Water makes up approximately 55% of the adult human body and is essential for cellular homeostasis — not to mention life. Staying hydrated is crucial for total health and wellness, as well as weight maintenance, says Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, and author of “The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great and Look Years Younger.” “Our body depends on proper hydration levels to function properly — especially for our heart, brain and muscles to do their job,” she explains.
But chugging down your daily allotment of water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. Other liquids and food count, too. Danielle Carlesimo, a registered dietitian at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Michigan, explains that “20% of your daily fluid intake should come from food sources.”
Here are several H2O alternatives that are great sources of hydration:
WATER-RICH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
“While most of our daily water intake should come from water itself, water-rich fruits and veggies are a great alternative way to keep hydrated,” says Carlesimo. Watermelon, for instance, is 92% water, which makes it a great choice for rehydrating after a workout.
Below, Carlesimo shares the water content of common produce that serve as great sources for hydration:
Cucumbers and lettuce – 96%
Zucchini, radishes, celery – 95%
Tomatoes and cabbage – 93%
Grapefruits and strawberries – 91%
Cantaloupes – 90%
Since lettuce is so high water, a salad can rehydrate you after a workout. Start with a base of lettuce, and toss in water-rich produce like cucumber, celery, spinach and berries. (For a protein boost, add grilled chicken or another lean protein.)
In addition to warming up the body, broth can help keep you hydrated. In fact, Iowa State University concluded that chicken broth and chicken noodle soup increase the body’s fluid restoration better than popular sport drinks. Just make sure to opt for low-sodium broth, as excessive salt consumption can cause dehydration.
Beyond being a quick meal or a way to sneak in extra protein, smoothies can also boost hydration. “You can put anything in a smoothie,” says Carlesimo. She suggests adding water, ice cubes, celery, cucumbers, milk, coconut milk or strawberries for hydration. “Smoothies are also a great way to sneak in fruit, vegetables and fluid along with vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.”
Beyond being sweet and delicious, coconut water’s electrolyte content makes it an acceptable short-term IV hydration fluid! Studies also suggest that plain water, coconut water and sports drinks all provide comparable hydration. So if you’re bored with regular water and need something with more flavor, coconut water can be a viable substitute.
Herbal tea is another tasty stand-in for water since it’s mostly water anyway. Choose flavors such as mint, rooibos, rose hips and chamomile. Limit diuretic teas such as stinging nettle and dandelion, as well as caffeine-infused teas.
Ice pops made from 100% fruit juice provide a refreshing post-workout snack as well as hydration. Just make sure to avoid artificially sweetened ones or ones with loads of sugar. If you can’t find healthy versions at your local grocery store, make your own. Combine Greek yogurt or juice with your favorite frozen fruit in the blender, then place in the freezer.