Water is odorless and colorless and has no calories, but it is vital to survival. Seventy-five percent of the human body is made of water, and most bodily functions require water.
You constantly lose water through perspiration, bodily functions and breathing, especially during hot, humid weather or strenuous activity. The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines do not make a specific fluid recommendation, so let your thirst be your guide. A general rule of thumb is to drink about six to eight cups of water or other beverages a day.
What you drink makes up 80 percent of daily fluid intake.
- Water is the best hydration choice. Some people prefer the taste of bottled water, but save money by filling up reusable water bottles at home. If you do not like the taste of tap water, add fruits, veggies or herbs to flavor it.
- Milk contains bone-strengthening calcium and is a great beverage choice to have with meals, since everyone over 9 years old should get three cups of dairy each day.
- Fruit juice provides hydration but is high in sugar, so limit juice to eight ounces a day and choose only 100 percent fruit juice.
- Sports drinks help replace fluids and nutrients lost during strenuous activities, but water is adequate if exercising for less than one hour.
- Tea and coffee are sources of hydration but can have a diuretic effect, so enjoy in moderation or choose decaffeinated beverages.
- While sodas are also a source of fluid, they can be high in sugar and should be enjoyed in moderation.
- Alcohol does not count toward daily fluid intake because it has dehydrating effects.
The foods we eat (especially fruits and vegetables) contribute the other 20 percent of daily fluid intake.
- Start summer meals off with a cold soup, such as gazpacho.
- Make a refreshing smoothie: blend ice, low-fat milk and your favorite fruits until smooth. Include spinach to add important vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Add your favorite fruits into gelatin for a cool, sweet treat (prepared gelatin is about 84% water.).
- Make a healthy substitution by using mashed avocado on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise. It has the same creamy and rich texture as mayo but gives a new flavor.
- Toss extra vegetables into casseroles or pasta dishes. If you steam and then blend some yellow squash, no one should notice any difference in flavor when it is added to spaghetti sauce or a casserole.
- Add a new fruit or vegetable to your fresh salad and see how you like it. Berries and apples work great.
Infants, children, older adults, athletes and those who are ill are more at risk of dehydration. Be familiar with the signs of dehydration: thirst, dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, headache, high body temperature, increased breathing rate, rapid pulse, dark yellow urine and skin that stays in a pinched position (when you pinch the skin on the top of your hand, it should immediately return to normal when released).
Although rare, too much water in too short a time can lead to water toxicity, which can be deadly. The symptoms of water toxicity are the same as for dehydration. If you stick to about six to eight cups spread throughout the day, you are unlikely to encounter this problem.
Have a safe summer and remember, let your thirst be your guide to staying hydrated.
Sources: USDA Food Composition Database: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index; https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-liven-up-your-meals; and Hydration: Water, the Forgotten Nutrient curricula from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Brenda Anderson is a Victoria County extension assistant.