The human body is nearly 70% water – so it’s no surprise that we need to stay well-hydrated in order to stay healthy. We need water to transport nutrients to cells, and to get rid of waste products. Water also works to control body temperature and to provide lubrication to joints, organs and tissues. And most of the chemical reactions in the body take place in water, too. Water is also the most natural drink on earth – humans, after all, drank water long before they drank tea, or beer or wine.
So even though drinking a glass of water shouldn’t require a second thought, I run into people all the time who have questions and misunderstandings about the world’s oldest beverage.
So here are five things you should know about water:
• Most people need between 8 and 12 cups of fluid a day (about 2-3 liters). Needs vary, of course, depending on your age, your gender and how active you are. But in general, for every 50 pounds of body weight, you need about a quart of water every day (or about a liter for every 25 kg of body weight). For most people, that falls within the often-cited suggestion that we take in at least 8 glasses a day.
• The temperature of your water doesn’t really matter. In terms of hydration, it doesn’t matter if liquids are warm, cool or cold. They’ll all hydrate you equally, although temperature will affect the rate at which you consume them. Some people think that ice cold water will help you lose weight – the idea being that you’ll burn calories bringing the fluid to body temperature. In theory you could, but the amount of calories you’d use up is so tiny, it’s nearly insignificant – and, you’d also have the ‘brain freeze’ to deal with.
• Fruits and veggies can provide 20% or more of your water needs. Watery foods can go a long way towards meeting your fluid needs. If your meals include plenty of fruits and vegetables, and you drink fluids with meals, you’re probably meeting your water needs. There’s nearly 3 cups of water in a meal that includes a salad, some broccoli, brown rice and watermelon for dessert. On the other hand, too many people eat a ‘dry’ diet that’s heavy on processed foods – a meal of a cheeseburger and a bag of chips contains less than a half a cup of fluid.
• Drinking water with meals won’t interfere with digestion. Some people like to drink with meals, others don’t. Drinking fluids with meals is fine – water won’t dilute digestive juices or impair your digestion in any way. It doesn’t really matter when you take in water, as long as you get what you need over the course of the day.
• Bottled water isn’t necessarily cleaner or safer than tap water. The decision to drink tap or bottled water is a personal one. In the U.S., tap water standards are set by the Environmental Protection Agency; water is regularly tested, and consumers receive annual reports on water quality. Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and has to meet the same safety standards as tap water, but doesn’t undergo the same testing and reporting as community tap water. It has been reported that about 25% of bottled water is simply bottled tap water – which may or may not have had additional treatment before bottling. Your local water treatment facility should be able to provide you with water quality information, which can help you decide between bottled and tap.
Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.