With heat waves affecting large parts of the country, it’s important to prioritize drinking water to avoid dehydration. But water alone isn’t enough—you’ll also need to add electrolytes to your diet, especially if you spend a lot of time in the heat. Electrolytes are found in sports drinkssupplements and certain foods to keep you hydrated and replenish minerals lost through sweat.
There are many hydrating foods that are seasonal and full of electrolytes and nutrients that will help quench your thirst while keeping you healthy. We spoke to an expert to narrow down the foods you should keep in your fridge and the key hydration benefits they provide. Here’s which hydrating foods are the best to prepare you for the heat.
How to tell if you’re hydrated
Hydration needs vary based on your size, activity level and how much you sweat. Gabriela Barreto, dietitian and sports nutritionist says that there are two indicators of the level of hydration: thirst and urine color. “Drinking until thirsty may be appropriate for most people to maintain their hydration levels, and as far as urine is concerned, you’re looking for a pale yellow color,” Barreto says. She says the only times you should not being concerned about the color of your urine during your first pee in the morning because it tends to be dark, or if you’re taking vitamin B supplements, which make your urine more likely to appear bright yellow.
Barreto recommends that in addition to food and water, a hydration supplement like Skratch can benefit people with active jobs, people who exercise or spend a lot of time in the heat outdoors. “Using a moisturizer can be helpful in boosting your body’s water stores,” he says. “I recommend a moisturizer with 300 to 500 milligrams of sodium and preferably about 20 grams of carbohydrates.” Keep in mind that a non-carb electrolyte drink will also help with rehydration, but not as efficiently. So be sure to read the labels first to choose the best option for your needs.
What are the most hydrating foods?
Most foods contain some amount of water, but it probably won’t surprise you to learn that fruits and vegetables top the list.
To get the most out of these hydrating fruits and veggies, make sure you’re following standard dietary guidelines. Barreto says, “Dietary guidelines recommend two to three servings of fruit and three to four servings of vegetables for most adults.” There are no specific guidelines for hydrating fruits and vegetables, but eating the recommended daily amount of produce will add to your hydration, he says.
An estimated 20% to 30% of your fluid needs can come from food, including fruits and vegetables. And by combining certain foods, you can boost your hydration. “When trying to properly rehydrate, carbohydrates, fluids and sodium are key,” says Barreto, adding, “Carbohydrates are important for optimizing water and sodium absorption in the body.”
Watermelon and other melons
Watermelon isn’t just a fruit synonymous with summer, it’s also highly hydrating. It is made up of 92% water and contains antioxidants, important nutrients such as vitamins A and C, magnesium, fiber and lycopene (a pigment found in red, yellow or orange colored fruits and vegetables). Other melons like cantaloupe are also 90 percent water and are a good source of potassium, folate, and vitamins A and C.
Barreto says one hydrating summer recipe to try is a cucumber and watermelon salad with lime, mint and salted feta. As mentioned earlier, the sodium and carbohydrates will help the body absorb water from the fruit easily. Barreto points out that for this reason, you’ll also notice that some sports dietitians recommend sprinkling watermelon with salt.
Cucumbers are 95% water and consist of vitamins such as vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium. This refreshing veggie can be easily added to salads, sandwiches, water, or eaten on its own. Its high water content also makes it a low-calorie vegetable and is an ideal food to add to your diet if you’re looking to lose weight and feel fuller for longer.
This versatile vegetable works well as an addition to soups, stir-fries, salads, and as a side dish. Popular summer squashes like zucchini are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and are made up of 94 percent water. The high water and fiber content will keep you full and hydrated for a long time.
This popular summer fruit is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin C, manganese, and folic acid. It’s an easy fruit to add to smoothies, yogurts, salads, or eat on its own. Strawberries are 91% water, making them the perfect fruit to quench your thirst and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Lettuce and other leafy greens
Make a salad with lettuce and other greens like lettuce, watercress, spinach or bok choy, which are high in water and provide plenty of vitamins and minerals. Lettuce is 96 percent water and contains folate, fiber, and vitamins K and A. Spinach is rich in iron, folate, calcium, and vitamins C and A. Watercress, meanwhile, provides 100 percent of the recommended dietary intake for vitamin K, which is an essential nutrient for blood clotting and the maintenance of healthy bones. Bok choy is packed with vitamins K and C, which means any combination of these greens is guaranteed to provide you with a nutrient-rich salad.
If you like oranges, grapefruit, limes and other citrus fruits, then eat. Citrus fruits tend to be about 80 percent water, making them a good option for hydration. They are also high in vitamin C and fiber and great for supporting the immune system. They’re also versatile enough to add to fruit salads, eat on their own, add to water, salads, and even as a marinade for proteins, like chicken or fish.
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