As the weather cools down, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water and other fluids. But it’s so important to remember all the health benefits of staying hydrated!
Our bodies are made up of 50-60 percent water, and nearly every process in our body requires adequate fluids to take place: blood circulation and maintaining blood pressure, saliva production, skin health, digestion, maintaining body temperature, waste removal, and keeping vitamins, electrolyte, and minerals in balance. Not drinking enough fluids can make us feel tired, experience joint stiffness, get a mild headache, and cause muscle cramping.
So, how much fluid should I drink?
Fluid recommendations vary based on sex, age, activity level, pregnancy/nursing, and disease state. Some people have been told by their medical team that they need to limit their fluid intake, so it’s important for you to follow that recommendation. Otherwise, you can aim for a minimum of six to eight 8-oz cups per day or, ideally, half of your body weight in fluid ounces. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, then aim for about 90 fluid ounces of fluids in a day.
What counts toward my fluid intake?
Water isn’t the only thing you can consume that counts as a fluid! Any beverage without added sugar and even some fruits and vegetables can count towards your fluid intake:
- Plain sparkling water/seltzer
- Flavored sparkling water/seltzer with no added sugar or sodium
- Herbal tea
- Unsweetened iced tea
- Unsweetened nut and soy milks
- Fruits and vegetables with high water content: watermelon, oranges, grapes, tomatoes, celery, spinach, and romaine lettuce
Caffeinated coffee and tea also count, but since they can act as a diuretic (meaning they make us urinate more frequently), you need to be sure they aren’t the only thing you drink. When you have coffee or tea, just be sure to drink other fluids throughout the day, too.
Alcohol makes us dehydrated, so it doesn’t count towards your fluid intake. Additionally, you should stay away from beverages that are high in added sugars and calories, including soda, sweetened fruit juice, sweetened/specialty coffee and tea, sports/energy drinks, and many flavored seltzers. The added sugars/sugar substitutes in these drinks have no nutritional benefit and contribute to obesity and inflammation. (Learn more about added sugars here.)
What if I don’t like water, tea, milk, or anything else that counts?
Try flavoring your own water or seltzer! Start with a glass, pitcher, or bottle of water, seltzer, or sparkling water. Then add the following:
- Fresh or frozen fruit: berries, peaches, pineapple, and melon are especially tasty
- Mint or basil leaves
- Lemon/lime/orange slices or a squeeze of juice
- Herbal tea bag (this even works in cold water—just steep for longer)
- Ginger root slices
- Cucumber slices
Another delicious option- try combining any of the above! Check out these water flavors created by Leslie, Project Angel Heart’s director of Meals for Care Transitions.
Meghan Perkins is Project Angel Heart’s registered dietitian. After a semester studying baking and pastry arts at culinary school, Meghan quickly found her passion for clinical nutrition and transferred to the University of Northern Colorado to earn her bachelor’s degree in dietetics. Meghan has worked in clinical and private practice settings, educating patients about how their food choices impact their health with an emphasis on CKD, diabetes, heart disease, celiac disease, and weight management. In her free time, Meghan enjoys exploring Denver by bike with her husband, trying new coffee and tea shops, hiking in Crested Butte, and relaxing with her dog Barney.