Often when we speak of needing water, what is meant is fluid. You can meet your daily fluid (water) requirement by drinking plain water, milk, soy beverages, juice, coffee, tea, herbal tea, and clear soups. Even the less healthy diet drinks, sugary soft drinks and fruit drinks count as fluid. Alcoholic beverages do not count.
If you eat plenty of vegetables and fruit (five to ten half-cup servings a day), then you get about 20 per cent of your fluid needs from food.
How much fluid do I need every day?
|1 to 3 years||4 cups (1 L)|
|4 to 8 years||5 cups (1.25 L)|
|9 to 13||years 8 cups (2 L)|
|Females, 14 to 18 years||8 cups (2 L)|
|Females, 19+ years||9 cups (2.2 L)|
|Males, 14 to 18 years||11 cups (2.7 L)|
|Males, 19+ years||13 cups (3 L)|
|Pregnant and breast-feeding women need to add an extra cup of fluid a day.|
|Source: National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. The National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2004.|
Certain conditions increase your need for fluids. They include:
If you lose more fluid than you take in, you can get dehydrated. Headaches, fatigue, dark-coloured urine, tiredness, dizziness, and thirst may signal that you are not getting enough fluid.
The idea that you need to drink eight glasses of water a day is a myth. Although water is wonderful, you don't need eight glasses of it on top of all the other beverages you have in a day. It's best to drink over the course of the day, rather than having a huge volume at one time.
We once thought that caffeinated beverages dehydrate the body, but this too is a myth. Caffeine has a very mild effect on fluid loss, especially if your body is used to it. However, caffeine does affect the body in unhealthy ways. It is a stimulant and so can affect blood pressure, sleep, and bone health. Health Canada recommends only two to three cups of coffee, and no more than 450 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day. Remember that many soft drinks, including diet soft drinks, contain caffeine.
Although black and green teas both contain caffeine, they have considerably less than coffee. You can have three to six cups of green, black or oolong tea daily. These teas contain health-enhancing flavonoids and antioxidants called catechins. Herbal teas are caffeine-free, but do not contain flavonoids or catechins.
If you are trying to lose weight, sipping hidden calories in beverages can sabotage your efforts. You have less wiggle-room for empty calories. Soft drinks, even diet soft drinks, crowd out other healthier beverages, such as low-fat milk that provides calcium and vitamin D.
It is easy to get far too many calories each day from beverages. A can of regular pop has 150 calories, and a 250 mL (1 cup) of fruit juice has 120 calories. A bottle of flavoured water with vitamins has 120 calories.
Beware the coffee shop. We have all heard the numbers: 500 to 800 calories for some specialty coffees made with whole milk, syrup and whipped cream. Instead of using cream in your double-double, switch to milk and avoid the calories from fat. (A large double-double with cream has 230 calories, a double-double with milk has 150.)
A small one contains about 65 calories per 250 mL, and the extra-large version 570 calories. Did you know it is adults that most often purchase these 'sugar-candy' drinks! According to the Slurpee® website, 87 per cent of this product is sold to people over the age of 18.
No more than 10 per cent of your daily calorie intake should come from beverages. For instance, if your goal is 2000 calories in a day, that would be 200 calories.
In studies where people were given high calorie drinks with meals, they still ate the same amount of food. This means that calories from drinks add to, rather than replace, food calories. In contrast, liquid incorporated into foods, such as casseroles or thick soup, tends to fill you up.
Drinking sweet beverages can make you want even more sweet things. Diet soda and flavoured powders that may satisfy your sweet tooth may also intensify your cravings for sweet foods. If this applies to you, try to change your habits.
Keeping track of the calories you drink can help manage your weight. If you feel like you need a boost of energy or something extra to eat, try a glass of water. It has no calories, no carbohydrates, no fat, and no sodium. Water may be the refreshment you need and is a great substitute for snacking.
So what should you drink? Water is a definite yes! How about a glass of milk or soy beverage, unsweetened ice tea, sparkling water with a slice of lime, or a touch of fruit juice?
Skim and 1% milk are considered low fat. Whole (homogenized) and 2% milk are high fat. Children under age two can enjoy high fat milk.
Chocolate milk is a much better option than pop for both kids and adults. It is a delicious way to get more milk in your diet. Make your own with two teaspoons of chocolate syrup, which will add 30 calories to the drink. Most store-bought brands of chocolate milk add 60 to 80 calories compared to the same amount of white milk.
Make your own healthy smoothies with milk or yogurt and fruit in the blender. An inexpensive milk frother is great for making your own steamed milk – to sweeten it, add two teaspoons of syrup.
Fruit juice carries lots of calories. Just 125 mL (half a cup) has 60 calories, which adds up very quickly. It is important to choose 100 per cent vegetable or fruit juices. Note that vegetable or fruit 'drinks,' 'beverages' or 'cocktails' may contain only a small amount of real juice. Eating the whole fruit is better, as it contains fibre that helps you feel full and satisfied. You may choose to serve 100 per cent fruit juice to your child. Kids under age six should have no more than 125 to 175 mL (four to six ounces) per day.
Sports drinks are usually not needed to keep hydrated when you exercise. Water and a healthy diet will replace water and minerals lost during exercise. If you exercise hard for more than an hour or wear a lot of sports equipment, you may benefit from a sports drink. No matter what level of exercise you do, take regular sips from your water bottle.
It's better to stay with plain water and take a multivitamin and mineral tablet. The best choice is to drink water and eat plenty of vegetables and fruit.