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Elements of a Healthy Diet - The Need for Fluids

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Thirst quencher - Get into the habit of drinking water throughout the day: it is the best way of supplying your body with the fluid that it needs, without adding calories. © Provided by DKBooks Thirst quencher - Get into the habit of drinking water throughout the day: it is the best way of supplying your body with the fluid that it needs, without adding calories.

Maintaining fluid levels - When you are exercising or taking part in sports, it is essential to replace fluids lost through perspiration by drinking lots of water.

Photo: Maintaining fluid levels - When you are exercising or taking part in sports, it is essential to replace fluids lost through perspiration by drinking lots of water. © Provided by DKBooks Maintaining fluid levels - When you are exercising or taking part in sports, it is essential to replace fluids lost through perspiration by drinking lots of water.

Thirst quencher - Get into the habit of drinking water throughout the day: it is the best way of supplying your body with the fluid that it needs, without adding calories.

The Need for Fluids

Our bodies need fluids—and water is undoubtedly the best.

About 60 percent of a man’s body and about 50 percent of a woman’s body is made of water. Every cell in your body needs water to function properly, and if you do not drink enough, you may feel tired, develop a headache, suffer from dry eyes and a dry mouth, or find it difficult to concentrate. To stay healthy, you need to drink at least six to eight glasses of water each day. When it is hot, when you are partaking in sports, or on any other occasions when you lose excessive fluid through perspiration, you will need to drink even more water or other water-based fluids.

People who drink plenty of water gain many positive health benefits. Studies have shown that they have fewer kidney stones, are less likely to suffer from constipation, and are at lower risk for developing cancer of the colon or the urinary tract.


Water power

Involved in every function of your body, water controls body temperature; gives you energy; assists in weight control; helps transport nutrients and waste products in and out of cells; helps prevent you from becoming dehydrated after sweating; and is needed for all digestive, absorptive, circulatory, and excretory functions.

Children adapt less efficiently than adults to hot weather and are more vulnerable to heat. They produce more body heat than adults but sweat less and therefore take longer to change their body temperature. In addition, children’s thirst mechanism is not as fully developed as that of adults and they may not express the need to drink and should be encouraged to drink water before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration and heatstroke.


What about soft drinks?

Because soft drinks are composed largely of water, soda, lemonade, fruit juice, and other popular drinks do provide the body with essential fluids. However, they also contain large amounts of sugar, which, if consumed in excess, causes tooth decay and leads to an unhealthy increase in weight. Sweet drinks can also cause a sudden increase in blood sugar levels.

In North America, overweight and obesity in children is increasing and the excessive consumption of soft drinks is a major contributory factor to this problem. According to official figures, North American adolescents drink about twice as much carbonated soda as milk, contributing not only to excessive weight gain in this age group, but also to a poor intake of calcium, which has serious implications for bone health in later life .

Studies also show that children who consume a lot of calorie-laden soft drinks eat less at their regular meals, causing them to miss out on essential nutrients. By substituting healthier drinks, such as low-fat milk or water, in place of soda, for all age groups, nutritional deficiencies and obesity may be prevented.


Caffeine and fluids

Coffee and tea are popular drinks, not least because of the stimulating effect of the caffeine content. While caffeine also acts as a mild diuretic and increases the amounts of fluid that the body loses in urine, this effect will not cause dehydration. For this reason, coffee and tea can count toward your daily intake of fluids. Caffeine is also present in hot chocolate, cocoa, and in carbonated drinks such as cola.

You should also be aware that caffeine can interact with certain medications: it diminishes the effect of some tranquilizers and reacts with some antidepressants. Consult your doctor or dietitian for more advice.


Increase your water intake

Many people believe they get enough water from coffee, tea, fruit juice, and soda, but these do not fully satisfy the need for water. If you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, yet you are not drinking enough water, you will not burn fat efficiently. This is because when the body perceives thirst, its processes slow, just as if you had skipped a meal. Whether you drink bottled, filtered, or tap water, with or without carbonation, any increase is beneficial to your health. Aim for six to eight 8floz (240ml) glasses of water a day.

Food can also supply your body with water, especially fruits and vegetables. For example, watermelon contains more than 90 percent water. On a warm day, eating plenty of salad leaves, tomatoes, and cucumber will boost your water intake.


Tips for drinking more water

Most people do not drink enough water. The recommended amount is six to eight 8floz (240ml) glasses a day. Here are some ways to improve your intake every day:

While you are studying or working at your computer, keep a bottle or large glass of water on your desk and drink from it regularly.

Drink water, sparkling water, or club soda with meals, instead of other carbonated drinks, coffee, or alcohol.

When you go out for the day, pack a large water bottle in your car, briefcase, or backpack. Add some ice cubes to help keep it cool.

Be sure to have a water bottle with you whenever you go to the gym, go out on your bicycle, or take part in sporting activities. Extra water is important when you are exercising.

Buy a bottle of water instead of a can of soda from the vending machine when you are thirsty.


Fruit juice

Often a good source of vitamin C, many fruit juices are fortified with calcium, but that does not mean they should be unlimited, especially for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement regarding “The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics,” but its concerns apply to adults as well.

According to the AAP, drinking too much juice can contribute to overweight and obesity, tooth decay, and digestive problems, such as diarrhea and bloating. Drinking too much juice is filling and will decrease your appetite for other more nutritious foods, including milk. The report recommends:

Juice should be 100 percent fruit juice and not a “fruit drink.”

Infants should not be given juice. Children aged 1–6 years should have no more than 6floz (180ml) per day. Older children (6–12 years) should limit their intake to 12floz (360ml) per day.

Instead of juice, children (and adults) should eat whole fruits for the fiber.

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