The Importance of Being Hydrated by Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD

Quenching a Thirst for H2O IQ

Published on pg. 7 of the SMDP weekend edition, May 10-11, 2008: click link for original article


“How much water should I drink?”


If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question, well, I’d have a lot of dollars.


Water is so important that the Center for Disease Control dedicates the first week of May to drinking water.You should not need a nationally recognized organization to tell you the importance of drinking water. But you might need one to remind you how lucky you are for having one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world.


The research I did to earn my Master’s of Science in Nutrition was on the study of water and weight management. Actually, I looked at other people’s research and came up with a big conclusion. Water is the key to long-term weight management.


Water is a macro-nutrient; similar carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Unlike those other big nutrients, however, water does not supply any calories; not a single one. Yet, water can make up the largest proportion of your food.


Water adds only good things to food and beverages. For one thing, the addition of water to food helps you eat fewer calories in the long run.


When it comes to hunger and satiety, your body wants bulk or volume, but only up to a point. You can not simply drink water all day and think that you will never be hungry. However, by adding water to foods and choosing more water-rich ingredients, you will add bulk which will help reduce your overall calorie intake.


To implement more water into your diet, simply eat more soups, salads, vegetables and fruits, and yes, drink water.


Exactly how much water you need is always up for debate. When we talk about purely drinking the stuff, the numbers vary from six to 10 of those all-pervasive eight ounce glasses. Perhaps that is why eight (8 ounce) glasses has been thrown out there so often, being a happy medium and all. In healthcare we use the following guideline: your body weight divided by two equals the number of ounces you need to drink each day. For example: 200 pounds, 100 ounces.


According to the World Health Organization the average person needs two liters (67 ounces) of water per day for drinking and up to 70 liters per day for all uses including cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, flushing toilets, growing stuff, etc. Yet, here in America, the land of plenty, it is estimated that on average, we use 1,400 liters per person, per day. WOW! There are some countries where they don’t even have enough to drink each day.


According to the CDC, water plays a big role in the overall success of a society. Just having access to water can change the economic status of a community over night.


I read a book called “Every Drop for Sale” about the potential for war over water. In the book, the author told a story of a community in Africa where the women would spend half of each day walking a trail to obtain fresh water.


These women where given the opportunity to develop an underground plumbing system but had to come up with $1,000 to pay for the system. It took a lot of work and budgeting for the community to raise the money, but they got it together, got their water system in place and as a result, the women were able to take the time they use to spend “fetching” water and instead built a greater income and home life for their families.


Their community began to prosper until, in the middle of the night, some thieves took their plumbing system to sell on the black market.


Needless to say, the community went downhill overnight because they had to again spend their days “fetching” water instead of increasing the economic status of their families.


So from now on, when you gripe about the fact that you are suppose to drink eight (8 ounce) glasses of water each day, please think about how lucky you are to have access to water which in turn enables you to go to work, play with your children, or walk along the beach.


Next time you do walk along the beach, please stop and look at the ocean in awe and know that although the world is 70 percent water, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population lacks access to safe water. FYI, ocean water is not drinkable unless it has gone through a process known as desalination; a process to remove excess salt and minerals from water.


If you are still uncertain about how much to drink just sit quietly and listen. Your body will tell you. “What’s that body? You say you are thirsty? OK then. Here you go. Have some water.” Glug, glug, glug … Ahhh! Now was that so hard? Sometimes we make things way more complicated than they have to be.