Best Foods To Keep You Hydrated
When thinking about keeping the body hydrated, what usually comes to mind is a picture of a sweating athlete consuming a brightly colored sports drink after an intense workout. But, the truth of the matter is it’s important for everyone—athletes and non-athletes alike— to stay hydrated in order for the body to work properly.
Health experts point to water as the best source for hydrating the body. Not only does water cool the body, it helps in the digestion process, transports nutrients, and removes waste products, among many other things, to keep the body healthy.
“Hydration, in general, is important for so many bodily functions including regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, skin, organs, transporting nutrients into cells, detoxifying the body by removing waste, preventing infections, and promoting skin integrity,” Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, said in an interview. Shapiro is also the founder of Real Nutrition, a New York City-based private practice that helps clients achieve their optimal nutrition, weight, and overall wellness.
Water and other fluids can help in maintaining electrolytes—a group of minerals that help the body to function properly. Electrolytes have a natural electrical charge when dissolved in water. They are also found in the blood, urine, tissue, and other body fluids. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), electrolytes are important because they help:
- Balance the amount of water in the body
- Balance the body’s acid/base (pH) level
- Move nutrients into cells
- Move wastes out of cells
- Make sure that nerves, muscles, the heart, and the brain work the way they should
Besides water and electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks, electrolytes are also found in foods, particularly those with high water content, like fruits and vegetables.
Foods That Help To Keep The Body Hydrated
When it comes to hydration, some of the best hydrating foods contain potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Although these are minerals, they are also key electrolytes that keep the body healthy. Foods that contain these minerals also contain other nutrients, such as vitamins A, B, C, D, and K, and fiber, which gives the body even more health benefits.
The following are the electrolyte/minerals, the foods in which they are found, and how they are helpful to the body.
Potassium helps the nerves to function properly, the muscles to contract, and the heart to beat regularly. The mineral also moves nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells.
Foods that are good sources of potassium include:
- Leafy vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens
- Fruit from vines, such as grapes and blackberries
- Root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, and potatoes
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit
Other foods with potassium include:
Some meats, such as beef, chicken, and turkey, also contain certain amounts of potassium.
Sodium helps to control blood pressure and blood volume and ensures that muscles and nerves work properly. Sodium is found in processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham, as well as in processed baked goods like cookies, cakes, and doughnuts. Also, fast foods contain a high amount of sodium.
A high-sodium diet, however, can lead to high blood pressure. For people with hypertension, Shapiro recommends watching their sodium intake and monitoring the condition with their doctor.
A few healthy sources of sodium that Shapiro recommends include:
- Coconut water
A high intake of sodium can also lead to problems with heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and kidney disease.
Over 99 percent of the body’s calcium is found in the bones and teeth, with the rest going to the blood, muscle, and the fluid between cells. The mineral helps the muscles to contract and blood vessels to expand.
Some foods that are good sources of calcium include:
- Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt
- Leafy green vegetables
- Fish with soft bones, such as salmon and canned sardines
- Calcium-enriched foods, such as breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soy and rice drinks, tofu, and almonds
People of all ages need calcium. For example, growing children and teenagers need more calcium than young adults. Older adults need calcium to prevent osteoporosis, a disease that thins and weakens the bones.
Magnesium helps to transport oxygen throughout the body, helps the nerves and muscles to function normally, the heart to beat steady, and the bones to remain strong.
Good sources of magnesium include:
- Dark chocolate
- Fruits (such as bananas, dried apricots, and avocados)
- Whole wheat bread or noodles
- Peas and beans
Shapiro says that most people get enough electrolytes through foods. However, drink supplements may be necessary when people lose large amounts of electrolytes during extreme sports, intense exercise, when sweating excessively, or through an illness involving vomiting or diarrhea.
Without a healthy diet and water, it’s easy to become dehydrated, a condition caused by losing more fluid than the body is taking in.
According to the NIH, dehydration range from mild to severe enough to be life-threatening. Older adults who lose their sense of thirst as they age are at a higher risk of dehydration as are people with chronic health conditions, like kidney problems, that cause them to urinate or sweat more often.
To remain adequately hydrated, Shapiro recommends eating a balanced diet and drinking 64 to 80 ounces of water a day.
“If you eat a balanced diet and drink enough water—ideally enough to keep your urine a very light yellow like lemonade—you should remain adequately hydrated,” Shapiro said.