificial flavors, artificial colors or dietary supplements (such as ginseng or guarana.) 

Watch out for diet soft drinks like diet sodas and teas that usually contain sugar substitutes and/or artificial ingredients.  Additionally, they may contain caffeine, which in large amounts can dehydrate your body.  New research points to the idea that consuming diet sodas actually stimulates appetite and can cause overeating during the day.  So, the whole point of drinking a diet soda for some people (to cut calories) may actually be unachievable since more calories may be eaten during the day from other foods.

Small amounts of coffee can be healthful for some individuals, so just focus on portion control.  Limit consumption to 1-2 cups per day to control caffeine intake.  Choose decaf if you can (ideally, swiss water decaffeinated, rather than chemically decaffeinated).  On the other hand, coffee can be harsh to the GI tract so you may prefer to opt for a tea drink instead.

Alcoholic beverages can be dehydrating and damaging to the body, so be mindful about consuming them.  Healthful consumption of alcohol can be achieved by some adults in the range of 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day (based on gender) if abuse or a health contraindication does not exist.

So, make hydration a goal this summer, now that you know how to best achieve it.  To save money, focus on tap water (use a reusable thermos, rather than bottled water), milk/milk alternatives, 100% juice (you can dilute it with water to make your own natural flavored waters) and homemade iced teas (unsweetened or sweetened with 100% juice is ideal).  Keep beverages easy to grab in the fridge, so you are more likely to drink them, too!

Have a refreshing summer!

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