Fluid Assets: Picking Beverages That Quench Your Thirst for Good Health
“Water is the body’s fluid of choice,” said Christina Rollins, a registered dietitian at Memorial Medical Center and spokesperson for the Illinois Dietetic Association. “But other beverages—and foods, too—also can help you meet your daily needs. All beverages supply fluid, though some may come loaded with calories or caffeine.”
How much fluid do you need? An average adult needs about 2 ½ quarts (10 cups) daily to keep the body running smoothly and to replace fluids lost throughout the day. If you lose more water, such as through heavy perspiration, you’ll need even more. You can meet your needs by drinking water and other beverages, and you can also get water from foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Rollins offers these tips for making smart beverage choices to get in the flow of good health:
- Water is easily absorbed, highly accessible and can even help keep your appetite in check. Of course, it’s also calorie-free. If water is not appealing or thirst-quenching for you, try it colder or add a squirt of lemon or lime juice for a boost of flavor. If you’re very active, sports drinks are an option to help your body absorb more water and replace electrolytes, just remember that these drinks also supply calories.
- Coffee and tea also can help you get enough fluids. The caffeine in these drinks has a mild diuretic effect, however, so it can increase the amount of water you lose through urination. This effect is relatively small, but depends on how much caffeine you drink. Drinking coffee or tea won’t cause you to be dehydrated, just don’t rely on these beverages as your primary fluid choices. Of course, decaffeinated coffee and tea or herbal teas contain significantly less caffeine. General guidelines suggest keeping caffeine at about 200-300 milligrams per day, or about two to three cups of coffee. Tea contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Don’t forget that gourmet coffee and tea drinks also can deliver plenty of calories.
- 100-percent fruit juices supply water in addition to vitamins A and C (and some other phytonutrients depending on the juice). Fruit juices may be thirst-quenching, but calories can easily add up. An 8-ounce glass of apple juice, for example, comes with about 110 calories. To get more fluid for your calories, try diluting fruit juice with water. Although 100-percent fruit juice counts as a fruit group choice, guidelines suggest no more than 1 serving (1 cup) of fruit per day from juice. Juice drinks, juice cocktails or juice beverages usually contain only a small amount of fruit juice along with added flavors and sugar.
- Milk delivers calcium and other important nutrients in addition to water. Soy milk is a nutritious non-dairy option, just be sure to look for a product fortified with calcium. The fat and calorie content may vary with different types of milk, but the contributions of nutrients and water are about the same. Flavored milk typically contains about 40 to 60 calories more per 8-ounce cup than an unflavored option. Guidelines suggest getting 3 cups each day from the milk group, which also includes yogurt and cheese.
- Soft drinks may offer fluid (about 90-percent water), but they also supply loads of calories, perhaps caffeine and no nutrients. Soft drinks go down easily for many people, and sometimes at the expense of other more nutritious beverages. For instance, there are many more nutritious ways to “spend” the 400 calories that come with a large, regular soft drink (32 ounces). Diet soft drinks are an option (99-percent water), but again, these drinks supply no nutrients and may deliver more caffeine than you need.
- Alcoholic beverages don’t count toward your fluid intake because alcohol’s diuretic effect makes your body lose water. For many reasons, moderation is advised for drinking alcoholic beverages. This means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Some people, such as those on medications that can interact with alcohol (some diabetes medications), should not drink any alcohol. Although some research suggests that drinking a small amount of alcohol may lower risk for heart disease, it isn’t a reason to start drinking or to drink more frequently.