Ms Salma S Khan, Harley Street Nutrition Consultant & Health Writer explains the importance of keeping hydrated, and provides us with some helpful ideas to keep cool in the sun.
Whether you’re attempting to keep cool for the remainder of summer, or you’re going off on yet another warm holiday, or you just need to keep hydrated for the latest spin class you’ve joined, what you eat and drink may play a powerful role in keeping you hydrated. When the weather is hot and humid, or exercise is making you sweat more than usual, the risk of becoming dehydrated increases. Dehydration may affect our mood, energy levels, cause headaches, result in dry skin, cause muscle cramps, and increase cravings for sweet foods. In extreme circumstances dehydration may result in dizziness, fainting, heat stroke and even death.
Here are some healthy drinks and foods that are thought to help boost hydration levels in the body.
Water: Let’s start off with water – the human body consists of at least 60% water, each and every cell in the body requires it to function. Researchers report that our bodies may be able to survive weeks without food, but only days without water. It’s been reported that the great Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days without eating anything at all. Water is a completely different story, we can only stay alive between 3 to 5 days without consuming water. Water is essential to keep us hydrated, it’s recommended that we consume about 2 litres daily. We may require more of it during warmer weather and whilst exercising. So keep a track of how much water your consume daily by drinking from a 1 or 2 litre water bottle or reusable container. If you’re bored of water, try something different and add lemon, lime or orange slices to water, or add in some mint leaves and frozen strawberries or blueberries.
Coconut Water: Coconut water is well known for it’s hydrating benefits – it’s rich in electrolytes that include potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. It’s always important to stay hydrated, but particularly during warmer months and in cases of fluid loss due to extreme sweating, diarrhea and vomiting, as well as whilst exercising.
Researchers have found that coconut water is just as effective at rehydrating the body after a strenuous workout when compared to a sports drink. In fact coconut water has the added benefit of being completely natural, free from preservatives and also processed sugars that are often found in many sports drinks. So skip the chemical calories and processed sugars found in sports drinks, and stock up on natural coconut water instead. Crack open an actual coconut or purchase good quality brands of coconut water that are sugar free.
Hibiscus Tea: Hibiscus tea has recently received a lot of attention after several studies reported that the herb has been found to lower both blood pressure and cholesterol. The tea has been popular for thousands of years in Africa and Mexico. It is also thought to be a fantastic thirst quencher, it is naturally sweet, and develops a beautiful reddish colour when brewed. This refreshing tea has a refrigerant effect, meaning that it literally reduces the body temperature to cool it down very fast. Due to these cooling properties, hibiscus tea may be effective in helping to lower body fever during illness.
To prepare a hydrating iced hibiscus tea, brew some hibiscus in warm water for a few minutes until it develops a reddish colour. Next, wait for the tea to cool down, then add ice and drink the heat away. On a cautionary note, pregnant women are advised to avoid various herbs and that includes hibiscus.
Fruits & Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are high in water content, and so are great to consume to keep the body hydrated. Certain fruits and vegetables are particularly higher in water content such as watermelon, cucumber, iceberg lettuce, celery, radish and tomatoes. Not only are fruits and vegetables high in water content, but are also rich in free radical fighting antioxidants that are thought to be beneficial for optimum health. So consume more fruit and vegetable salads – add in a protein source such as chicken or beans, or walnuts or flaked almonds, and some quinoa or brown rice for a well-balanced meal option. Or prepare some homemade fruit and vegetable smoothies, juices or mocktails to keep you hydrated. Increase the nutritional value of these fresh fruit and vegetable drinks by adding in fresh water algae; spirulina or chlorella for a boost of protein and powerful antioxidants.
Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are rich in powerful antioxidants, and are a complete source of protein. Chia seeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, and consequently have anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers report that they may even help prevent cancer, as these super seeds contain protease inhibitors that are thought to destroy cancer cells.
Interestingly, these tiny seeds are thought to also prolong hydration, making them a perfect thirst quenching food. Consuming chia gel (pre-soaked chia seeds) on a warm day, before flying or prior to exercise may be useful in preventing dehydration. This is because chia seeds are thought to slowly release water absorbed by the seeds as the body digests them, consequently keeping the body hydrated. Make chia gel by soaking 2 tbsp of the seeds in cold water, milk or juice for at least 30 minutes. After soaking, give the chia seeds a stir, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This gel can be consumed for breakfast or as a snack – add a mashed banana and a few blueberries or strawberries to add more flavour.