Water….a critical nutrient that we may not be getting enough of

When we think of good nutrition we often think about food but we don’t often think about water.  In addition to proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, water is one of the six essential nutrients.  The adult human body is approximately sixty percent water and we cannot live without it. Water plays a key role in every body process including regulation of body temperature, joint lubrication, removal of waste products, delivery of oxygen to body tissues and is essential in the formation of saliva which starts the process of digestion (Cross, 2018).  

Water, or lack of adequate water can have a significant impact on our physical and cognitive performance.  Even mild dehydration has been shown to cause reduced endurance, increased fatigue, altered thermoregulatory capability, reduced motivation, and increased perceived effort.  In terms of cognitive effects, dehydration can affect our mood, our ability to concetrate, our level of alertness and our short term memory (Popkin, D’Anci and Rosenberg, 2010).  Research has also shown a correlation between dehydration and obesity and that greater water intake is inversely associated with weight gain (Chang, Ravi, Plegue, Sonneville and Davis, 2016).  Who knew one nutrient could have such a profound effect on our health and well-being?

One question I often get asked is, “How much water should I be drinking?” and there is no one size fits all answer.  Our fluid needs depend on, among other things, our age, body composition and physical activity level. However, generally speaking adults should aim for approximately three liters per day (3.7 for men and 2.7 for women) (Institute of Medicine, 2005).  It is important to note that fluid from beverages (i.e. coffee, tea, juice, soft drinks) and fluid from foods (i.e. fruits and vegetables) do contribute to fluid intake.

So, how do you actually get that much fluid in?  First of all, eat more fresh produce. The USDA recommends that adults consume at least five servings or two and half cups of vegetables and fruits each day.  Meeting the recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption may actually be easier than you think. Get some ideas from the American Cancer Society here .   In addition to fruits and vegetables, increasing your water intake is critical.  Find some quick tips on how to do that from Cooking Light magazine here.  

Many of us go through the day feeling tired and a sense of brain fog.  Perhaps some more water is just what we need to put a spring back in our step and get our minds firing on all cylinders again.