Our bodies are made up of 50-60% water which we need to transport nutrients, maintain our temperature and blood pressure and remove waste products. So, staying hydrated is equally as important as the food we eat in order for a healthy balanced diet and to maintain our concentration and brain function.
We lose water everyday, naturally through sweat, urine production and even when we breath (as water vapour). To avoid dehydration we need to replace this water with fluid from foods and drinks in our daily diet. Fluid doesn’t just include water but all drinks such as juices, teas, coffees and soft drinks.
The majority of fluids we need each day comes from drinks but about 20% still comes from the foods we eat e.g. soups, juicy fruit or vegetables, meals with sauces.
Roughly 80% of your daily fluid needs are provided by drinks, the remaining is provided by the water found in foods we eat.
Water is often the best choice, however other drinks can contribute to your daily fluid needs.
- Water: a great choice, 0 calories and no sugar (good for teeth!)
- Teas & coffees: these can count, be mindful of caffeine content and choose lower sugar options
- Milks: choose lower fat options without added sugar
- Diluted fruit drinks: dilute with water to reduce the sugar (and calorie) content
- Fruit juices and smoothies: these count but are naturally high in sugar and acid which can damage dental health so enjoy in smaller portions
Aim for around 6-8 glasses a day (1.5-2 litres ) and more if you’re active or work in a hot environment
Tea and coffee can both count towards your daily fluid intake. Although caffeine, found in both tea and coffee, can increase urine production (and therefore increase water loss) moderate amounts do not affect hydration and can be included in a healthy diet. Just remember any added sugars, milks, creams or syrups in teas and coffee add extra calories so remember to add these to your daily intake.
Fizzy drinks, also known as carbonated or soft drinks, can count towards your fluid intake however they tend to contain added sugars as well as added acid both of which increase calorie content and can impact dental health. So, try to choose diet, no added sugar or lower sugar fizzy drink options and remember to clean your teeth regularly to keep your teeth and gums in tip top health. Some fizzy drinks, for example energy drinks, also contain added caffeine, so just remember to check the ingredients list on pack.
Some diet and no added sugar drinks replace all or part of the added sugars with sweeteners. These are a lower calorie alternative to sugars which can help reduce and manage calorie intake whilst still providing a sweet flavour. Sweeteners used in drinks are much sweeter than sugars, syrups or honeys and are therefore usually used in very small quantities (less than a few grams of sweeteners per litre), so even with regular consumption of sweetener containing drinks the amounts of sweeteners contained in the diet is very low. Peer reviewed scientific studies have approved these types of sweeteners as safe to include in the diet and national scientific bodies continually review this and new data to ensure the latest scientific understanding is used.
Some people are more sensitive to the different tastes and flavours of sweeteners, so if you prefer the taste of drinks sweetened with sugars, honeys or syrups, just remember to include these extra calories in your daily diet and try to enjoy them occassionally or in smaller quantities
Milks (cow, goat, sheep etc) not only contain water so are great for topping up fluid intake, but they also contain protein, calcium, iodine and B vitamins. Choosing lower fat versions (such as half fat milk, semi-skimmed milk or 1% milk) reduces the calorie and fat content as well.
Milk's balance of water, milk sugars (lactose), vitamins and minerals make it a great post exercise drink to help refuel and rehydrate your body - it's cheap too!
DID YOU KNOW: Condensed milk tends to contain added sugars as well as full fat (whole) milk so is naturally higher in calories, fat and sugar.
Being regularly active is not only good for the waist line, it can help improve sleep, mood and energy levels. Physical activity also increases the amount of fluids lost (through sweating), increasing your daily needs. The amount of water lost depends on the intensity of the exercise and the environment - if it’s hot and humid, you’ll lose more water.
Firstly, before starting exercise it’s best to start well hydrated and to continue hydrating throughout. But remember, your body doesn’t only lose water during exercise, it also loses salts and electrolytes through sweat which need to be replaced.
Water is a great rehydration option post exercise that has zero calories, no added sugar or acid. However, many sports drinks contain additional electrolytes and salts (such as potassium and sodium) which are naturally lost through sweat, as well as easy to absorb sugars (often as glucose) to replace muscle glycogen stores, which helps to rehydrate and rebalance your body's stores.
Just remember to include the extra calories from sports drinks in your daily intake and regularly clean your teeth to avoid any damage from their higher acid.
Alcohol increases urine production and water loss which can lead to dehydration. It also contains about 7 calories per gram and can stimulate appetite so longer term high intakes can lead to weight gain as well as increased blood pressure, liver complications and weight related health conditions. You can find out more about alcohol here and a simple step is to remember to enjoy alcohol in moderation and keep hydrated.