Water doesn't get the same media attention as green tea, antioxidants, and the latest fad diets. Yet it plays a much more critical part in our daily lives and our bodies.
Our bodies are made up of about 60% water, and every system depends on water. So water is important for healthy skin, hair, and nails, as well as controlling body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
"It's definitely essential," says Jim White, registered dietitian and personal trainer in Virginia Beach, Va., and American Dietetic Association spokesman.
"What we're finding is so many people are deficient," he notes. "We're seeing a huge decrease in athletic performance and fatigue that's caused by the lack of hydration."
You can stay fully hydrated throughout the day by drinking water and other fluids, as well as eating foods that are hydrating.
What Counts as Water?
Fruits are an excellent source for water. Watermelon is 90% water, so it ranks highest on the list. Oranges, grapefruit, and melons like cantaloupe and honeydew are also strong contenders.
Vegetables, though not as full of water as fruit, can also provide a nutrient-rich water source. Stick with celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, and Romaine lettuce.
There are plenty of hidden sources of water in your diet, says White. If you want to tap into these foods, reach for oatmeal, yogurt, soup, and smoothies.
Besides guzzling water, milk is a top choice to refuel. Sodas, even diet ones, get a bad rap for lacking nutritional value, but they can still be hydrating. Juices and sports drinks are also hydrating -- you can lower the sugar content by diluting them with water.
Coffee and tea also count in your tally. Many used to believe that they were dehydrating, but that myth has been debunked. The diuretic effect does not offset hydration.
Alcohol is a huge dehydrator, says White. You should try to limit your intake, but if you are going to raise a glass, aim for at least a one-to-one ratio with water.
If you don't like the taste of plain water, White suggests adding lemon to it. Or test out your own concoction, like sparkling water with raspberries with a sprig of mint.