H2O Remixed: Staying Hydrated During the Winter
Americans now consume an average of 58 gallons of water a year compared to 44 gallons of soda, according Beverage Digest. This is thanks in part to the efforts of health heavyweights like First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been encouraging people across the country to “drink more water,” and politicians like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who quickly became the face of the controversial soda ban debate. While water is steadily making its comeback, some people might still find the widely recommended consumption of eight to ten glasses per day somewhat daunting, if not unrealistic.
Unless we are working out at the gym or playing a sport, we tend to neglect the idea of consuming more water, especially when outside temperatures begin to drop. In fact, many of us can go all day without even thinking about drinking water, particularly if it is freezing outside and our bodies are no longer bombarded by the hot summer sun.
Lisa R. Young, a registered dietician and adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, also states that even though we may not be sweating from the sweltering summer heat, it is just as important to drink up and stay hydrated during the cold, winter weather. “In the summer months, we’re sweating, so we’re conscious of it,” says Young. “You need to be hydrated in all months. The difference between summer and winter is in the summer you have a lot of measures that can tell you if you’re getting dehydrated. In the winter, you don’t think you need to drink more fluids.”
Even when the weather is brisk, the human body — made up of 60 percent water — naturally loses a lot of water through everyday breathing, trying to stay warm, and perspiring. Add to this loss the adverse effects of moving in and out of hot and cold temperatures — from overheated indoor spaces to the icy cold outdoors — all of which can lend itself to dehydration, when the body loses too many fluids and then becomes unable to carry out normal functions. If the body is not properly replenished, dehydration can easily manifest in the forms of fatigue, dizziness, and headaches, and can even cause drier-than-normal skin, hair, and nails.
Despite the lack of solid, scientific studies that support the recommended eight to ten glasses of water per day rule, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), men need roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day, whereas women require 2.2 liters (about 9 cups). Regardless of the required amount, water is still considered one of the best beverages to consume in order to stay hydrated as it promotes a healthy immune system, aids in regulating body temperature, and helps flush out body waste and other toxins.
But health experts, like Young, author of The Portion Teller Plan, say our daily water intake does not have to come from water alone. Nutrient-rich fluids can be obtained through other means, such as consuming fruits and vegetables. According to the IOM, approximately 80 percent of our water intake comes from drinking water and other beverages, while the other 20 percent comes from food sources. Fruits and vegetables are great substitutes because of their high water content and abundance of minerals. Young adds that the beauty of consuming fruits and vegetables over simply drinking water is that they have built-in hydration. Apples, for example, are made up of about 84 percent water; meanwhile tomatoes are made up of 94 percent water. Hot, herbal teas and soups are also alternatives to drinking water, although Young recommends staying away from caffeinated teas and soups loaded with salt, as these can dehydrate the body.
There’s no excuse. Be sure to eat and drink up this winter.