Staying hydrated and drinking healthy drinks is important for maintaining a balanced diet and for your health in general. The NHS recommends drinking six to eight glasses of fluid a day, with water being the healthiest, cheapest and most effective option.
Why is it good for us?
Our bodies need water to survive. Every cell, tissue and organ needs water to function correctly as it helps us maintain our temperature, lubricate our joints and remove waste. Water also makes up over half our body weight and losing too much water can lead to dehydration, which can cause serious health problems.
Water is also the healthiest fluid that we can drink, as it contains no calories or sugars that can cause tooth decay or contribute to serious weight gain.
Can we drink too much?
In uncommon cases, drinking an extreme amount of fluid in a short space of time can be dangerous. This is due to the excess water that your body cannot process causing the sodium (salt) levels in the blood to become diluted and dropping too low. Known as hyponatremia, the condition can have serious consequences, but it is very rare and highly unlikely to develop.
If you’re active and/or the weather is very hot your body will lose a significant amount of water leaving you at risk of becoming dehydrated. To prevent this the NHS recommends increasing your fluid intake and making sure that you are drinking regularly. As people sweat at different rates it is difficult to make specific guidelines for avoiding dehydration, so the NHs mainly advises being guided by your thirst and by drinking more in warm or active conditions.
Tips for drinking more water
If you don’t like the taste of plain water, one way to offset this could be to swap to sparkling water, or to flavour it with a slice of lemon or lime. Other options include adding some no-added-sugar squash or a fruit tea bag.
Drinking plain tea, coffee (without added sugar) and fruit tea can is generally considered fine, although you should note that drinking too much caffeine can be bad for your health. Caffeinated drinks also cause the body to produce urine more quickly which should be kept in mind for anyone who experiences urinary continence problems.
Drinking low fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk is another good way of staying hydrated if you don’t like water. Milk contains calcium and other minerals, vitamins and proteins that aid strong bones and doesn’t cause tooth damage. Drinking milk is especially recommended by the NHS for young children, although avoiding milk based drinks with added sugar is also advised.
Fizzy drinks, flavoured drinks and fruit juices can contain a lot of added sugar and few nutrients, so these are not an ideal substitute for water. Cutting down on drinks high in sugar is important for avoiding weight gain and maintaining a healthy balanced diet.
If you think you don’t drink enough water, there are several easy ways that you can include more into your everyday routine. Making sure that you have a glass or pitcher of water on the table with every meal is a great way to ensure that you drink water with your food. Carrying a refillable bottle of water with you during the day may also help you remember to stay regularly hydrated. Likewise, drinking a glass of water before bed will keep you hydrated as you sleep.