By Hannah Ng’uni
Hydration is essential for good health; our bodies love it when we are well hydrated because water plays an important role in regulating body temperature, pH balance, lubrication, transportation of nutrients in the body and waste out of the body etc. Approximately half of our body weight is made up of water, some of this is inside the body cells, in between cells and in the blood. It has been said that humans cannot survive more than a few days without water but can withstand several weeks without food.
The water that our body loses throughout the day i.e., via urine, the skin (sweat), faeces and lungs needs to be replaced for the body to maintain water balance. For this reason, it is advisable not to wait until you are thirsty to have a drink but rather drink regularly. Hot weather and intense physical activity lead to increased water losses therefore drink often.
So, what should I drink?
You may be wondering if water is the only fluid that counts towards promoting good hydration or perhaps you are not a fan of drinking plain water. Well, going back to the Eat Well Guide (UK Government guidelines), recommendations for the general public are:
- Aim for 6 – 8 glasses of fluid a day.
- Water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee all count.
- Limit fruit juice and/or smoothies to a total of 150ml a day.
This is because fruit juices/smoothies are a source of ‘free sugars’, a term used to describe any sugar added to food or drink products by the manufacturer, cook or consumer including those naturally found in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juice. In addition, these are also a source of calories and would contribute to total calorie intake. The advice is to limit free sugars in our diet.
Plain water remains the cheapest, calorie free option to quench your thirst and keep you hydrated! If not keen, you could make it more exciting by adding a slice of lemon or lime for example, a small amount of no-added-sugar cordial juice or sparkling water.
If you have any medical conditions, especially kidney or heart conditions please seek advice from your GP before making any drastic changes to your fluid intake.
NHS (2021) Water, drinks and your health. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/water-drinks-nutrition/
British Nutrition Foundation (2022). Hydration. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthy-sustainable-diets/hydration/