There’s nothing more refreshing than a glass of ice cold water on a hot day, especially after going for a run or being active. Our bodies crave H2O, sometimes whether we realize it or not. Since our bodies are made of about two thirds water, we need to consume enough water for an optimal diet.
How much is enough for a healthy diet?
Although you may have heard that we need to drink 8 cups of water a day, there is no hard and fast answer. The Institute of Medicine actually recommends 13 cups for men and 9 cups for women each day (total beverage intake). Water needs are very indivudal, however, and are dependant on environmental temperature, water and salt content in food, and activity levels. The usual recommendations for 9+ cups of water have to do with eating a diet laden with salt, processed foods, and animal products. The water dilutes and "flushes" out toxins.
If you eat a plant-based diet, most of your water will come from high water content fruits and veggies. If you find that a meal provokes thirst, then you can be sure that it is too concentrated with processed and concentrated foods. For a someone on a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet, the standard recommendations would likely be far too much water.
But the truth is that most Americans don't consume enough water, through plant foods or in liquid form; over 70% of Americans most likely don’t include enough water in their diet, leaving much of our nation in a state of chronic dehydration.
Increase your water intake
Drinking 9+ cups of water can seem intimidating if you aren’t used to drinking much water. Although 9+ cups includes all beverages you consume in your diet, we highly recommend sticking with water and maybe supplementing with green tea or almond milk. Here are seven ways you can increase your water intake:
Eat foods with high-water content. Many fruits and vegetables are water-rich, so add a few extra servings to your diet if you are struggling to drink the recommended amount. Cucumbers, melons, spinach, tomatoes, strawberries, and broccoli are just a few options.
Add some fruit. Infusing your water with fruit is a great way to vary your drink without getting trapped by the typical sugary alternatives. Try adding oranges, strawberries, cucumbers, or lemon to your water! If you choose a citrus fruit, just make sure you remove the skin to avoid bitterness.
Make it part of your routine. Drink a glass of water right when you wake up or before every meal. If you try to create a habit around something you already do every day, you’ll be more likely to follow through!
Always have a water bottle with you. Keeping water with you where you can see it can help remind you to drink more often. If you are busy and don’t have time to get a glass of water when you are thirsty, having a water bottle at your desk or workstation will make it easier to stay hydrated.
Set a goal. It can be hard to go from 0 to 60. If you don’t currently drink much water, try setting a smaller goal -- add 5 or 6 cups of water to your diet instead of aiming for 13. Once you’ve met that goal, bump it up to 7 or 8 cups. By making small, incremental changes, you may find it is easier to stick with the habit.
Track your daily progress. If you use a smartphone, download an app to keep track of how much water you drink each day (it can be easy to lose track!). Another popular option is to buy (or make) a water bottle that has lines on it to remind you how much you should drink by what time.
Adjust for a workout. Hydrate before you work out and have plenty of water on hand for during and after as well. Since you will be losing a lot of water while exercising, you need to ensure you are refueling your body with enough water. Unless you are an endurance athlete, skip the sports drink and stay with good ol’ water.
Use a straw. Because, who doesn’t love drinking out of a straw! When you drink out of a straw, you often don’t realize how much water you are actually drinking. Grab a plastic straw and toss it into your glass or buy a fancy water bottle with a straw built into it.