Next to air, water is the second most important nutrient we take into our bodies. Depending on the source, experts say, water makes up around 75 percent to 90 percent of your body, depending on your phase of life. (We are born with a higher water content, which decreases as we get older.)
“You need water for everything your body does,” says Lisa Dorfman, Miami, Fla., registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Water is an essential nutrient that helps your body do everything from breathing to digesting food to hormone production to lubricating joints.”
Water assists with metabolizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins; digesting food; creating enzymes, which support all body functions; insulating organs; protecting the fetus in pregnant mothers; dissolving vitamins; regulating the body’s temperature; supporting healthy skin and a host of other vital functions.
Everyone has different needs, though, says Dorfman, based on their individual chemistry and physical activity. If you are not getting enough water, she says, you body will let you know. Thirst is the first sign of dehydration. In addition, pungent, yellow urine is an indication that your system is low on water.
“When you don’t have enough water in your body, your cells will start to die,” Dorfman says. “Nausea, stomach pains and headaches are common symptoms of dehydration.”
How much water is enough? Most sources agree that the advice you got in grade school – eight cups daily – is a good starting point. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science found that most healthy adults are adequately hydrated, and recommends 11 cups of total water— from all beverages and food — for women, and 16 cups for men.
About 80 percent of people's daily water intake comes from drinking water and other beverages, including caffeinated beverages, and the other 20 percent comes from water contained in food. Most unprocessed, uncooked foods have high water content, as well. Half cups of lettuce, watermelon, broccoli or grapefruit are all made up of more than 90 percent water, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Water intake can come from other drinks or food, but this doesn’t replace the power of pure water. Heavy dependence on these drinks can lead to dehydration. And alcohol and caffeinated drinks have potential diuretic affects.
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