As summer temperatures rise and humidity levels wreak their havoc, it makes perfect sense to seek out drinks and bites that keep us well hydrated. Popular “cooling” foods like watermelon, cucumbers and tomatoes are highly active during warmer seasons, and their high water content makes it easy for consumers to get thirst-quenching satisfaction.
But contrary to popular belief, a food’s ability to hydrate the human body doesn’t rely entirely on its water content.
“The presence of salts, sugar, and electrolytes helps our bodies retain water much better than water alone,” she explained Yi Min Teo, Digestive Health Dietitian and Nutritional Support Physician. Teo went on to explain that “when we lose water through sweat in a hot, humid place or while exercising, we lose a good deal of sodium and chloride, followed by potassium, magnesium and calcium in smaller amounts. Sodium, chloride and potassium help regulate and maintain water balance. Magnesium and calcium are required for optimal muscle function and energy metabolism.
So do “hydrating” foods go beyond chunks of particularly juicy produce? We asked dietitians and nutritionists to recommend the most unexpected foods that may still offer hydration benefits, and they suggested these eight less obvious options.
Bone broth has made a strong impression on wellness experts and anyone looking for easy ways to get more nutrients into their diet. Because it’s a liquid, you’ll also get a lot of water.
“Any liquid food at room temperature counts as a fluid,” said Natalie Allen, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics in Missouri State University’s Department of Public Health and Sports Medicine, noting that soups and broths are good for hydration.
Broth contains a hefty amount of sodium, which isn’t a bad thing for hydration after all. “Broth is a hydrating food that may seem counterintuitive due to its sodium content. Many people think sodium is harmful and should always be limited, but in reality, it is an important electrolyte that maintains fluid balance in cells and ultimately promotes hydration,” she said. Elena Landesa registered dietitian and nutrition instructor.
White Yogurt (‘regular’ or Greek)
Dairy products don’t always come to mind first when discussing hydrating foods, as they have more substance and weight than other liquid-rich foods. But according to Registered Dietitian Kayley Myers“Yogurt is a surprising food that can help increase your fluid intake. Because it’s made with milk, yogurt is about 85 percent liquid. A 1-cup serving of plain yogurt contains just over 3/4 cup water. This is also a great way to incorporate protein, calcium and probiotics into your diet.
In the context of milk-based yogurt, the protein works together with the lactose sugar, salt and fat to “slow the emptying of fluids from the stomach and maintain hydration for a longer period.” CNN Cheers reported.
Cauliflower isn’t as water-dense as tomatoes, cucumbers or spinach, but whether you like it grilled, boiled, baked or in rice, “it’s still over 90 percent water,” according to Megan Wong, a registered dietitian at AlgaeCal.
“In addition to being a good source of hydration, cauliflower is rich in immune-boosting vitamin C (69 percent of the Daily Value per cup),” Wong added. “You’ll also get a good amount of potassium, which is important for muscle function (including heart muscle), keeping blood pressure in check, and maintaining strong bones.”
Cabbage, like cauliflower, is a cruciferous plant that retains (and transmits) a lot of water. It’s also a vegetable that resists fermentation well, and we’re happy to tell you that kimchi, a highly flavorful style of fermented cabbage originating in Korea, may also offer hydrating benefits to those who consume it.
“Kimchi is a tasty way to boost your hydration while getting friendly bacteria that support gut health,” said Stephanie Meyers, senior clinical dietitian and nutritionist at Iris by OncoHealth.
Magnesium, like sodium, is a nutrient that promotes hydration throughout the body. And, second Sarah Barthela functional medicine nutritionist, “foods like salmon have both potassium and magnesium.”
According to United States Department of Agriculturea half fillet of salmon contains 53.5 milligrams of magnesium, which represents about 10%-15% of a daily needs of the adult. Magnesium and potassium are both electrolytes, which help regulate fluid balance in the body.
Chia seeds have increased in popularity in today’s wellness-focused market, and they have many hydration-related benefits.
“Not only are chia seeds a great source of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fats, they’re also amazing for hydration,” said registered dietitian Sheri Berger. “When chia seeds sit in water for a period of time, they absorb the liquid and form a gel.”
There have also been the potential benefits of chia seeds for skin hydration studied, Berger added.
Pretzels And Other High Sodium Foods
When registered dietitian Anne Murray said that pretzels count as a hydrating food, we admit we were skeptical. But Murray explained that “salt helps retain water, keeping you hydrated for longer!” Sodium is an electrolyte, and one of its functions is to hydrate the body by carrying water to the cells, according to Cedars-Sinai.
Caffeinated coffee is not the anti-hydration diet item you might expect
Caffeine has a bad reputation as a dehydrating ingredient, but Joan Salg Blake, a program director and clinical professor of nutrition at Boston University, tells us that “cContrary to popular belief, caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea can contribute to a person’s daily water needs.
He explained that caffeine is a diuretic, causing water to be excreted from the body. “But the water loss it causes is short-lived,” she said. “In other words, caffeine does not cause a significant loss of body water over the course of the day compared to decaffeinated beverages.”
Indeed, she said research suggests that people who habitually consume caffeinated beverages “actually develop a tolerance to its diuretic effect and experience less water loss over time.”
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