Thursday, April 28, 2016
We need water to survive – there’s absolutely no question about it. Water makes up more than half of our body weight and every organ, cell and tissue in the body needs water to function properly. The body needs water for many of its internal processes, such as maintaining body temperature, removing waste and lubricating joints to name but a few.
There’s been much discussion surrounding how much water we should consume per day to prevent dehydration, and while research states 80% of our intake should come from drinking water, according to experts, not all water has to come from a glass.
It’s believed that up to 20% of our daily water intake should be from foods. You may be surprised which foods can provide high levels of hydration to our bodies.
There are more foods than you might think that have a high water content, especially fruit and vegetables. Watermelon is a major contender for the highest water content, which has a staggering 95% water mass, along with strawberries. Other fruits include grapefruit at 91%, cantaloupe melon at 90%, peaches at 88% and at 87% pineapple, cranberries, raspberries, and oranges.
Apple still holds its own with 84%. Some vegetables also have a high water content, with lettuce and cucumber being the most hydrating at 96% water mass. Courgette, radish and celery are comprised of 95%, tomatoes at 94% and cabbage at 93%. Vegetables that contain 92% water include cauliflower, peppers, red cabbage, aubergine and spinach, followed closely by broccoli at 91%.
In addition to all of these, other hydrating vegetables include peas, carrots and potatoes. Foods that have a high water content don't just provide the extra 20% of water intake needed, but they also provide vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein - essential to our overall health.
Whilst we now know that much of our hydration can be sought from fruits and veg, these practical tips can encourage you to add more water based foods to your diet. This means that you’ll not only have a diet full of flavour but will also be adding fruit and vegetables that are full of fibre, vitamins and minerals.
One of the biggest tips is combination: finding the foods that complement each other. For instance, adding celery to your tuna salad, adding tomatoes to your ham sandwich or cauliflower to curry can make for a whole new taste experience and hydrate you at the same time.
By discovering which different flavours work well together, you can add more fruit and vegetables to your favourite meals. For instance, boost your breakfast by adding fruit to your porridge or cereal. Double up on your regular vegetable intake and even become a sneaky chef to your family adding little extras without anyone knowing – it's easy to add some carrot or celery to pasta or chilli sauce.
Alternatively, snacking on fruit and vegetables such as apples, oranges and carrot sticks, instead of processed foods is a great way to have a healthy balanced diet. Try adding them to lunch boxes to encourage healthy dinners. Make more meals based on water and add lots of tasty vegetables such as soups, broths and casseroles. How about trying meat-free Mondays and eat a whole main meal purely based on vegs?
Smoothies and shakes are also becoming more common so shake things up by investing in a blender or juicer and have fun at discovering tasty flavours. One tip, however: watch the sugar level of your fruit smoothies – as you don’t want to consume too much.
As much as water is essential to keep us alive, it can be dangerous if we have too much. If you consume more water than your body needs, it can throw off the balance between water and sodium levels in your blood. A huge excess of water in the body can lead to water intoxication or hyponatremia (dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood).
By drinking more water than needed, the kidneys cannot dispose of the excess water through urine - leading it to collect in the body. Retaining too much water can lead to liver disease, kidney problems and congestive heart failure. It can cause symptoms including muscle weakness, cramps, spasms, dizziness, nausea, puffiness and weight gain, and in severe cases, it can lead to headaches, confusion, vomiting, seizures, comas and even death.
As a final point, let thirst be your guide, but if you start to suffer any symptoms of dehydration - for instance being thirsty, dry mouth, fatigue or headaches - drink some water straight away. If problems persist, consult a health professional. Remember to drink plenty of water daily and eat lots of fruit and vegetables, and you’ll reap all the benefits of a hydrated body.