Keeping Hydrated in Summer is Easier Than You Think

Pools of clear water seem to call to us when temperatures rise. It’s hard to resist the impulse — the need — to dive in and cool off. In some ways, that’s what is happening inside your body, as well.

All of the body’s systems require water to function properly. You need it to regulate your temperature, keep your joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, even to keep your heart beating.

While severe dehydration is something to guard against, most people never reach that point. Mild dehydration, however, is very common. In the short term, it can cause everything from headaches and lack of energy to sleep issues, balance problems, moodiness, trouble concentrating, and yes, constipation. In the long term, it can contribute to kidney stones and other problems.

“In summer, there is a higher risk of dehydration because of higher temperatures,” says urologist Raymond Leveillee, M.D., director of Bethesda Hospital East’s Center for Advanced Robotics and Urologic Care. But don’t assume it’s an issue only for those who spend time outdoors in the heat. “You lose fluids even in air conditioning. You lose water each day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, even when you breathe.”

When it comes to replenishing those fluids, it’s best to avoid juices, sodas and sports drinks because of their high sugar content. But you don’t have to limit yourself to plain water, either. You can get a lot of fluids from the food you eat, especially fresh vegetables and fruit.

Thi Squire, manager of Grow2Heal organic garden at Homestead Hospital.

“People assume that in order to stay hydrated they have to drink a beverage, but there are plenty of other sources of hydration,” says Thi Squire (pictured above), manager of the highly successful Grow2Heal organic garden at Homestead Hospital. “People may not think, ‘Oh, I’m thirsty — how about a nice, juicy tangerine or a slice of watermelon?’ ”

If you eat a balanced diet that includes fresh produce, you are giving your body what it needs, according to Ms. Squire. “Hydration is another bonus of eating your fruits and vegetables,” she says. “While they help hydrate you, you are also getting all the good vitamins and minerals and fiber that promote health. It’s a win-win.”

Some options for hydrating foods include:

Tomatoes: Insteadof grapes, try some grape tomatoes. Lower in sugar, they are packed withcancer-fighting phytochemicals and high in vitamin C. Plus, their water contentis about 93 percent — higher even than watermelon. Try a tomato the way youwould an apple, or go the more traditional route — sliced in your salad andsandwiches.

Cucumbers: Fewfoods are as cool as the cucumber — refreshing, filling and nutritious. About95 percent water, cucumbers are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, potassiumand vitamin K. And in case you are wondering, the peel and seeds are the mostnutrient-dense parts.

Celery: Celerycan help satisfy your craving for crunch. At 95 percent water, it’s a goodsource of fiber, vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium and folate. Enjoy the stalksplain, dipped in salsa or stuffed with tuna or peanut butter. You can also chopthe leaves up to use in salads, soups and stews.

Cauliflower:Cauliflower is actually 92 percentwater by weight. It’s rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and other key essentials.Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain lots offiber, as well as nutrients that may help lower cholesterol and lower cancer risk. Use them raw for dipping instead of fat-filled andsalt-laden chips or crackers.

Strawberries: They’re sweet enough for dessert and made up of 91 percent water. Plus, one cup has more vitamin C than an orange. Rich in antioxidants, strawberries offer benefits for heart health. In fact, all berries bring a lot to the table, so don’t discriminate. Enjoy them all.

Cantaloupe: A staple in many fruit salads, this humble melon makes agreat snack all on its own. Low in calories and about 90 percent water, it ishigh in beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, folate and fiber. High in potassium,it makes a great post-workout treat.

Watermelon: True to its name, watermelon is more than 90 percent water. Each juicy bite contains vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as antioxidants, amino acids and lots of lycopene, which is known to support cardiac health. There’s nothing that evokes the feel of summer quite like biting into a cold, sloppy slice of watermelon. The burst of juice, sweetness and even seeds combine to transport you to a simpler time.

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