We all know that drinking plenty of water is good for us. But here Nikki Edwards reveals exactly how much we should be drinking, what the health benefits really are and what other beverages we can enjoy to help us look and feel great.
Your body needs water to work properly. In fact, most of the chemical reactions that happen in your cells rely on water to take place.
Your water works
Your body is composed of about 70% water which aids digestion, absorption, circulation, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of the body temperature.
But it also has other health benefits. These include:
- Weight loss. Yes, that’s right. Drinking plenty of water is an excellent strategy to drop the pounds. This is because it improves the bodily functions, helps flush out waste and makes you to feel fuller which crushes cravings for food. Substituting higher calorie beverages for water can also help as does eating plenty of water-rich foods including fruits, vegetables, soups, oatmeal, and beans.
- Muscle boosting. When muscle cells don't have adequate fluids, they don't work as well and performance can suffer. This is why drinking fluids is important when exercising.
- Improves your complexion. Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. Dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration. If you ask me, water is the best anti-aging treatment around!
- Improved kidney function. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine. The more you drink, the better this function works. If you regularly drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones.
- Better bowel function. As with ridding waste through your kidneys, drinking water also aids the flow along your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation.
- Relieves fatigue. Since your brain is mostly water, drinking it helps you think, focus and concentrate better and be more alert. It also boosts your energy levels.
- Boosts your immune system. People who keep well hydrated are less likely to get sick, studies have shown. Drinking plenty of water helps fight against illnesses like flu, cancer and other ailments like heart attacks.
- Puts you in a good mood. When the body is functioning at its best, you will feel great.
So how much should we drink?
To stay healthy you need to replace the fluid you lose when you breathe, sweat or urinate.
The European Food Safety Authority recommends women drink eight 200ml glasses of water a day and men 10 glasses.
But this can vary dramatically depending on a person’s size, the temperature and how active they are. The larger you are, the more you should drink. You should also up your intake when you exercise or if the weather is hot.
The best way to ensure you are drinking enough is to look out for signs of dehydration.
Common signs of dehydration are:
- Your urine is dark in colour, you are not passing much urine or you are not going to the toilet very often.
- You are suffering from headaches
- You feel like you have low energy
- You feel lightheaded
Tips to help you drink more
If you think you need to be drinking more, here are some tips to increase your fluid intake:
o Have a drink with every snack and meal.
o Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.
o Keep a bottle of water with you.
o Choose drinks you enjoy. You are more likely to drink liquids if you like the way they taste.
Your liquid assets
If you don’t like to drink plain water, try adding a squirt of lemon, a squeeze of lime, a few sprigs of fresh mint or a cucumber or orange slice.
There are also other drinks you can enjoy which boost your fluid intake and have other nutritional benefits too.
Green tea contains natural antioxidants that may protect cells from carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). They may also guard against heart disease by relaxing blood vessels, inhibiting the formation of blood clots that trigger heart attacks and strokes. Green tea also contains fluoride, which strengthens teeth and helps prevent tooth decay.
Mint tea is great for aiding digestion. It eases cramps and helps promote the movement of food through the digestive tract.
Milk is the ideal source of calcium, because it contains vitamin D, which is needed for maximum calcium absorption.
Soy milk contains soluble fibre and soy protein, which lowers cholesterol levels and triglycerides, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you’re drinking it instead of cow’s milk, buy soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D.
Processed tomato products are the richest source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been associated with a reduced risk of lung and stomach cancer, as well as pancreatic, colorectal, esophageal, oral, breast, and cervical cancers.
Cranberry juice has antibacterial properties that fight off urinary tract infections. However, be wary of the sugar content of any fruit juice and limit your intake to one glass a day.
An excellent source of vitamin C, orange juice is also a potent antioxidant that may protect against a variety of diseases.
Ginger has long been known to soothe digestive upset and even relieve nausea associated with motion sickness and pregnancy.
Smoothies offer the opportunity to blend together nutrient-dense and fibre-filled fruits with lean sources of protein to create a balanced meal. Add berries which are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants, bananas which are high in potassium and unsweetened yogurt which is packed full of calcium.
High-protein shakes can help you replenish fluids lost when exercising and develop lean muscle mass. They also encourage fat loss, increase satiety, deliver essential nutrients and even improve metabolic activity. The extra protein they contain help build and repair skin, blood, bones, muscles and cartilage.
It’s a surprising addition to the list but actually there are health benefits which come from moderate wine consumption. Studies have shown that enjoying an occasional glass reduces the risk of stoke, heart attack and heart disease and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. It also cuts risk of cataracts, colon cancer and slows brain decline.
However, wine can be dehydrating – which is why we suffer from a hangover when we overindulge – so make sure you drink plenty of water too.