By Anne Palumbo
Every January, like so many, I make a nutritional resolution: Consume more calcium! Eat more whole grains! Up my protein intake!
This year’s resolution? Drink more water! The deluge of benefits from this nutrient, some new to me, are simply too important to ignore.
Water’s obvious benefits — prevents dehydration, produces sweat to regulate body temperature, flushes out waste, promotes regularity — are well known. What may come as a surprise are all the other important benefits that warrant their day in the blistering sun, too.
Referred to as the “WD-40” for joints and bones, water helps lubricate, cushion and protect your joints, spinal cord and tissues. Since it hydrates the padding between your joints, its consumption makes it easier to move around and may lessen discomfort caused by conditions like arthritis.
Proper hydration is the key to keeping your brain sharp and your mood bright. Research confirms that not getting enough water can negatively affect focus, alertness, short-term memory and mood. Moreover, you don’t even need to be seriously dehydrated for this to happen: less than four cups of water daily in a 150-pound person. Got a long drive ahead of you? An important test? A long-awaited family reunion? Drink up!
When it comes to digestion and getting the most out of your meals, water is your best friend. Drinking water before, during and after a meal helps your body break down the food you eat more easily. Water also helps with nutrient absorption by dissolving vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from your food and then delivering those health-bombs to the rest of your body for use.
Finally, water is a main component of saliva, which is where digestion begins.
Why do hearts, kidneys and skin love water? Your ticker swoons when you drink enough water because it doesn’t have to work as hard. Skimping on water, which leads to less blood in your body, can lower your blood pressure and raise your heart rate. Kidneys count on this all-important nutrient because it helps them filter waste more efficiently, as well as prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections. And skin shines, literally, with adequate water intake. Even mild dehydration can cause skin to lose its luster, plumpness and elasticity.
Last but certainly not least, water could help you lose weight. It’s 100% calorie-free; it can help you burn more calories (the colder, the better); it takes up space in your stomach so you feel more full; and it may even suppress your appetite if consumed before meals.
According to many experts, most generally healthy people need about eight cups of water a day; but even a healthy person’s needs vary if water is lost through exercise or by being outside in the heat. All beverages containing water contribute to your daily needs, including caffeinated beverages or those containing alcohol. While both do make you urinate more, the water from these beverages still makes a positive contribution to total fluid consumption. To drink more water throughout the day: Fill a large water bottle to the top and make a dent every time you walk by; drink a glass of water before every meal and after every bathroom break; keep water in your car and drink up at stoplights. And know that you also get fluids from water-rich foods, such as fruit and vegetables.
Strawberry, Kiwi, and Lime Infused Water
5 cups sparkling or regular water
1 cup ice cubes
1 kiwi, peeled and cut into slices
½-1 cup sliced strawberries
1 lime, sliced
Pour water into a pitcher. Add ice, kiwi, and strawberries. Squeeze lime slices to release some of their juice into the water before adding them in. Stir to combine flavors. Refrigerate. Infused water tastes best on the day it is made.
Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at email@example.com.