Paramedic Natalie Jensen checks two cooled IV solutions kept in a cooler inside a Wilson County EMS ambulance June 16, 2015. Paramedics say staying hydrated is one of the most important things people can do to avoid heat-related illnesses. Times File Photo
By Cassidy Hobbs
Summer is here, and that means our wonderful North Carolina weather is hot and humid! With heat and humidity in mind, it is important to stay hydrated.
Humans can survive for about one month without food, but survival is only possible for a few days without water. The average adult is composed of about 60 percent water, and the adult brain is composed of 70 percent water. Additionally, 92 percent of blood plasma is made up of water, which contributes to 55 percent of blood volume being water.
Water not only contributes to the composition of the body, but water functions within the body as well. Water is responsible for moistening the eyes, mouth and nasal tissues, regulating body temperature, lubricating joints and lessening the burden on the liver and kidneys as the body flushes out toxins. Water also dissolves minerals for our bodies to use appropriately, carries nutrients and oxygen to various cells, and aids in digestion.
Water is lost through breathing, sweating and urination. According to the Institutes of Medicine, adult men need to drink about 13 cups of water each day, and women should drink about nine cups per day. If you are very active, outside working, or enjoying a day in the sun, you need to drink more water and remain conscious of staying hydrated.
The very first sign of dehydration is often forgotten. Thirst is your brain’s way of notifying you to drink more water. If you feel thirsty, you are already becoming dehydrated. Be sure to drink water throughout the day before you begin to feel thirsty to ensure that you are staying hydrated.
Decreased urine output is an additional signal of dehydration. The color of your urine will indicate if you are dehydrated. Shoot for almost clear to light yellow coloration of urine. Urine coloration darker than light yellow indicates dehydration. Headaches and dizziness may also indicate dehydration. When the body is dehydrated, blood does not have as much water composition, thus thickening the blood and causing a rise in blood pressure. Headaches can be caused by increased blood pressure levels.
WHAT TO DRINK
So, you’ve decided that staying hydrated is something you should take note of, and you’re going to start drinking more fluids. Not so fast. Before you choose your drink, take note of these next few things.
Caffeinated and sugary beverages can be refreshing, but don’t let those drinks be your source of hydration. While caffeinated drinks and teas provide some water to help rehydrate, the caffeine operates as a diuretic. Diuretics cause more frequent urination, thus expelling much of the water which was just ingested.
Don’t think that caffeine-free means you are good to go! Consider the effects of sugar. Sugary drinks provide us with the water our bodies need, but the high sugar content in these drinks makes us crave even more water so that our bodies can dilute the excess sugar it has taken in. Sugary drinks increase the risk for diabetes and can cause weight gain. Added sugar is a high-calorie, flavor-enhancer with no nutritional benefit. With added sugar in mind, be sure to read the ingredients list on the back of the container. Often times, even drinks you think are healthy have large amounts of added sugar. The most popular example is Gatorade.
If you are looking for juices, be sure you choose juices that are 100 percent juice and no added sugars. Beware of tricks that food companies use to make you think that you’re choosing a healthy option. If you want to stay hydrated while reducing your sugar intake, try fruit-infused water.
Get creative! Lemons are not the only fruit worthy of adding to your glass of water. Try slicing up strawberries and kiwis to add to your water or sliced grapes and chunks of melon. You can incorporate things like mint and lavender into your water’s flavor pool as well. Test a variety of combinations and see what you like. This is a great way to get kids on board with drinking more water, and it allows them to experience independence as they choose what they want in their water.
Staying hydrated doesn’t just mean drinking tons of water. You can eat your way into staying hydrated. Many fruits and vegetables have high-water contents. This means that they are mostly made up of water, offering hydration without lots of calories. A few fruits with high water content are watermelons, citrus fruits, grapes, apples, papayas, strawberries, apricots and cherries. Vegetables with a high water-content include carrots, bell peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.
Cassidy Hobbs is family and consumer science agent for the N.C. Cooperative Extension offices in Wilson and Johnston counties. Contact her at email@example.com or 252-237-0111.