The Importance of Water in a Balanced Diet
We always hear that “water is good for you”, but what does it actually do for us? And can the way you consume water actually do more harm than good? There are many reasons, outlined below, showing the importance of getting in adequate water daily, and we will look at some of the symptoms of dehydration, tips on keeping water consumption simple, as well as some “don’ts” in terms of drinking water.
Especially with the hotter months approaching, it is all the more important to make sure you are getting the 8 to 10 minimum cups of water recommended daily. It is important to also note a lot of times when it seems that your body is signaling to you that it is hungry, it can actually be signs of thirst!
Did you know? Water is considered to be one of the seven essential nutrients our body needs to survive. It is recommended that we drink eight to ten glasses of pure water a day. What are some of the signs of dehydration? Many people who suffer from constant headaches, joint pain, skin issues, weight gain, constipation, hunger pains, over-eating, weakness, low energy levels, dizziness, and indigestion could actually just be dehydrated These are just some of the many potential symptoms of an inadequate water intake, and it is extremely important to remain hydrated and pay attention to the above mentioned symptoms as a guide. Water is the liquid that nutrients need in order to travel throughout the body, and the way we eliminate toxins. Many nutrients (notably the water soluble vitamins such as C and the B-vitamins) and hormones require water in order to be properly distributed throughout the body as well, and a lack of water intake could also keep blood pressure high and contribute to kidney stones as well. In addition, as a result of it being needed in proper digestion and elimination, as well as our livers needing it in order to metabolize fat, dehydration can also lead to weight gain.
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How can you tell if you are dehydrated? It is actually quite simple to know if you are not drinking enough water. There are two quick ways to see, and the first is that if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Another way to know is the color of your urine. It should remain a light yellow shade, rather than a darker color. The only exception to the second rule could be when you first wake up in the morning, as you have technically been fasting and not been taking in any water for hours. So if your urine is a darker shade of yellow during this time, this is not an automatic sign of dehydration. However, beginning your day with some water is still a good idea upon waking up! Another exception would be if you take B-vitamin supplements, since they can change the color of your urine to a darker yellow!
Are there other factors that cause dehydration? On top of not drinking enough water, there are also many other ways to add on the initial dehydration. There are dehydrants such as caffeiene, alcohol, nicotine, and salt. If you use or consume any or all of these often, you need to incorporate more water into your lifestyle. If you drink two cups of coffee a day, and have a beer at the end of the day, you need to make up for the additional water you are losing as a result of these dehydrants. Another factor that comes into play is if you are physically active and sweating, again, your need for water is automatically increased, as well as during the hotter months of the year. If you go for a run on a sunny day in July, you again need to make sure you are making up for the loss of water this way. Also keep in mind caffeinated teas do not count as water intake since they are actually dehydrates and not a pure form of water.
What drinking habits should be avoided? As is the case with almost everything, there are correct and incorrect ways to consume water. For many people who are not accustomed to drinking water at all, but want to correct this mistake, they may decide on chugging the eight to ten glasses at a time, or still drinking a large portion in one sitting at the end of the day to get the recommended amount in. Chugging large amounts in one sitting is a shock to your body and is never a good idea. You want to incorporate water throughout your day and here is the simplest way to make it a habit. Aim to keep a canister or bottle filled to its amount near you and measure how many cups of water it can hold. For example, if it can hold four cups, you know that you have to drink at least two of those throughout the day. Try to consistently sip throughout the day and soon it will become second-nature and you will not have to remind yourself! Drinking a lot of water with meals is also not a good idea as it actually dilutes the body’s secretion of stomach acid and can cause indigestion. It is better to drink it before and after eating, but allowing some time to pass after you eat so it does not disrupt your digestive process. Drinking it first thing in the morning before eating helps your body ease into the day.
Infused water for the summer: While aiming to get used to drinking water on its own is ideal, there are also some easy and delicious ways to make water consumption even more convenient. You can fill up your large bottle with a few of your favourite berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or a mix) and add fresh cool water on top. You can drink this berry-infused water througout the day which is a great option in the summer! You can also simply twist some mint and cucumbers into your water for another refreshing alternative, or find your own preference. Just remember, if it contains caffeine it no longer counts!
Now that you know the importance, signs of deficiency and ways to consume it, make sure to get your 8-10 glasses of water a day and see the benefits of being truly hydrated!
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