|fruit salad | photo: Marisa DeMeglio|
Dehydration can cause a wide range of negative health effects from low blood pressure, increased heart rate, headache, or weakness to dizziness, and possibly even unconsciousness. It is important not only to stay well hydrated but to consider the source of your hydration. Avoid rehydrating through overconsumption of high sugar (such as soda or sports drinks), caffeinated, or alcoholic beverages.
Before we talk about hydrating foods let's look at how much fluid you should be taking in. This formula is based on an average person who is not exerting themselves to a high level. This is a very rough estimation of required hydration. Start with your body weight, divide it in half, and convert those ounces to cups. As an example:
A person weighing 150 lbs
Divided in half = 75 lbs
75 ounces = 9.4 cups
This number then needs to be further modified depending on whether you are living in an extreme temperature location, if you are exercising and how much, if you are pregnant or nursing, and/or how much of your hydration may be coming from food. Obviously if you are out running a 5K, doing bikram yoga or even spending long hours in the sun doing yard work you need to up your fluid intake. But it serves well as a general starting point.
Some people don't like to drink water. Here are a few ways that you can bump it up a little.
- Add flavor to your water by the use of things such as mint, cucumber, lemon, or lime. By adding a little flavor (without sugar or chemicals) you may find yourself inclined to drink more water.
- For those people who are used to drinking soda, consider purchasing a SodaStream seltzer maker (avoid the flavored, chemical-laden additives) and start to break yourself of the soda habit. This has an added benefit of reducing your plastic waste because you won't throw out endless amounts of plastic bottles. I have had my SodaStream for over 3 years and my bottles are still going strong.
- Try drinking water kefir, a great way to quench your thirst and add healthy probiotics to your system at the same time. Note: water kefir needs to be drunk in moderation as too much can overwhelm your system.
- apples - tend to be highly contaminated with pesticides so it is worthwhile to purchase these organic. High in fiber, vitamin C and the flavonol quercetin which is beneficial for heart health, blood sugar stabilization also considered anti-inflamatory.
- bok choy - sometimes referred to as Chinese Cabbage, low in calories and high in vitamins A, C, calcium and fiber. Like most cabbages it is believed to be anti-carcinogenic. There are some concerns about pesticide use with this vegetable and organic purchase is suggested.
- carrots - in addition being an excellent source of vitamin A carrots also provide good levels of fiber, vitamin C, K, and potassium. Highly antioxidant they are considered a good cardiovascular support food.
- cantaloupe - extremely high in vitamins A and C cantaloupes are also a good source of potassium. The high levels of vitamin A make them very supportive for lung health while the high levels of A and C make them a good choice for eye health. Be sure to wash thoroughly before cutting open.
- cucumbers - very high in vitamin K, considered antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Because they are one of the "dirty dozen" purchase these organic whenever possible.
- celery - another great source of vitamin K, high in fiber and studies indicate that it can be helpful in reducing blood pressure. Another "dirty dozen" veggie; choose organic whenever possible.
- cherries - very high in vitamin C and a good source of potassium, cherries come in both tart and sweet varieties. Shown to be effective for helping to reduce blood pressure, it seems cherries may also support collagen health.
- grapefruit - very high in vitamin C with a very high antioxidant level. As with most citrus it also contains limonoids, a phytonutrient which appears to be helpful in reducing tumors.
- peaches - purchase organic due to the high levels of pesticide contamination. Highly antioxidant, a good source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Peaches are believed to help support healthy skin due to their high levels of phytonutrients.
- plums - high in vitamin A, C, K and fiber, also help the body to absorb more iron from iron rich foods. Highly supportive of eye health with studies showing that plums may lower the risk of age related macular degeneration.
- strawberries - another pesticide laden fruit, these are best purchased organic. Very high in vitamin C, also provide manganese and fiber. Not only are they anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, emerging research seems to indicate that daily intake of strawberries may be related to a reduction in inflammatory bowel disease.
- tomatoes - a great source of antioxidants and high in vitamins A, C, K, and potassium. In addition to being cardio-supportive new research appears to indicate that tomatoes may also be beneficial for bone health, especially in post-menopausal women.
- watermelon - very high in vitamin C, also provides a good source of vitamin A, some potassium and magnesium. Watermelon is considered an anti-inflammatory, alkalizing fruit.
- yogurt - in addition to being a good source of calcium, live culture yogurt also provides probiotics, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and protein. As a dairy product it is also one of our few food sources of vitamin D. Organic is the best choice to avoid antibiotics, hormones, and GMO feed. It's also important to get whole milk yogurt as the vitamin D in the yogurt is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning it needs to be eaten with fat for the body to properly utilize it). Choose the plain variety and add fresh fruit if needed for sweetness to avoid the added sugars.
- kefir - a delicious fermented yogurt, kefir is thinner and has a tangy tart flavor to it. With all the benefits of yogurt, kefir adds a little extra probiotic punch as the fermentation increases probiotic activity.
Try to include more of these fabulous and tasty foods into your summer time diet. Not only will they provide nutritional support, they'll also help keep you hydrated.