Healthy Eating Habits: Get Plenty of This Essential
No matter what we think of our body's size or shape, it cannot function without an adequate water supply.
Caffeinated, sweetened, or artificially sweetened drinks are not healthy substitutes for drinking plain water. Caffeine is a diuretic, causing the body to lose fluid. The fructose and artificial sweeteners in beverages can damage our health over time.
How Much Do You Need?
How much water you require depends on your age, weight, diet, activity level, and the weather. This means your water needs can vary one day to the next.
Fortunately, we all have a built in water gauge called thirst, telling us when we need to drink. Unfortunately, research indicates that many of us still walk around dehydrated. If you are not getting enough water you might experience signs of dehydration:
- Hunger, even if you recently ate
- Mood swings
- Dry or dull skin, or pronounced wrinkles
- Joint and back aches
- Urinating infrequently and/or constipation
An easy way to monitor hydration is checking the color of your urine. If you are well hydrated, your urine will be a light-colored yellow. (If you are taking a vitamin B2 (riboflavin) supplement your urine may be a sunny florescent yellow.)
When you are dehydrated, your kidneys will retain fluids to keep the body functioning and detoxified, making the urine a dark color.
People who are routinely dehydrated can experience health problems not typically associated with lack of fluids, including:
- Digestive complaints such as constipation or heartburn
- Premature aging
- Elevated cholesterol
- Urinary tract infections
Although severe, chronic dehydration is more common among the elderly it can occur in people of any age. Variables such as excessive exercise, an improper diet, extreme diets, and disordered eating can contribute to chronic dehydration. If necessary, consult your doctor about whether you are getting enough fluids.
Adding Healthy Flavor To Water
Though many people do not enjoy drinking plain water, you can add flavor with a splash of fresh lemon or lime juice, by adding freshly sliced cucumber to the water, one or two drops of natural peppermint extract, or a few crushed mint leaves.
To sweeten water, a dash of natural stevia (an herbal sweetener) or Luo Han Guo (a fruit extract) will do the trick. If you want fluids that provide an electrolyte boost try drinking coconut water—it is naturally rich in potassium and electrolytes.
Can You Drink Too Much Water?
It is possible to consume so much water that the body’s electrolytes get thrown out of balance, and this may lead to a hospitalization. We can always get too much of a good thing. If you are unsure about your hydration needs, talk to your doctor.