Studies in societies with limited supplies of drinking water suggest you can help to counter dehydration and, at the same time, enhance the healthfulness of your diet by consuming nutritious foods that are laden with a hidden water source.
Plant foods like fruits, vegetables and seeds are a source of so-called gel water — pure, safe, hydrating water that is slowly absorbed into the body when the foods are consumed.
That is the message in a new book, “Quench,” by Dr. Dana Cohen, an integrative medicine specialist in New York, and Gina Bria, an anthropologist whose studies of the water challenges faced by desert dwellers led to the establishment of the Hydration Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes understanding and consumption of non liquid sources of water.
Remaining well-hydrated is crucial to your health. However solid your body, the majority of it is water, ranging from 75 percent of the body weight of infants to 55 percent of the elderly. Every bodily process, every living cell, depends on water to function properly. Water transports nutrients, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints and internal organs, supports the structure of cells and tissues and preserves cardiovascular function. People can survive for only three or four days — a week at most — without water.
Inadequate hydration can cause fatigue, poor appetite, heat intolerance, dizziness, constipation, kidney stones and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Brain effects include mood shifts, muddled thinking, inattentiveness and poor memory. A loss of only 1-2 percent of body water can impair cognitive performance, according to studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Your body’s water balance is determined by how much you consume, your age and activity level and environmental conditions. The body loses water through the skin, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract; in other words, by sweating, breathing and elimination of waste, both liquid and solid.
“Water needs can vary from person to person — and no one person will need the same amount of fluid from one day to the next,” the Virginia scientists wrote in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.
A critical factor in remaining well-hydrated is not to rely on thirst to remind you to drink but rather to be proactive by consuming enough liquid before, during and after meals and physical activity. The long-standing advice to drink eight glasses of water a day was something I (among many others) was never able to achieve. I am happy to say that experts have since modified that rule.
Current thinking calls for getting about 70 percent of daily water needs from liquids (including coffee and tea, by the way, though not alcohol) and the rest from solid foods.
The authors of “Quench” suggest two dozen fruits and vegetables that are especially hydrating, ranging from cucumbers (96.7 percent water) to grapes (81.5 percent water). Surely you can find many you would enjoy in a list that includes lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, carrots, peppers, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, apples and pears.
Even chia seeds, an ancient so-called superfood said to sustain the ultrarunning prowess of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, can be a force against dehydration; they absorb 30 times their weight in water and can provide the body with slow-release hydration, especially during long bouts of physical activity in high heat and humidity.
Naturally packaged plant water hydrates more efficiently than plain drinking water, the “Quench” authors maintain, because it is already purified, is packed with soluble nutrients and gradually supplies the body with water.
New York Times