With all the talk about protein, carbohydrate and fat, it's easy to forget about a very important nutrient — water. Water makes up 55 to 75 percent of a person's body weight and plays a role in everything your body does every day.
Your body loses 8 to 12 cups of water every day and this needs to be replaced. Some factors which increase your fluid needs include: exercise, hot weather, low humidity, high altitude, a high-fiber diet and increased fluid losses from caffeine and alcohol intake. In general, men need at least 12 cups of fluid daily, while women require at least nine cups.
While most of your fluid needs should be met by drinking water, it is available from other beverages, soups and foods. Skim milk, 100-percent fruit juice and decaffeinated teas are mostly water so they could easily be counted toward your daily water needs. Fruits and vegetables also are 75 percent to 95 percent water, according to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.
Whether you drink bottled or tap water is a matter of taste. Drink what you like and you will tend to drink more. Keep in mind that most municipal tap water is fluoridated. If you rely solely on bottled water, check the label to see if it contains fluoride. If not, discuss fluoride supplementation with your dentist.
Municipal tap water is usually relatively low in sodium. Water treated with a home water softener can have higher levels of sodium. A review of bottled water found that sodium content varied from brand to brand, so check the labels to be sure.
Healthy water habits include:
- Start your morning off right by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up — before your first cup of coffee.
- Carry a water bottle wherever you go so you are not tempted to grab sodas and other sugared beverages.
- Switch to sugar-free coffee, tea or sodas. Caffeine free drinks are also a good idea.
- Drink a glass of water before each meal or snack.
- If you are at home, keep water in the refrigerator.
- Set goals for yourself. For example, drink one cup of coffee, then switch to tea or water.
- If you like the tingle of carbonated sodas, try club soda, seltzer or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice.
- Dilute fruit juice half and half with water.
- Add slices of lemon, lime or orange to water. Order it that way when at a restaurant.
Drink water, stay healthy.
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.