Allyn Wergin, R.D.N.
Diabetes Education, Nutrition
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Water: Essential for your body
Drinking water does more than just quench your thirst. It's essential to keeping your body functioning properly and feeling healthy.
Nearly all of your body's major systems depend on water to function and survive. With water making up about 60% of your body weight, it's no surprise what staying hydrated can do for you.
Here are just a few examples of the ways water works in your body:
- Regulates body temperature
- Moistens tissues in the eyes, nose and mouth
- Protects body organs and tissues
- Carries nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Lubricates joints
- Lessens burden on the kidneys and liver by flushing out waste products
- Dissolves minerals and nutrients to make them accessible to your body
How much water do you need?
Every day, you lose eight to 12 cups of water through breathing, perspiring, and urine and bowel movements. In general, men need at least 12 cups of fluid daily, while women require a minimum of nine cups. Factors that increase your fluid needs include exercise, hot weather, high altitude, a high-fiber diet, and increased losses from caffeine and alcohol intake.
Adequate hydration varies from person to person. A practical way to monitor hydration is by observing the color of your urine right after you get up in the morning. Straw- or lemonade-colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration. Dark-colored urine — about the color of apple juice — indicates dehydration.
That's why it's important to replenish your body's water supply with beverages and food that contain water.
While you should meet most of your fluid needs by drinking water, beverages such as soups, milk, 100% fruit juice and decaffeinated teas are an option. Fruits and vegetables also contain a fair amount of water. Since it's hard to track the amount of water you get from food, it's best to try for at least eight cups of fluid daily.
Ways to stay hydrated
Developing healthy water habits isn't a heavy lift.
By practicing some of these tips, they'll soon become a natural part of your day:
- Start the morning off by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up, even before coffee.
- Carry a water bottle wherever you go.
- Set goals for yourself.
- Cut out sugary beverages to avoid empty calories.
By consuming the minimum recommendation of water, you're helping your body function better and improving your overall health. For more information about ways to consume more water and find out if you're getting enough for your body's needs, talk to your health care professional.
Don't like plain water? If you like the tingle of carbonated soda, try club soda, seltzer or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice. If you're looking for a little flavor in your water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime or making fruit-infused water.
Here's a recipe to try:
Strawberry basil-infused water
1 pint sliced strawberries
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 sliced lemon
2 quarts water
Combine strawberries, basil and lemon in a 64-ounce pitcher. Pour water over the top and chill for at least three hours.
This refreshing, flavored water can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Allie Wergin is a dietitian in Nutrition Counseling and Education in Le Sueur and New Prague, Minnesota.