The number one all time absolute best tip for anyone trying to improve their health is…drink water.
About a month ago I happened to overhear a conversation at the YMCA where a woman half heartedly lamented to a trainer that she had been working out for a year but only shed a pound and a half. This statement caught my attention big time and all sorts of things rolled through my mind. The trainer took the comment in stride and began quizzing the member on a few basic habits. I don’t remember the exact exchange so I’ll paraphrase:
Trainer: “Are you drinking enough water?
Member: “Oh no I don’t drink very much water.”
Trainer: “You might consider increasing the amount of water you are drinking. It helps your body to flush out all the bad stuff.”
Member: “Well I’m not too worried because I don’t abuse my liver…”
I think my mouth fell open a bit when I heard that last bit. “I don’t abuse my liver.” I started thinking about all the things that go into my body that my organs have to sift out and expel because they are of no use or potentially harmfull to my health. Air pollution, pesticides on food, chemical additives, alcohol and caffeine, and many more things go through our bodies on a near daily basis whether we knowingly ingest them or not.
I try to stay well hydrated and have gotten pretty sensitive to the need to drink water throughout the day. Our family stash of water bottles is pretty impressive and we make sure to keep at least one per person full and handy both around the house and when we are out and about. Drinking water helps me feel better physically and I know it helps me to function better. Staying hydrated helps my body eliminate waste more efficiently, keeps my skin in better condition, gives me more energy, helps me better identify the difference between hunger and thirst, and reduces some cravings. It just makes sense to me to drink plenty of water.
I have heard many people say they just can’t bring themselves to choose water. It is too plain or boring or they are addicted to diet soda and just don’t drink anything else. I would like to be sensitive and not make a wise crack about asking people who have to hike for clean water if it is plain and boring (whoops!). I’ll offer instead an article to start. Water: How much should you drink everyday? by Mayo Clinic Staff on the Mayo Clinic website. I thought this was a pretty good basic look at why staying hydrated is good for our bodies and makes some recommendations about what we really ought to be drinking on a daily basis.
One of my favorite notes from the article; “Although it’s a great idea to keep water within reach at all times, you don’t need to rely only on what you drink to meet your fluid needs. What you eat also provides a significant portion of your fluid needs. On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and tomatoes, are 90 percent or more water by weight.” Notice when the authors say “food” they are talking specifically about fruits and vegetables.
Pretty much all fluids are going to contribute to increasing hydration but I would encourage people to consider making it a goal to reach for water most often.
And it doesn’t have to be plain and boring…
- Make a pitcher of water that has slices of favorite fruits or vegetables (washed) floating in it. Things like cucumber, citrus, mint leaves, or summer berries all make great subtle flavorings. Punch it up even more by using carbonated water, like seltzer, instead of plain water.
- Look for zero calorie powdered mixes to add to a pitcher of water. Crystal Lite or other similar products taste more like juice. Different brands use different artificial or natural sweeteners so check the labels if you are concerned.
- In addition to plain carbonated water there are various brands of flavored seltzers on the market. Again make sure the label shows zero calories. In citrus or berry flavors these can be a great alternative to diet soda.
Don’t get me wrong. On any given day I might drink a cup of more of coffee, a latte, a diet soda, or a number of other non water beverages but water is always my primary source of hydration.