By Victoria Beechum
Summertime is the season of sipping cool drinks. When the mercury rises, nothing beats a thirst-quenching, icy cold beverage. But when temperatures start to drop again, and we don’t have our thirst to constantly remind us, it can be easy to forget the importance of proper fluid intake.
Water is essential to life
Our bodies are made up of 55 to 70 per cent water, although that percentage changes over our lifespan. Water in the body serves many functions. It controls our temperature, carries nutrients and other compounds through the blood, removes waste products, and cushions our joints.
“Getting enough daily fluid intake over a lifetime can add up to long-term health benefits,” explains Amy Campbell, a dietitian at Deer Lodge Centre. “Staying hydrated can help prevent urinary tract infections, constipation, and kidney stones.”
The dangers of dehydration
One of the first signs of dehydration is a dry mouth—but experts say that once you feel thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated. Another easy way to check your hydration is to observe the colour of your urine. If it’s a pale straw colour, you’re well hydrated. If it’s darker yellow or amber, you could be dehydrated.
Other symptoms of dehydration include headache, dizziness or lightheadedness, as well as decreased urination.
Dehydration can have serious consequences, warns Campbell. Dizziness, lightheadedness and poor concentration “all increase the risk of falls—a particular danger for seniors.”
Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable because their sense of thirst is blunted. Popsicles are a great way to entice little ones to get their daily fluid intake. If you make them yourself, you get to control the ingredients. If you’re an older adult, it’s time to start thinking about creating a hydration routine when you can no longer rely on your sense of thirst.
How much should I drink?
In Canada, the recommended daily fluid intake is 3.7 litres per day for men, and 2.7 litres per day for women. Under normal conditions, taking in less fluid than this can still be compatible with good health, but not when you’re exerting yourself, in warm or dry conditions, or sick.
The best way to know if you’re drinking enough fluid is to watch for signs of dehydration and listen to your body.
What counts as hydration?
“You can meet your fluid needs with beverages other than just plain water,” says Campbell. “Fluids from soups, stews, fruits and vegetables can account for 20 to 30 per cent of daily fluid intake. Fizzy drinks can count, too, but may also contribute unwanted sugar, so reach for low-sodium club soda instead of cola.”
Good news: coffee does count toward your daily fluids intake! Bad news: alcoholic beverages, in any form, do not. Studies show that coffee and tea do not act as diuretics (substances that makes you pee and can contribute to dehydration). Alcohol is definitely a diuretic.
The best way to stay hydrated is to choose beverages you enjoy. If you find water boring, check out our tips for livening it up in the caption above. And remember, you can get nearly a third of your daily fluid intake from favourite fruits and vegetables. Make it a habit to eat a handful of grapes or a slice of watermelon. Keep carrot and bell pepper sticks around. Add salad to your meals. Or try one of our beverage recipes below.
Water, so crucial for good health, doesn’t have to be boring! Add slices of lemon, lime, oranges, pineapple, strawberry. Or make it bubbly: try club soda with fresh squeezed lemon or lime, a splash of cranberry, orange juice, or fresh mint.
Recipe: Homemade Chai Tea
By Amy Campbell
- 1½ cups water
- ½ cup milk
- Sugar to taste
- 4 tsp loose black tea or 2 tea bags
Add the following according to preference:
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 4-6 whole black peppercorns
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4-6 slices fresh ginger
Heat water and milk. Add all desired spices before liquid comes to boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add loose tea or tea bags. Turn off heat and let tea steep for 2 minutes. Pour into cups through strainer. Add sugar to taste and serve. Makes 2 cups. Recipe can be adapted to any quantity.
Recipe: Homemade Iced Tea
By Rachel Ray
- 12 bags black tea (or preferred herbal tea)
- Up to 1¾ cups sugar (but tastes great naked!)
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- Mint sprigs (optional)
In large pot, bring 2 quarts water to boil. Add tea bags, cover and steep for 15 minutes, then discard tea bags. Add sugar and lemon slices, stir until the sugar dissolves. Transfer tea to one-gallon pitcher. Stir in 7 cups cold water (and sprigs of mint, if using). Refrigerate until chilled; serve over ice. Makes 8 servings.