Welcome to the fourth edition of March’s Ask the Expert, which features Registered Dietitian Kelsey Duncan from the INTEGRIS Weight Loss Center. Each Tuesday in March, Kelsey has answered your nutrition questions submitted via social media in honor of National Nutrition Month.
I really hate water, although I probably manage to drink about 2 cups a day. I drink quite a lot of liquids each day, in the form of coffee and tea, and then about 7 or 8 cups of Crystal Light. How bad is this if I am trying to eat healthy and stay hydrated? If it’s bad, why? How much liquid do I really need to drink each day and does it have to be water?
Water is essential for life. Your body is 60 percent water! Water helps flush out toxins, carry nutrients to your cells and regulate bowel movements. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, which can then lead to serious health problems as well as drain your energy and leave you feeling tired.
The amount of water you need per day depends on your health, how active you are and where you live. The Institute of Medicine determined an adequate intake for men is roughly about 13 cups of total beverages a day. The adequate intake for women is about 9 cups of total beverages a day. Factors that increase water requirements include exercise, environment, illness, and pregnancy and breast feeding. Some conditions such as heart or kidney disease may impair water excretion and require you to limit your intake.
To answer your question, coffee and tea can contribute to your daily water goals. Keep in mind though, the recommended intake of caffeine is 400 mg per day for the average adult. To put that into perspective, a Starbucks grande coffee has 330 mg of caffeine. For this reason I would not recommend having these drinks as the majority of your water source during the day.
Flavored water packets such as Crystal Light help add sweetness to plain water, which may in turn help increase your water consumption. However, I would use these with caution because they are made of artificial sweeteners, chemicals and preservatives. The long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners (such as their role in weight gain or weight loss) are not known. In addition, many doctors believe artificial sweeteners stimulate your appetite.
In general, plain water is the best way to meet your daily fluid requirements. It is hydrating and calorie free and has no additional ingredients the body might not need.
If you are having trouble drinking plain water, try these tips:
- Cut up fresh fruit to put in it. Lemons, limes, oranges and berries can all add flavor to make your water more enticing to drink.
- Add fresh mint leaves or basil with fruit for a fun recipe combination, such as cucumber mint or strawberry basil.
- Keep a fun water bottle with you at all times — seeing it will remind you to drink water.
- Set a timer. This might sound silly but it will help alert you to drink water at various times through the day.
Here is a tasty water recipe perfect for the warm summer weather that is (surely!) coming soon.
1 pint strawberries, sliced
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 lemon, sliced
2 quarts water
Combine strawberries, basil and lemon in a large pitcher. Add 2 quarts water. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
Yields: 8 servings | Serving Size: 8 fl.oz |Calories: 17 | Total Fat: 0 g | Saturated Fat: 0 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Sodium: 7 mg | Carbohydrates: 4.0 g | Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g | Sugars: 2.6 g | Protein: 0.4 g |
Kelsey Duncan, M.S., RD, LD, is a dietitian at the INTEGRIS Weight Loss Center.