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6 Tips to Eat and Drink Your Way to a Healthy, Hydrated Body
As I write this, it is 97 degrees outside with a heat index of 109. The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings for the past week with no end in sight. Even by Memphis standards, it’s hot outside.
Like other extreme weather events, excessive heat has caused numerous deaths in the past few years. People who are at greater risk from excessive heat include children, elderly, those already ill, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, diabetics and athletes who train outside.
Lean body mass contains up to 75 percent water while fat only contains between 10 and 40 percent water. Therefore, those who are overweight are also more prone to dehydration.
Since for most of us it’s neither possible nor desirable to stay inside air-conditioned buildings full time, the best defense against the heat is to stay adequately hydrated.
Water not only maintains a safe body temperature during excessive heat or exercise, but it also carries heat away from the internal organs before serious damage can occur, which can lead to heat stroke and even death.
1. Know the signs of dehydration:
Decreased urine output or urine that is darker than normal
Rapid heart rate
Poor skin elasticity
However, thirst is not a reliable indicator of the need for water. Once you are thirsty, you’ve already lost about one percent of your body water and are dehydrated. At just a two percent water loss, extreme fatigue and cardiovascular impairment sets in.
2. Exercise safely
During low to moderate exercise lasting less than an hour, water is all that is normally needed to stay hydrated. For exercise outside in excessive heat or for more than one hour, a sports drink containing electrolytes and carbohydrates could be a useful supplement. But be careful not to over use sports drinks as they are normally high in calories.
Check weather forecasts before planning outdoor activities. Even the military doesn’t require outside physical fitness during black flag, or excessive heat, days.
Although some hot yoga classes have strict rules on water breaks, it’s always best to listen to your own body and hydrate as necessary.
However, staying adequately hydrated is an all day event. What we choose to eat and drink affects the water level in our body throughout the day, even when it’s not excessively hot outside.
3. Be aware of foods that could deplete your water reserves
Some food and drinks actually decrease the amount of water in our body, which in combination with other related factors, could lead to dehydration.
Dehydrating food and drinks include:
Coffee or caffeinated beverages
Energy drinks and soda, which both have the double whammy of high sugar content and caffeine
Soy sauce, due to its high salt content
Salty foods such as pretzels, chips and crackers
Asparagus and parsley—both contain diuretic properties causing a higher urination rate
Alcohol - Alcoholic beverages deplete your cells of water, causing not just a headache but dehydration as well. Alcohol also shouldn’t be consumed the night before or after a vigorous workout or time spent in the heat.
4. Choose fresh, healthy, water-based foods
With smart and intentional choices, nutrition can also heal us and keep us hydrated throughout the day. The fresh bounty available in your garden is full of excellent choices to maintain proper hydration during the summer heat.
Watermelon – water content 91.5 percent. Watermelon isn’t just a great source of water; it actually contains more lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant, than do tomatoes.
Farmers Market Tip: To find the juiciest ripest watermelon, choose a heavy watermelon with a creamy yellow spot on the bottom. Gently thump the bottom of the watermelon. A ripe watermelon will sound hollow. Both under-ripe and over-ripe watermelon will sound dull.
Grapefruit – water content 90 percent.
Avocado – water content of 81 percent. Think beyond salty chips and guacamole. Try fresh sliced avocado on your sandwich or mixed into a smoothie
Cucumber – 96 percent water
Tomatoes – 94 percent water
Farmer’s Market Tip: Always choose tomatoes that have not been kept refrigerated in the store or market. Keeping tomatoes cold breaks down the cell structure causing them to lose texture and flavor. Tomatoes on the top of the pile are less likely to be bruised and more likely fresher. The tomato should feel heavy in your hand, have a tight shiny skin and a uniform red color. Brown or loose leaves on the stem indicate the tomato is old and has been sitting for a period of time.
Berries – Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries are all excellent foods for hydration with a water content between 88 – 91 percent.
Zucchini, radish and celery – 95 percent water each
5. Turn your water into a fun, fruity and fabulous drink
A fun way to combine your summer garden produce with water is with infused waters.
Homemade infused waters are a cheap, healthy alternative to store-bought water. They are super easy to make and a great way to use up any leftover fresh fruit and vegetable left in the refrigerator. Infused waters take time to reach their peak flavor, so I usually let mine sit in the refrigerator overnight.
These are a few of my favorite recipes:
Lemon, cucumber and fresh mint – This is my go-to beverage on workdays. I mix up a big pitcher of it the night before and fill my stainless steel water bottle with it on my way out the door.
Watermelon and basil – This water is best to drink right away. After a few hours I notice the watermelon gets mushy and although it still tastes good, it’s not as aesthetically pleasing.
Cherry and lime – This is my cheaper, healthier version of the sugary drinks my kids always ask for at fast food restaurants. I use fresh cherries that have gotten a little soft, cut in half, mixed with thinly sliced lime.
Citrus and mint – Combine one lemon, two limes and a handful of fresh mint. It’s the perfect refreshing drink for a summer picnic or backyard barbecue.
6. Think beyond the oven for dinner
I know in my house I don’t even want to turn on the oven in the summer time. We do a lot of fish and vegetables on the grill. Salad night is also a family favorite. I’ll make an at-home salad bar that the kids can use make their own salad. This is also a great way to use up any leftovers from the refrigerator!
Other options after a long, hot day have included whole grain cereal with fresh blueberries or even a fruit and yogurt smoothie.
Or, try this chilled cucumber soup from allrecipes.com:
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 1/3 cups plain yogurt
2 cups vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup chopped fresh mint
½ cup chopped fresh dill
Combine first five ingredients together using an immersion blender and blend until smooth. Blend in the mint and dill. Refrigerate about 1 hour.
Whatever part of the country you live in, there are still quite a bit of the hot summer temperatures left to endure. Use these tips and your best air-conditioned space to stay cool and hydrated all summer long.
Want more healthy hydration tips? Special contributor Melina Meza offers summer season Ayurvedic tips here - Staying Cool This Summer.
Jennifer Williams-Fields E-RYT 200 is passionate about writing, yoga, traveling, public speaking and being a fabulous single momma to six super kids. Doing it all at one time, however, is her great struggle. She has been teaching yoga since 2005 and writing since she first picked up a crayon. Although her life is a sort of organized chaos, she loves every minute of the craziness and is grateful for all she’s learned along the way. Her first book "Creating A Joyful Life: The Lessons I Learned From Yoga and My Mom" is now available on Amazon. She has had her essays featured on Yahoo! and Dr. Oz The Good Life. She is a regular writer for Elephant Journal Magazine, Your Tango and YogaUOnline. See more from Jennifer at jenniferwilliamsfields.com