Rethink Your Drink: Hydrating without the Added Sugars
As the heat index increases, it’s important to keep our bodies well-hydrated. Sweating more can result in increased fluid loss, which can be problematic all of our cells and organs— including the heart, brain, and lungs. Since two thirds of our bodies are made of more of water, it plays an essential role for life. In fact, humans can’t go more than a few days without water! In extreme weather, people can die within just a few hours from dehydration.
Even just mild dehydration can provoke irritability and headaches, as well as negatively impact mental and physical performance. Water helps to regulate our body’s core temperature, remove toxins and wastes from the body, facilitate chemical reactions and energy transformation, protect joints and the spinal cord, and contributes to blood volume and pressure.
Water needs will differ among individuals due to their level of physical activity and fitness, as well as physical location (e.g. climate and altitude impact needs). Generally, adults should consume about two to three liters of total water per day.
Added sugars can quickly sneak into many drinks we may choose to hydrate with, such as Vitaminwater, sweetened teas and coffee drinks, flavored milks, juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, soft drinks, and lemonade. For example, a 20 oz bottle of Lipton tea has eight teaspoons of added sugars and a regular 20 fl oz bottle of Vitaminwater has about 7.5 teaspoons of added sugars. The American Health Association (AHA) recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons (96 calories) and men consume no more than nine teaspoons (144 calories) of added sugars per day. Clearly, sipping down on sweetened beverages adds up — and can exceed added sugar recommendations!
On average, men are getting about 20 teaspoons of added sugars, while women get about 15 teaspoons of added sugars per day — that’s an additional 239-335 calories from pure sugar, which lacks health promoting factors (e.g. vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber). Some estimates even suggest the average could be as high as 22.2 teaspoons — or 355 calories — of added sugar. The AHA reports that added sugars are associated with a number of chronic health risks like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. While added sugar can be found in a number of food products, rethinking your drink can be a great place to start cutting back on added sugars and improving your health.
Here are a few ways to hydrate, naturally:
- Drink Infused Water. Jazz-up your beverage without added sugars by getting creative with infused water — soaking herbs, spices, fruit, and/or veggies in water. The range of time of infusion will likely produce different results for flavor potency, so the longer it infuses the more potent the flavors. At minimum, soak for at least 30 minutes. Store infused water in the fridge for a few days and discard the fruit/veggies to start a new batch.
Some simple ideas for water infusions:
• Thin lemon slices
• Lemon + cucumber slices
• Lemon + lime wedges
• Cucumber slices + mint leaves
• Mint leaves
• Cinnamon sticks
• Muddled blueberries + lemon wedges
• Raspberries + kiwi slices
• Fresh ginger
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. The water content in fresh produce can also keep you hydrated throughout the day, too. Strawberries, watermelon, cantaloup, broccoli, cabbage, celery, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini are all over 90 percent water by weight. So fill-up on lots of fresh fruits and veggies throughout the day to stay hydrated. Add some strawberries to your oatmeal, a salad with lunch, and some steamed broccoli with dinner. Use fruit for dessert — like a bowl of watermelon or a frozen banana.
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you — everywhere! Get in the habit of carrying a reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go — it makes it easier to hydrate, naturally. If you expect it to be a hot day, fill the bottle with some ice to keep your drink cool. You can bring reusable water bottles with you when traveling too — just be sure they are empty before going through security. In the airport, find a drinking fountain and fill-up. Many airports now have filling stations — so start using them!
1. Whitney, E. & Rolfes, S. (2008). Water and the trace minerals. In Understanding Nutrition (11th ed.) (pg. 397-402). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
2. Vorvick, L. (2015). Water in diet. Medline Plus.
3. USGS (2015). The water in you.
4. Harvard School of Public Health. Added sugar in the diet. The Nutrition Source.
5. World Health Organization (WHO). (2015). WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children.