First Lady Michelle Obama wants you to drink up. But if you were thinking of bellying up to the bar, hold on—she means water. Her “drink up” campaign is part of a healthy living initiative to get Americans to drink more water for better health.
But is water the silver bullet for health? That depends. It’s one thing to add more water to your diet, but the true health benefits might actually come from what you remove—sugary, high-calorie drinks. In other words, think bigger than water. If you want to “drink up”, remember, it’s a two-step process: add water, remove unhealthy beverages.
Drinking more water can’t hurt and certainly might help when it comes to your health. Water is the most vital nutrient for the body. In fact, 70 percent of the human body and 85 percent of the brain are comprised of water. The only thing your body craves more than water is oxygen. In other words, water is critical for optimal health and brain function.
Hydration is important because it helps maintain a normal body temperature, lubricates the joints, aids in digestion, and helps to flush waste from the body.
Do You Need More Water?
Sure, water is critical for optimal health, but do you really need more? That depends. Some, but not all, people are chronically dehydrated. In fact, research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that about 43 percent of Americans drink fewer than four cups of water per day—and about 25 percent of kids do not drink any water at all.[i]
Interestingly, the researchers found that low water intake was associated with several unhealthful behaviors and attitudes. So, it’s not just that some people aren’t drinking enough water—it’s about the unhealthy choices they’re making instead. People who didn’t drink water were less likely to exercise, less likely to eat a nutritious diet high in fruits and vegetables, and more likely to consume high-calorie, sugary foods and drinks.
Water can be a healthy choice—but an extra glass of water per day is unlikely to do much good in the absence of other healthy changes. Water is one component of a healthy lifestyle—but exercise and a healthy diet are important, too. It can’t hurt to add more water, but true benefit may come from skipping the high-calorie, sugary drinks.
That said, it pays to notice the signs of dehydration. Many people often mistake thirst for hunger. If you’re hungry all the time, you may actually be dehydrated. Dehydration is the number one cause of daytime fatigue and the number one cause of memory loss. If you experience dizziness, headaches, irritability, dry skin, constipation, or high blood pressure, you could be dehydrated—and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to drink more water and ditch the soda and coffee.
Strike a Balance
It’s important to strike a balance and make a variety of lifestyle choices that support your health. Water won’t solve all of your problems, but it can be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. If you truly want to stay healthy and hydrated, think bigger than just water:
[i] Goodman AB, Blanck HM, Sherry B, et al. Behaviors and attitudes associated with low drinking water intake among US adults, food attitudes and behaviors survey, 2007. Prev Chronic Dis. 2013;10:120248. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd10.120248
Tags: Nutritional Know-How