This is the first post in a series I’ve called “Simply Well Nourished.” This weekly post will take you back to basics (think nutrition 101)…to the simple things that you can do to benefit your health and well-being. I will focus on certain foods or drinks, such as staples like bread and milk (which are not all created equal!). I hope to inform you how to make the best possible choices, as doing so greatly impacts on your day to day health. So what better place to start than free and simple water (coming from a naturopath, you had to expect this at some point)?
OK, I’ve touted the benefits of water in ‘How to Nourish’ – but why is water essential for us not only to survive but thrive? How does a lack of water contribute to poor health and vitality? Why is hydration critical to weight management? Do you struggle to ‘drink enough’ and what is enough? Hopefully, this post will inspire you to become more consistently hydrated.
Why do you need water?
We all know that water is essential for us to stay alive, but we often forget how important it is for us to stay well and thrive. Over 60% of our body weight is water. The role it plays in the proper functioning of every system of our body is critical, we simply cannot function efficiently without it.
If I were to list the functions of the human body that are dependent upon water (and the health complaints that improve with proper hydration), I would be posting on this humble fluid for the rest of this year. So instead I will put it simply and say that you require water:
- to digest food,
- for your brain and nervous system to function,
- for your body to be able to eliminate toxins and waste,
- to transport vital nutrients to the cells,
- to lubricate the joints, organs and tissue of the body,
- to control body temperature,
- for immune responses,
- for energy production,
- for hormone balance and reproductive function,
- for your metabolism and weight control,
- to LIVE, LOOK and FEEL great and to be WELL.
I believe that the reason why many people look and feel older than they should is because they are in a state of chronic dehydration. Remember if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. I love my plant analogy – when a plant is not watered regularly it becomes dry (wrinkled), then wilted (tired) and finally begins to die (becomes unwell). Are you tired, wrinkly and unwell?
So you need to work on being hydrated, to make it a HABIT. Don’t delay, your health and well-being depends upon it. Aim to drink around 2 litres of water every day, and more if you are exercising, consuming caffeine (tea, coffee, energy drinks) or alcohol. I always like to monitor how much I consume – it’s the control freak in me! My routine is that I have my daughter fill all of our stainless steel drink bottles every morning (one of her chores). I always carry my bottle with me and sip it throughout the day. I personally find the glass by glass method a little a little hit and miss – I have good and bad days, so the drink bottle method filled with my total daily intake works well for me.
You can take a look at a great range of safe drink bottles here.
You don’t like water?
There are a few acceptable alternatives if you aren’t keen on cloud juice. This includes:
- Herbal teas – there are so many varieties available these days. Have you tried any? I personally love raspberry leaf tea (naturally quite sweet), good old peppermint, ginger, lemon grass, rooibos, or any that are not caffeinated (remember green tea is caffeinated and should be consumed in moderation). It’s a matter of personal taste, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find at least one herbal tea palatable. My kids LOVE herbal teas, obviously cooled down.
- Put a slice of lemon, lime or orange into your water
- I love fresh mint in my water
- Coconut water – is a low calorie, low sodium, high potassium rehydration formula. Studies are rating it on a par with sports drinks (minus the sugar and dangerous additives). I love the taste of it, but many don’t. My tips for loving it include drinking it over ice or using it to make an icy smoothie or shake. I find different brands taste slightly different too, so if you aren’t keen on one, try another. Its popularity has also drawn attention from the big soft drink companies, so beware of flavoured and sugared varieties. Note- whilst a great substitute for water it is not a complete replacement, just a glass here or there is appropriate.
Sports drinks, play water, juice, cordial (even the natural ones) and soft drink provides little more than empty calories and, in my opinion, are not adequate hydration.
Want to avoid frequent toilet stops
Just sip water, don’t guzzle it all at once. Another plant analogy. This time, you have a pot plant. If you pour a whole jug of water onto it at once it overflows, but if you water it slowly, it absorbs the water from the soil and roots. Also, once your body is accustomed to being hydrated, you may even find you go to the bathroom less.
But not with food
You want to make sure you drink enough and are hydrated between meals. Drinking with your meals is not good for your digestion. If you are in the habit of drinking with your meal (and this is just a habit, not a necessity), then take tiny sips and try to slowly wean yourself. If you are properly hydrated, you shouldn’t feel like water with your meals.
Curb your appetite
Many people confuse hunger with dehydration. This is one of the reasons that making sure you are hydrated is critical to weight loss. So next time your heading for a snack, perhaps make a herbal tea or grab a glass of water instead.