Not enough hydration
As temperatures soar, so does the risk of becoming dehydrated. “Your fluid needs will go up in the summer and in the hot weather,” says Torey Armul, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Columbus, Ohio. Hydration helps with everything — from keeping your core body temperature consistent to moving nutrients throughout the body.
“It really is a cornerstone for good health,” Armul says. And while plain water is an unassailable first choice to hydrate, “I do tell people if that’s not their favorite thing that there are other options.”
But first: How much do you need?
How much water does your body really need? It differs from person to person. “On average, we recommend that men get 15 cups of fluid per day and women get 11 cups per day,” says Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian based in Imperial, Pennsylvania, and author of “Fueling Young Athletes.”
People who exercise regularly or spend time in the sun need even more water than the standard recommendations. The bad news is that more than 43% of adults don’t drink enough water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — hence, alternatives are helpful.
Some foods can help you stay hydrated.
If you worry about not drinking enough water, don’t overlook eating food that contains high amounts of fluid, advises Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia. “Drinking water is important, but to stay hydrated you can include a diverse group of water-rich vegetables, fruits and dairy products in your meal plan.”
Here are eight ways to stay hydrated in hot weather besides drinking water:
Eat your vegetables.
Research suggests that about 22% of the U.S. population’s daily water intake is derived from food. “Fruit and vegetables are especially high in water content,” Mangieri says.
You can keep your body hydrated by consuming fruits and veggies that contain 85% or more water. Try cucumbers and lettuce, for example, which are packed with 96% water. Next on the most-water-filled list are celery and radishes, with 95% water. Other top performers include cauliflower, bell peppers and spinach (92% water).
“You really can’t go wrong with fruits and vegetables,” Armul says, “and they’ll contribute up to about two to three cups a day of fluids if you’re eating enough.”
The amount of foods high in water content that you should consume varies from person to person, notes Loretta Friedman, a clinical nutritionist and director of Synergy Health Associates in New York City. Generally, people on a daily basis should consume half an ounce to an ounce of fluid for every pound they weigh. The amount of fluid an individual needs also depends on factors such as their activity level and the climate they live in. You won’t go wrong by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables that are high in water content. “Even if you drink enough water, eating foods high in water content won’t harm you.”
Take advantage of summer fruit.
Summer farmers markets are overflowing with fruits high in water. In addition to the forgotten fruit tomatoes, which are 94% water, also topping the list are strawberries and watermelon, which are both 92% water. Cantaloupe has 90% water, followed by peaches (88% water). Summer favorites such as pineapples and oranges offer 87% water.
But don’t go overboard — while fruits are great sources of water, they’re also high in sugar and can contain unwanted calories if you eat too many. Keep in mind that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommend eating two cups of fruit daily for your overall health.
Grab an iced coffee.
Despite popular belief, coffee isn’t dehydrating. Although some caffeinated drinks can cause a mild diuretic effect — where the body cleanses itself by creating the need to urinate — coffee doesn’t cause fluid loss. In fact, your morning cup of Joe is 98% water, enough to leave you more hydrated than before.
Still, it’s not wise to overdo it with coffee. Too much caffeine can cause headaches, jitters and insomnia, so it’s best to stick to one or two cups a day, says Brigitte Zeitlin, a registered dietitian and founder of New York-based BZ Nutrition.
Avoid drinking alcohol in excess.
The more alcohol you ingest, the more your body will become dehydrated. “Alcohol can decrease the production of the anti-diuretic hormone, the hormone that helps the body reabsorb water,” Mangieri says. This increases urination, causes the body to lose more fluid than normal and creates symptoms such as dry mouth, thirst and headaches.
Want to combat dehydration while drinking alcohol? For every alcoholic beverage you consume, have a glass of water or a drink high in electrolytes, like coconut water. Or consider one of the many non-alcoholic versions of your favorite cocktail or drink.
Make a cold soup.
Chicken soup for the soul? More like chicken soup for hydration. “Aim for broth-based soups for the most hydrating bang for your buck,” Zeitlin says. Most soup broths are loaded with salt, which helps the body retain water and fight dehydration. Bonus points if you add fruit or veggies with high water content, such as tomatoes, celery or radishes.
Looking for a chilled soup to try this summer? Gazpacho — a traditionally cold Spanish soup — is perfect to beat the heat in the summer and can be made in various flavors, from watermelon to cucumber.
Start your day with oatmeal topped with chia seeds or fruit.
Oatmeal is a heart-healthy breakfast option that can help you defeat dehydration. When you make a bowl of oatmeal, the oats absorb the water or milk you used to cook it, making your savory breakfast a surprising source of hydration.
Consider adding chia seeds to oatmeal overnight, Friedman suggests. The seeds soak up about 10 times their weight in water. “This is a very hydrating meal.”
If you add fresh fruit such as strawberries or blueberries, a bowl of oatmeal ends up having about the same water content as a cucumber. Oatmeal is also a great source of fiber and can help lower cholesterol levels, she says.
Try coconut water.
Coconut water is the liquid that forms inside a coconut, and the drink has more potassium and less sodium and carbs than many popular sports drink alternatives, Friedman says. “Coconut water is nice and refreshing. It’s good for when exercise is light, like a walk.”
Try rehydrating with this tropical beverage after a mild workout. If you’ve had a more strenuous workout that caused intense sweating, it’s too low in sodium to replace the salt that your body lost. In general, it’s a good idea to have various fluids on hand to keep things interesting and stay adequately hydrated.
Sample some cottage cheese.
Comprised of 80% water, cottage cheese helps keep you hydrated while providing a healthy dose of protein, B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and selenium, Jones says. “You can add it to a variety of foods such as eggs, fruit and salads.”
8 ways to stay hydrated without drinking water:
— Eat your vegetables.
— Take advantage of summer fruit.
— Grab an iced coffee.
— Avoid drinking alcohol in excess.
— Make a cold soup.
— Start your day with oatmeal topped with chia seeds or fruit.
— Try coconut water.
— Sample cottage cheese.
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Update 07/22/21: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.