Everyone knows we should routinely drink around 1.2 litres of water every day – and we know to keep a bottle of water at hand and sip away during work, rest and play. So far, nothing new. Yet, still, many people don’t swallow quite enough. And that brings us to a somewhat left-field approach to upping or, more accurately, optimising our fluid intake … with watery food.
First, a splash of basic biology to set the scene: we lose around 2.5 litres of water a day – that loss is of course increased by factors such as air conditioning, being in a hot car, hot weather and level of activity. In general, we replenish around 1 litre -from water derived from the food we eat, and our body cell chemistry produces some 250 – 500 ml/day; the rest we need to drink to make up the deficit.
We tend, however, to underestimate the role different food-types play in maintaining adequate hydration; yet it has been mooted that eating mainly low-water-content foods may be a commonly under-recognised cause of chronic dehydration.
The trick to remaining healthily hydrated, therefore, is to top up not only by drinking water but, also, to avoid or cut back on low-water foods while maximising intake of the ‘wettest’ and, unsurprisingly, the most natural whole foods come top of the to-eat list.
Know your hydrators from your dehydrators
Increasing your watery food intake is easy because it’s much as you would expect: raw fruits including strawberries and cantaloupe plus vegetables such as broccoli, celery and peppers contain more than 90% water. So, vegetable soups and salads (lettuce 96%) are a great way to top up as are low-fat milk and tofu.
The 65 – 80% water category includes starchy fruit and vegetables, rice, potatoes, beans, baked fish, roast chicken and turkey. Rare beef is here, too, but medium-cooked beef drops into the 50 – 65% slot, alongside pork, fried fish and fried chicken.
Moving on down, fried chips, hamburgers, white bread, butter and cheddar cheese contain only 30 – 60% water, while cakes, jams and dried fruits lie dryly around the 15 – 30% mark. And drier, still, are crisps, chocolate, nuts and peanut butter – considered actively dehydrating with less than 15% water; driest of all are white sugar, salt and oil – less than 1%, don’t go there.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan