During these hot summer days, drinking adequate water is fundamental to health and wellness. Water makes up about 60 percent of our body weight. Every system in our body depends on it. Water carries nutrients to our cells, flushes toxins out of our system, and provides a medium where all chemical reactions occur. Our bodies use whatever fluid we give them from foods and beverages. And they excrete waste products in water lost in perspiration, urine and feces.
On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake mostly from fruits and vegetables. All fluids such as milk, juice, coffee, tea or even soda contribute to fluid intake, but sodas should not be a major portion of our daily intake. Water is the best choice because it is calorie free, inexpensive and readily available.
For a healthy adult living in a temperate climate, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends about 13 cups for men (3 liters) and about 9 cups (2.2 liters) for women in total fluids a day. This recommendation seems high even to me. But remember they are talking 8 oz cups, not a 12 oz coffee mug and this includes all fluids, not just water.
It is also helpful to understand that our fluid needs vary greatly by person and conditions. Many things such as climate, working conditions, how many fruits and vegetables or salty foods we eat, activity levels, perspiration levels all affect fluid needs. A rule of thumb is that if your urine is clear or light yellow, you are well hydrated. If it is dark, you may be dehydrated. Remember that some medications and even multivitamins will affect urine color.
On a hot day when we are playing outside, we may need to drink as much as 2 quarts of water per hour to maintain adequate hydration. Lack of water can lead to dehydration and even mild dehydration can drain our energy and affect our mood.
When we are ill, we often eat less (less fluid from food) and if we have vomiting or diarrhea, we are losing extra fluid. So during illness, we must drink extra water to replace fluid losses. Some health conditions such as heart failure and kidney disease may impair excretion of water and require that you limit your fluid intake. Follow your doctor’s advice on this. Our thirst mechanism becomes less effective as we age. Check on elderly family members to insure adequate fluid intake.
So think of the water you are flushing with. Is it carbonated, caffeinated and sweetened with sugar? Or is it pure, delicious and thirst quenching? Have a happy and healthy summer.
Tim Scallon is a registered dietitian nutritionist and Director of Clinical Nutrition and the HC Polk Education Center at Memorial Health System in Lufkin. The Polk Center provides education on diabetes, heart disease and weight loss and sponsors monthly classes and support groups on healthy lifestyle. In cooperation with Sodexo Food Service and the City of Lufkin, the Polk Center produces the nationally viewed TV series Memorial Cooking Innovations featuring Tim Scallon and the celebrated Chef Manuel Marini. Memorial Cooking Innovations celebrates the joy of fresh food and healthy eating and can be seen
on cable in 46 cities and online at http://www.memorialhealth.org. On the website find healthy recipes, past cooking shows and sound nutrition information. Call 639-7585 for more information.