Eat Your Water:
Foods That Help Keep You Hydrated
We all know we ought to drink more water than we do. I’m especially guilty here. I’ve always found it incredibly difficult to gulp down the amount of H20 I should be getting each day. It’s just… really boring!
Whenever I check up on the guidelines for how much water I should be drinking a day (it’s around 3 liters for men and 2.2 liters for women) I’m shocked both by just how short I’m falling and wondering how on earth I’m supposed to get that much in each day.
Water is a critical nutrient for every single function our body performs, which is why we wouldn’t last long without it, even for just a few days. Our bodies are generally pretty good at telling us when we need water. That’s what the feeling of thirst is, which is regulated closely between our brain and our vital organs. But some of us feel thirst more than others. Studies have shown that older people can lose their sense of thirst, which can be a very dangerous thing.
The Benefits of Eating Your Water
While some of us have trouble feeling thirsty, others just really don’t like drinking water, or seem to be too busy to remember to get enough of it. Those of us who lose more through particularly physical work and exercise need to be even more conscious of replenishing this constantly depleted nutrient. One of the best solutions? Eating your water.
Eating your water has a number of benefits over just drinking it straight from a glass or bottle.
One of the big benefits for those looking to curb their rampant appetites or lose some weight is that eating your water can help you feel fuller for longer without needing to consume as much food. It also makes getting enough water during the day much easier for those who don’t like drinking it by the bucketload. On the flip side, the ultra-thirsty aquaholics among us can satiate themselves through water-rich foods.
Eating your water actually leads to better absorption when it’s accompanied by fiber and salt in the food you eat. These elements help your body retain more of the water you consume, so eating your water can actually be a better way to stay hydrated. This is particularly true for athletes, who lose not just water but key nutrients like sugars and salts through exercise. Finally, eating your water can also help cut down on those ubiquitous plastic bottles, which harm our environment.
Water-Rich Foods to Help You Stay Hydrated
So which foods should we eat to help us stay hydrated throughout the day? Luckily, there’s a very long list of fruits and vegetables that are almost entirely water. Even the humble potato is made up of a staggering 79% water, slightly more than a banana (74%).
The watermelon is, of course, what you might think of first as the food with the most water, and at 92% it’s top of the list of fruits (alongside strawberries) that pack the biggest H20 punch. However, that still puts it behind a whole host of vegetables for water content:
- Cucumber – 96%
- Lettuce – 96%
- Zucchini – 95%
- Radish – 95%
- Celery – 95%
- Tomato – 94%
- Green Cabbage – 93%
- Cauliflower – 93%
- Eggplant – 93%
- Peppers – 93%
- Spinach – 93%
When choosing fruit and veg to supplement your water intake, make sure you’re buying in season. Often, the plumpest, ripest, and most water-rich produce is grown locally, and it will have more flavor than produce that’s traveled halfway across the world to reach your grocery store. Check out farmers markets in your area for the best flavor and quality.
One of my favorite thirst-quenching dishes to make in the summer is a nice watermelon salad with cubes of watermelon (92% water) on a bed of spinach (93% water), sprinkled with some crumbled goat cheese or feta and a splash of a homemade olive oil and balsamic dressing. I finish it off with a bit of freshly ground black pepper. It’s easy and quick to prepare and it makes a great dish for entertaining with its bright reds and greens. You can even add some toasted nuts like walnuts or pecans to take it up a level.
If you’re used to snacking on those dry mid-morning work meeting muffins, try bringing your own snacks that contain more water. Pack some cucumber and celery sticks with your favorite dip to have throughout the day instead. The same goes for packing your kids’ school lunches and snacks. Help them get the hydration they need through food as well as drinks. (Side tip: dilute fruit juices 50% with water to both increase water intake and reduce sugar intake.)
Smoothies are another great way to combine several fruit and vegetables, especially to get the right balance of sugars, salts, and other nutrients back after a workout. Try blending different things with a banana, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and a splash of water to find your favorite combinations. The banana adds a good amount of flavor and sweetness to make some of the more bitter green veg more palatable in smoothie form, and the Greek yogurt is a great way to get a hit of protein to rebuild muscles after exercise.
It's All About Variety
The key to staying properly hydrated throughout the day is to build hydration into a routine you won’t get bored with. Drinking gallons of water can get pretty dull pretty fast, and sometimes you just have a hankering for solid foods rather than liquids. Vary your fruit and veg intake and you’ll never get bored of consuming water in different ways.
Of course, it’s still important to drink straight water throughout the day, but if you’re actively consuming water-rich foods at the same time, there’s no need to force yourself to guzzle more than you feel comfortable with. Now that I’m aware of the water content of certain foods, I feel much more equipped to meet my daily H20 quota.