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Water does more than just quench thirst

December 17, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

Water does more than just quench thirst

Water is second only to oxygen as life's most essential element. We need six to eight glasses of water daily to help ensure good health.

Water must be replaced frequently because we lose about two and a half quarts daily. In fact, it is necessary for almost every process of the human body. For example, water aids in digestion and circulation, and it helps maintain normal body temperature and healthy skin.

Your body's need for water increases in hot and dry climates and with physical activity. In these situations, it is a good idea to drink a few ounces of water every 15 to 30 minutes. Also, be sure to drink when you feel thirsty. Thirst is a clue that your body needs more fluid.

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Food also provides water. Most fruit and vegetables are more than 80 percent water. Water makes up between 60 and 70 percent of meats and poultry.

Beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol are not considered good sources of water because they act as diuretics and speed the loss of fluid. If you do consume these types of beverages, it is also important to drink an equal amount of water.

Drinking plain water is the best way to keep your body hydrated. The following beverages are other good sources of water:

* seltzer, unsweetened

* club soda

* 100 percent fruit juice

* low-sodium vegetable juice

* artificially sweetened, decaffeinated soft drinks

Many people today are choosing to drink bottled water. Here are some terms you may see in your grocery store's bottled water section:

* Drinking water: usually noncarbonated. It may be distilled with minerals added back for taste or simply may be bottled tap water.

* Distilled or purified water: tap water with the minerals removed.

* Spring water: bottled at or near the spring where it originates and retains most, if not all, of its natural mineral content.

* Sparkling water: carbonated by an outside source.

* Naturally sparkling water: has enough carbon dioxide to make it bubbly. This natural carbon dioxide may be removed at the spring and added back during bottling.

* Mineral water: contains dissolved minerals. This actually describes all waters except those with minerals removed.

Remember that water is an essential nutrient - just like vitamins and minerals. In fact, water is the most important nutrient of all. A healthy adult can survive without food for weeks, but just a few days without water.

Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer services for University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

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