Eat Your Water
Our body is made up of about 80% water. Each day we lose a good amount of this water from urination, sweat, and exhalation, so it’s important that we replenish to keep our body running optimally.
For instance, water is essential for keeping all of the delicate tissues in the mouth, eyes and nose moist. Water helps to lubricate our joints, regulate our body temperature, carry nutrients throughout the body, and help flush out waste and toxins.
Ensuring we get enough water each day becomes even more important as we age. While we start out life with our bodies being about 80% water, by the time we’re 50, it is estimated that we are closer to 50% water. This decrease in water is part of why we see older skin lose its plumpness.
So, we know we need to get enough water into our bodies each day… but just how much water do we really need and what is the best way to get it?
For years health experts told us to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about a half-gallon of water a day. But was this the best advice or a bit of an overkill?
The thing is, the foods we eat contain water. In fact, think of all the water that fruits and vegetables offer, and you begin to realize that maybe drinking water isn’t the best way to get it into out diet.
“Drinking water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated every day. About 20 percent of your daily water intake comes from fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content can help you reach your hydration goals and meet your recommended nutrient intake simultaneously – an easy, win-win situation!” – Dr. Oz
Just Passing Through? Why Don’t You Stay A While?
The truth is, drinking water does not necessarily equal hydration. You can drink a half-gallon of water a day, but how much of it is actually getting into your cells and staying there?
Think of it. How many times have you decided to start drinking more water and you wind up running to the bathroom all day because it goes right through you? Water does you no good if you just end up flushing it down the toilet.
And that’s the real difference between drinking and eating your water.
Most of the water we drink passes right through our body. But the water found in food, especially fruits and vegetables, is surrounded by other molecules that help it get into our cells more easily, and ensure it stays in our system for long enough to be put to good use.
And there’s another problem with drinking large quantities of water in an effort to be hydrated: it tends to deplete the body of important vitamins and minerals because they get flushed out of the body too quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, drinking water is good. It’s just not as great as we once thought it was when it comes to truly hydrating our cells.
But by eating water-rich foods, the water stays trapped in the structure of the foods so it can be absorbed much more slowly. In this way, this ‘structured water’ stays in our bodies far longer. This is smart hydration.
Some studies have found that fruits and vegetables can hydrate the body twice as effectively as a glass of water. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that fruits and vegetables were better able to hydrate school-aged children. And we know how much energy these kids have and how much sweating they do by running around all day!
Structured water found in fruits and vegetables contains hydrating salts and minerals. And certain plant chemicals like lutein and zeaxanthin help increase hydration even more. This plant fluid closely mimics the natural fluid found in our bodies and so can easily slip into our cells and get to work.
Best Fruits and Vegetables to Eat for Hydration
Now that you know you should be eating your water instead of drinking it, let’s look at which fruits and veggies offer the best hydration:
Well, I mean, come on, it’s got water right in the name. And it should because each watermelon contains 92% water. But beyond this, watermelons also contain essential salts, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, along with vitamin C, beta carotene and lycopene.
Celery boasts a whopping 96% water and offers sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc, and all in a natural and readily absorbable form.
Like watermelons, bell peppers are actually 92% water and rich in important nutrients like vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta carotene, and folic acid.
Other fruits and vegetables that are high in water and essential nutrients:
- Zucchini and squash
- Portobello mushrooms
- Swiss chard
- Honeydew melon
- Asian pears
- Prickly pears
Remember, the thing that makes the structured water in fruits and vegetables so fantastic is that it mimics our own body fluid composition. Because of this, it can be absorbed easily into our cells, instead of getting flushed almost instantly.
My Position on Fruit and Diabetes
For the young, active, fit, and healthy, it’s fine to eat 3+ servings per day of fruit because you will metabolize the sugar. However, for those with diabetes or blood sugar problems, I recommend limiting fruit to 1-2 servings per day of low glycemic fruit, such as berries, due to the high sugar (fructose) content. Seasonal fruit is best, and when there is no seasonal fruit available (winter), it’s probably best to avoid or minimize fruit consumption.
It’s important to start thinking about hydration in a totally different way. Hydration is not about how much water you drink, because much of that passes right through you. Healthy hydration is about how much water your cells hold and use.
To become healthily hydrated, stop focusing on drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day and start focusing on eating more water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. If you do this you will look and feel healthier.
Montenegro-Bethancourt G, Johner SA, Remer T. Contribution of fruit and vegetable intake to hydration status in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Oct;98(4):1103-12