Turn up the hydration in summertime

Published 4:53 pm Friday, July 12, 2019

How exhilarating it is to see the change of seasons! Most exciting of all seasons is summer. During summertime, we often bask in the sun, spend free time with family and friends at the beach, parks and cookouts in the backyard. While enjoying these days is essential, we must be aware that the accompanied heat and humidity create a unique challenge to staying hydrated.

Since water makes up approximately 60% of our total body weight, hydration is vital for good health and to minimize the risks of dehydration. Generally, it is recommended to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but each person is unique and their water requirements vary. Our bodies require adequate water to carry out our normal functions, from how easily we move around to the health of our very cells, tissues and organs. Keeping our bodies properly hydrated allows us to maintain a normal body temperature, facilitate waste removal, protect sensitive tissues and lubricate and cushion the joints.

Let us explore some of the nutritious ways we can “turn up” the hydration this summer through hydrating foods and beverages. While fruits and vegetables help to keep you hydrated, they are good sources of dietary fiber and beneficial for your digestive health. Also, consuming more fruits and vegetables daily promotes weight loss, a healthy heart and provides additional vitamins and minerals that the body loses during the heat of summer.

Considering the benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables daily, this summer try eating more vegetables that have a high water content.

Cucumber, has the highest water content of any solid foods and is made up of 96.7% water. Try different ways to include cucumber in your meals and snacks. For instance, slice cucumber and have it as a snack by itself or with humus, add it to a salad or have it as a side dish, or try making cucumber bites for appetizers and garnish with dill. Iceberg lettuce has a 95.6% water content. Try iceberg lettuce as a wrap instead of tortillas for tacos, or use it with hamburgers instead of hamburger buns. Celery has a 95.4% water content and is a great source of folate and vitamins A, C, and K. Try celery sticks as a snack with hummus or add it to salads. Tomatoes have a high water content of 94.5% and are rich in lycopene, one of the most powerful antioxidants that helps to prevent cancer. Include tomatoes in your salads and sandwiches. Other vegetables that have a high water content greater than 90% and will help to keep you hydrated include: cauliflower, bell peppers, spinach, radishes, baby carrots and broccoli.

Choose to increase intake of fruits with a high water content to maintain hydration. It is no surprise that North Carolina hosts numerous watermelon festivals during the summer months. Not only is watermelon a delicious fruit, but with a high water content of 91.5%, it is a great thirst quencher. Also, this juicy fruit has one of the richest sources of lycopene: “Watermelon contains more lycopene than raw tomatoes, approximately 12 milligrams per wedge, versus 3 milligrams per medium-sized tomato” (health.com). Try eating watermelon as a snack, add as a side to a meal, add to salads or try grilled watermelon garnished with basil. Also, incorporate other melons into your meals, such as cantaloupe and honey dew — they have a high water content and are great dessert choices. Likewise, all berries have high water content and are nutritious, hydrating foods rich in antioxidants. Grapefruit and starfruit are also hydrating.

Lastly, find alternate ways to flavor water and limit intake of sweetened beverages. Consuming sweetened beverages such as sodas, teas, juices and coffee provide high calories and have a low nutritional value. Additionally, drinks with added sugars increase the risk for weight gain, obesity and other health risks. Instead, try quenching thirst with more nutrition-rich alternatives such as fruit- or vegetable-infused waters. Infusing water makes it more enjoyable to drink and takes the challenge out of staying hydrated. It is appealing to the eyes and taste buds. Other benefits of infused water include natural detoxification and they promote weight loss.

Start by washing, cutting or slicing fruits, then adding them to a pitcher or bottle of water. Allow the water with fruits to sit for 1 hour or more to allow flavors to infuse. Explore different infused-water recipes and have fun making water infusions you’ll enjoy. Some great combinations to help you get started include: strawberry/cucumber and mint, cucumber, lemon and lime.

Remember, choosing hydrating foods and beverages will help to keep you hydrated and allow you and your family to enjoy the summer safely.

Michelle Smith-Hawley, RDN, LDN, is a clinical nutrition manager at Vidant Beaufort Hospital.