Water and your health: Q&A with our expert
It can be a challenge to drink enough water, especially if you don’t like it. But water is vital for keeping your body functioning well. Our expert weighs in on how much you need, how to get it and why water is the best beverage to help you stay hydrated and healthy.
Your body is about 60% water, and you need a steady intake of water to survive and function.
Water is essential to maintain a normal body temperature and blood pressure, digest food, maintain electrolyte balance, get rid of waste, cushion your joints and spinal cord, and more.
Drinking water keeps your muscles hydrated so physical activity is easier and more effective. And drinking water before and during meals helps you fill up so you eat less. That can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your cancer risk.
But how much water do you need? And what about other beverages? We posed some common water questions to Lindsey Wohlford, wellness dietitian at MD Anderson. Here’s what she had to say.
How much water should a person drink each day?
There is no one size fits all answer to this question. Your water needs depend on your body size, environment and temperature, how much physical activity you are getting, your overall health and whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Most men should target 13 cups of fluid per day and women should aim for 9 cups. Remember to increase this amount according to the heat, humidity and amount of exercise you are getting.
Is it possible to drink too much water?
It is possible to drink too much, although it is rare in healthy people who eat a normal diet with good variety.
People with kidney, thyroid, heart or liver diseases and those taking certain types of medications should talk to their doctor about how much water they should be drinking. And always check with your doctor regarding changes to your water consumption if you take medications.
Can drinking water help me lose weight?
Research does not show that there is some magic in water that alters your metabolism to increase weight loss.
However, choosing water over beverages with calories and sugar means you are taking in less calorie intake and drinking water can help you feel fuller sooner reducing overall intake. So making water a part of a healthy diet can help you manage your weight.
Are alkaline waters, other fortified waters or sports drinks a good substitute for plain water?
Opting for plain water and a healthy diet is the best combination. Other types of water are not necessary and may contain added sugars which can lead to weight gain.
Is water in plastic bottles safe?
Whenever possible, opt for filtered tap water. It will save you money and reduce your exposure to toxins like Bisphenol-A (BPA), which may get into water sold or stored in plastic bottles.
I can’t stand the “taste” of water. How can I make it easier to drink?
Toss in some fruit, veggies or herbs to enhance the flavor of water. These will add vitamins, antioxidants and flavor. Some great options include lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, cucumber, ginger, mint, basil, and rosemary.
Unsweetened tea is also a good option. Avoid adding flavor packets to plain water. They may be zero-calorie, but they have artificial sweeteners. In they end, they are a processed food. There are better ways to make water more appealing. And eventually, sweetened beverages will start to taste too sweet.
What else counts toward my daily water intake?
Anything liquid counts toward your daily fluid intake, including milk, coffee, tea and fruit juice.
But there are drawbacks to some of these choices.
Even though it’s mostly water, fruit juice – even if it does not have added sugar – has a lot of sugar and calories. And the fiber has been removed, so that sugar is quickly absorbed by the body. Over time, that can add up to unwanted weight gain, which can put you at risk for diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Sodas, coffee drinks and tea all have caffeine, which can contribute to your body releasing too much water leading to dehydration.
And flavored waters and sports drinks don’t trump plain water, even if they are artificially sweetened.
In the end, water is the best choice to stay hydrated and keep you body running smoothly.