Water makes up about 60% of our body, so that even a 5% decrease in this amount significantly reduces muscle strength and endurance, and can cause dizziness and fatigue. Our bodies are finely-tuned machines, and we have physiological mechanisms that make us feel thirsty when our fluid levels are reduced by 1%. Even so, most of us are in a constant state of mild dehydration.
The often-repeated advice to drink 8 glasses of water a day is outdated. A more accurate amount is to divide your weight (in pounds) by half, and this will equal the number of fluid ounces in water you should be drinking per day. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you should be drinking 60 fluid ounces a day, which adds up to roughly 4 water bottles a day. However, our hydration requirements change with our diet, activity level, and environment. So a more accurate indication is your urine – it should be clear to light yellow in color. If it’s dark yellow, it means you are dehydrated. This advice only works if you’re not taking a multivitamin that contains B vitamins or a B complex – this stuff will make your urine fluorescent!
If you’re drinking a lot less than this amount, that’s okay, since we get a lot of water from the foods we eat. In fact, water-rich fruits and vegetables may be an even more effective way of hydrating, since they contain amino acids, minerals, and vitamins.
Fruits highest in water content (88-92%) include watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, and cantaloupe. A surprising member of this group is peaches. These are followed by oranges, pineapple, apricots, plums, and berries (cranberries, raspberries, blueberries), which contain between 85 and 87% water. Apples and pears contain 84%, while cherries and grapes are 81% water. Bananas round out the list at 74% water.
In the vegetable kingdom, it’s probably not a surprise that lettuce and cucumbers top the list, consisting of 96% water. Cucumbers have the highest water content of any solid food. But radishes, zucchini, and celery aren’t far behind at 95%. Tomatoes (94%) and green cabbage (93%) are also top choices. They’re followed by eggplant, red cabbage, peppers, cauliflower, spinach, and broccoli (92%). Carrots come in at 87%, while green peas and white potatoes also make the list (79%).
As you can see, fruits and vegetables are a great way to stay hydrated. There’s nothing like wandering through your garden and munching on freshly picked sugar snap peas or cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes that are still warm from the sun. If you don’t have a green thumb, go to some farmer’s markets – not only are they an entertaining experience, but you’ll find vegetables that you’ve never seen before, or heirloom or exotic varieties that aren’t available at the grocery store.