The human body is made up of about 60 per cent water, with some variability based on age and other factors. In the human body, water helps regulate temperature, protects tissues, transports nutrients and carries out wastes. We can survive without food longer than without water.
The recommendation that we need eight glasses of “plain” water a day to stay hydrated has changed. All beverages and most foods contain water and it all counts toward keeping us hydrated.
We actually can “flood” our bodies with too much water. Although rare, drinking too much water in a short time can result in water intoxication and “hyponatremia” (literally, low sodium level in the blood). The resulting electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalance from water intoxication can lead to disorientation and dizziness. It can progress to seizures, coma and, potentially, death.
According to research, healthy people usually can use thirst to gauge their needs. The fluid intake of athletes, the elderly, young children and people with medical conditions may need to be monitored more closely.
The good news for coffee drinkers: Caffeinated beverages are not dehydrating as was once believed. They count toward our fluid needs, too, although the special coffee drinks may contribute lots of excess calories. Enjoy 100 per cent juice and milk to get your nutrients.
For nutrition and hydration, enjoy more fruits and vegetables. They are about 85 per cent water by weight.
To save some money, drink municipal water rather than bottled water at home and restaurants. In times of disaster however, municipal water and water from private wells can become contaminated with sewage, chemicals and other substances. If that ever is the case, listen to local authorities to find out if the tap water is safe and have your well water tested.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State
University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.