Drinking water is critical to health and healthy metabolism. How critical? Just consider a 2002 study involving 20,297 people by researchers at the Loma Linda University medical school (Chan et al. 2002). The study found that those who drank at least five glasses of water a day were 41% less likely to develop fatal coronary artery disease.
In another study of 47,909 health professionals by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (Michaud et al. 1999), six cups of water per day reduced the risk of bladder cancer by over 50%.
In this later study, the consumption of “other fluids” also decreased the risk of bladder cancer, but by not as much. Futhermore, in a study from the University of Birmingham in the UK (Hemelt et al. 2010) of 824 subjects from China, drinking milk was associated with reduced bladder cancer.
What this says is that it is possible that we can become hydrated without necessarily drinking water.
In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences released a report showing that women need about 91 ounces of water per day, and the average man needs about 125 ounces per day. The report indicated that about 20% of water intake will come from food sources, leaving the other 80% to come from fluids. Therefore, women need about 73 ounces of water or water substitute and men need about 73 ounces of water or water substitute.
This is a considerable amount to replace without drinking water, but certainly it can be done.
Let’s review some good substitutes for water:
Soups contain a significant amount of water. Theoretically, we could eat practically every meal as a soup, and conceivably have all of our fluid needs satisfied. As few of us eat soup at every meal, we can at least have one soup meal per day. Broths are an easy way to drink soup. Vegetable bouillon cubes are quite inexpensive and provide a significant amount of fluid intake.
Milk is primarily water, and as the bladder cancer study above showed, it can also be very healthy. Milk also supplies a variety of nutrients such as calcium, protein and healthy fats.
While some fruit was considered in the National Academy of Sciences report, certainly we can all eat more fruit. Fruits like apples, watermelons, cantaloupes, nectarines, kiwis and oranges offer a tremendous amount of water. How much? An apple contains about 84% water, while an orange contains about 87% water according to a report prepared by Sandra Bastin and Kim Henken from the University of Kentucky.
We can also cut up a bunch of fruit and put it in a blender. This will make for a delicious smoothie, which will be primarily water.
A cucumber is 96% water and iceberg lettuce is also about 96% water. Broccoli is 91% water, and a tomato is 93% water. Vegetables also supply a tremendous amount of phytonutrients, known to help prevent many different diseases. So eating a big salad every day could very well provide a super-charged source of water.
Tomato juice and mixed vegetable juice are also excellent ways to hydrate. Again, these can provide super-charged fluids, because of the level of phytonutrients in the vegetables.
Yes, these do supply fluids, and will definitely keep us from becoming dehydrated if we drank enough of them. However, sodas also contain hidden dangers that can help dehydrate our bodies. Sugary sodas can increase our water demand because their simple sugar content drives the body and cells into high gear. Their sugar content also makes them slightly diuretic, so we lose some water when we drink them. Better is a soda that contains fruit juice instead of sugar. A healthy carbonated soda can be made simply, by mixing fruit juice with plain carbonated water.
Coffee’s caffeine and other acids can also produce a diuretic effect, depending upon the amount of coffee consumed. While some research has confirmed coffee can be diuretic (and laxative-which also causes water loss), coffee in moderation (a cup or two) has been shown not to have a significant diuretic effect (Armstrong et al. 2007). Nevertheless, some water researchers, such as Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, M.D., have suggested that two cups of coffee will approximate one cup of water.
The bottom line is to make sure that we are getting enough fluids every day. If we don’t like to drink water, we can try a combination of juices, fruits and vegetables, and milk. Then for dinner we can make up some hearty soup.
Armstrong LE, Casa DJ, Maresh CM, Ganio MS. Caffeine, fluid-electrolyte balance, temperature regulation, and exercise-heat tolerance. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2007 Jul;35(3):135-40.
Bastin S., Henden K. Water Content of Fruits and Vegetables. Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, ENRI-129. 1997. Dec.
Chan J, Knutsen SF, Blix GG, Lee JW, Fraser GE. Water, other fluids, and fatal coronary heart disease: the Adventist Health Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2002 May 1;155(9):827-33.
Hemelt M, Hu Z, Zhong Z, Xie LP, Wong YC, Tam PC, Cheng KK, Ye Z, Bi X, Lu Q,
Mao Y, Zhong WD, Zeegers MP. Fluid intake and the risk of bladder cancer: results from the South and East China case-control study on bladder cancer. Int J Cancer. 2010 Aug 1;127(3):638-45.
Michaud DS, Spiegelman D, Clinton SK, Rimm EB, Curhan GC, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Fluid intake and the risk of bladder cancer in men. N Engl J Med. 1999 May 6;340(18):1390-7.