When temperatures rise, staying hydrated can be especially challenging. Taking in enough water is one of the smartest things you can do for your day-to-day comfort and overall good health. Our bodies need water to deliver nutrients to our cells, regulate body temperature, prevent infection, lubricate our joints and keep our organs running in tip-top shape. Good hydration also helps with mood, sleep and cognition.
Dehydration is the opposite: the body does not have sufficient water to operate properly. It doesn’t take much dehydration for you to feel the effect. Losing as little as 1.5% of your body’s water can result in symptoms like headache, muscle cramps or a dry or sticky mouth. Some less-common indicators that you may be dehydrated include bad breath (when you don’t produce enough saliva bacteria can overgrow) or food cravings, especially for sweets. Our bodies use water to release glycogen from our energy stores. When you are dehydrated, you also lose salt and potassium, AKA electrolytes, which help your body do all the things: talk, walk, breathe, think and move.
Your body is mostly water. Newborn babies are about 78% water; one-year-olds are about 65%. Adult women are about 55% water; adult men clock in at 60%. Your muscles and kidneys are 79% water, skin is 64% … even our bones are 31% water. Water also serves as a shock absorber for your brain and spinal column.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recommends 11 cups of water per day for women and 16 cups a day for men. If you’re active, you’ll need to add more, about a cup for every 20 minutes of physical activity.
If the thought of guzzling water all day seems like a lot, remember that not all of your water has to be from plain cups of water. Plenty of foods have lots of water in them and eating those counts against your water total for the day. Sugary drinks do not count and should be avoided. These beverages can be harmful to our health and also condition us to expect our food and drink to be overly sweet.
Here are 20 foods, many of which are summer faves, that contain at least 80% water, so go forth and stay hydrated!
Soup. Summer soups, though perhaps less familiar, are just as delicious and filling as their cool-weather cousins, and soup is nearly 100% water. Try a tomato or watermelon gazpacho, a cold cantaloupe-and-yogurt soup or the classic French vichyssoise.
Cucumbers. These babies are more than 96% water! They also contain potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and a little bit of calcium. They contain nutrients called cucurbitacins which may have an anti-diabetic effect, and fisetin, which is an anti-inflammatory substance and may promote brain health.
Apples. Best known perhaps for their wallop of healthy fiber (a large apple can deliver up to 5 grams), apples are also more than 80% water. A portable, sweet-tart crunchy snack, apples are a good source of potassium, vitamins B6 and C and magnesium.
Watermelon. At 92% water, this sweet summer treat is a great source of hydration. Nutritionally watermelon is no slouch, either. It brings a nice dose of vitamins A, B6 and C, plus lycopene and antioxidants to the table. Toss cubed watermelon with a little crumbled feta, olive oil, salt, pepper and shredded basil for a sweet-savory, satisfying salad.
Plain yogurt. One cup of plain yogurt is about 88% water. It’s also a fantastic choice for a dollop of protein, gut-healthy probiotics, calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Top with a handful of berries for some fiber, extra vitamins and even more hydration.
Zucchini. Your beloved zoodles do double duty when the weather heats up. Zucchini is 95% water, and there’s almost no limit to what you can do with it. Slice it raw onto a sandwich, toss it with pasta, or grate it and bake zucchini bread. Zucchini is also a good source of potassium, vitamins A and C, manganese and folate.
Peaches. One medium peach, 88% water, also contains 2 grams of fiber, a gram of protein and 15% of your vitamin C needs, all with just 50 calories. A fresh, sweet peach tastes like summer. Peaches are also wonderful additions to salsas and, grilled, are a fun way to liven up a salad.
Iceberg lettuce. The primary nutritional benefit of iceberg lettuce is its 96% water content. It’s just 10 calories per cup and can be a source of vitamins A and C. Add a cup of shredded iceberg to your other salad greens to up your hydration, or use iceberg leaves as wraps or buns.
Grapefruit. Low in calories, high in nutrients, flavorful and more than 90% water, grapefruits are also rich in fiber. A whole grapefruit brings you 4 grams of dietary fiber, more than 120% of your daily vitamin C plus a little bit of calcium, magnesium and protein.
Potatoes. Waxy varieties pack more water, as much as 80%. Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, provide 70% of your daily vitamin C, nearly five grams of fiber and a host of minerals. Enjoy them baked or roasted with skins on to keep as much of their potassium intact as possible.
Tomatoes. Almost 95% water, tomatoes are the taste of summer for many. Sliced onto sandwiches, sauteed into pasta toppers, blended into a nice, cool gazpacho…tomatoes are as versatile as they are nutritious and delish. They’re a great source of the cancer-fighting carotenoid lycopene, vitamins A and C and potassium.
Cantaloupe. 90% water, plus packed with beta-carotene (an antioxidant that’s great for eyes and skin) and vitamin C, cantaloupe is great on its own, chopped into fruit salads or smoothies, or even blended into chilled soups. It’s got 1.6 grams of dietary fiber per cup and is sweetly satisfying.
Strawberries. Sweet, plump and 92% water, strawberries are wonderful any way you can get your hands on them. A cup of fresh strawberries has just 49 calories, about 150% of your daily vitamin C, 3 grams of fiber, plus iron, vitamin b6, folate and magnesium.
Raspberries. With a water content of 87%, raspberries are little nutritional powerhouses. One cup has juts 65 calories, yet packs 8 grams of dietary fiber, 53% of your daily vitamin C and, 5% of your iron and vitamin B6 and 6% of your magnesium.
Blueberries. A cup of delicious blueberries, 85% water, gives you a nice hit of dietary fiber plus vitamin C, iron, magnesium and even a gram of protein. Blend them into smoothies, sprinkle them on salads or grab a bowl to munch while you watch TV.
Pineapple. At 86% water, pineapple is a great hydrator. It’s also packed with vitamins B and C, magnesium, potassium, manganese and an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain. One fresh pineapple contains about 2.3 grams of dietary fiber per cup.
Celery. This crunchy favorite is 95% water and contains a flavonoid called luteolin which may inhibit cancer cell growth, and apigenin, which can stop breast cancer cells from spreading and multiplying. One serving of celery (2 medium stalks) contains a mere 15 calories and is a good source of vitamin K, folate, potassium, fiber and a micronutrient called molybdenum.
Broccoli. Roasted, steamed, sauteed or raw, broccoli is a hydration champion, clocking in at 91% water. It’s also chock full of phytonutrients (natural, health-enhancing chemicals), antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Versatile and virtuous!
Cauliflower. This versatile vegetable is 92% water and packs an excellent 3.5 grams of fiber per cup. Cauliflower is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamins B6 and C. Rice it, use it to thicken a potato or other creamy soup or drizzle a whole head with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it.
Carrots. High in fiber and 90% water, carrots are good for your eyes due to their richness in beta carotene, which our bodies use to make vitamin A. Vitamin A helps our eyes convert light into a signal sent to the brain, allowing us to see better in dim light. A half-cup of carrots gives you 73% of your daily vitamin A, 9% of your vitamin K, 8% of your potassium and fiber and 2 grams of fiber.