On the Table

Stay hydrated in hot weather

June 26, 2012 

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MELONS2.FD.070798.RWW - Watermelon. STAFF/WINSTEAD

NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO — newsobserver.com

What’s your hydration strategy this summer?

High temperatures and humidity can stress your body and increase your risk of heat-related sickness, including cramping, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Staying well hydrated is one important way of protecting yourself.

Most people meet their hydration needs from a combination of beverages and foods. When it’s hot outside or you are very physically active, you generally need more fluid than usual.

You can usually let thirst be your guide. The National Academy of Sciences in 2004 reported that women who are well hydrated take in about 11 cups of water each day from all sources. Men get about 16 cups.

No counting required.

In addition to plain water, other sources of fluid include coffee, tea, soft drinks, fruit juice, milk, smoothies – any drinkables.

The diuretic effect of caffeine-containing drinks is more than offset by the amount of water those drinks include.

Soup, frozen fruit juice bars, sorbet and ice cream are also mostly water.

You probably don’t think of many other solid foods as being rich sources of water, but they are. Good examples include fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini squash and lettuce.

It’s no wonder that during the hottest months of the year, moisture-rich foods like salads, cold soups and tomato sandwiches sound the most appealing. And since those foods are high in water content, they also tend to be relatively light – lower in calories and easy to digest.

In fact, one potential pitfall of pushing fluids during the summer is the number of calories you can consume from sweet tea, fruit juice, lemonade and regular soft drinks. Research has demonstrated that calories from foods that you drink instead of chew don’t seem to “register” with your brain as having been consumed.

In other words, if you take in 500 calories in beverages, you’re not likely to cut back on that number of calories from solid foods. That can wreck your weight-control efforts and is why it’s especially important to make most of your beverage choices calorie-free.

Be smart and stay hydrated this summer.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net and follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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