We can live for several weeks without food but we can only live a few days without water. More than half the body’s weight is water. Water is one of those important nutrients for maintaining good health. Yet we often forget to drink it. Water deprivation kills faster than the lack of any other nutrient.
Why do we need water?
Water regulates body temperature. If you’re too hot, your body cools off by sweating. This is especially important in the summer. Water serves as the body transportation system by carrying other nutrients throughout the body and transporting body waste removal. Water is a lubricant. It’s important for moving food through the digestive tract and helps joints move more smoothly. Water participates in the body’s biochemical reactions. Water helps the body digest protein and carbohydrates and turn it into usable and absorbable forms.
How much do we need each day?
Unlike many nutrients, there isn’t a specific daily recommendation for water intake. Drinking six 8-ounce glasses of water daily is a good idea, but the amount of water a person needs is affected by many factors, including climate, physical activity, age, state of health and body size.
Does our body tell us when we need water?
Thirst is a trigger that reminds us to drink more water. Typical water output is two or more quarts a day. If adequate water isn’t consumed daily to replace this loss, body fluids will be out of balance, causing dehydration. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening.
What food/beverages are good sources of water?
All beverages or fluids are a source of water, but drinking plain water is the best source of this vital nutrient. You have a choice of whether your fluid is simply water or an energy-rich beverage that may or may not contain other nutrients and calories. Base this selection on your need for extra calories and/or additional nutrients advises. In foods, fruits and vegetables are the best sources of water. Foods such as chicken, pasta and bread also contain varying degrees of water.
Do different age groups need different amounts of water?
• Infants, young children, and older folks. Children have lower sweating capacity than adults. They tolerate high temperatures less efficiently. Frequent vomiting and severe diarrhea in infants and young children can quickly lead to water dehydration. Older folks may be at increased risk for dehydration because their thirst mechanism may not be as efficient as at younger ages. The influence of medications and the presence of disease are other factors that affect fluid intake and water balance. Encourage water intake often for both the young and the old.