Fed up of reading conflicting advice about how much water we should be drinking every day, and what the benefits of drinking water really are? Us too!
We reveal the health benefits of drinking water – and how too little – or too much – can be dangerous.
We all know the obvious benefits of drinking water, but with a new report from Loughborough University showing that being dehydrated whilst performing everyday tasks like driving could lead to twice as many mistakes behind the wheel, we know that not drinking enough water can be a big problem.
However, other recent research has said that there’s such a thing as too much water (it can apparently lead to excessive sweating, insomnia and even death) – so we decided it’s high time to get to the bottom of it all and round up the facts on how much water to drink every day straight from the NHS and the benefits of drinking water.
How much water should I drink every day?
The NHS has detailed how much water we should be drinking on their website:
The European Food Safety Authority recommends that women should drink about 1.6 litres of fluid and men should drink about 2.0 litres of fluid per day. That’s about eight glasses of 200ml each for a woman, and 10 glasses of 200ml each for a man.
Yet although government guidelines say that we should all drink eight glasses of water a day, your size, the temperature and how active you are can all make a difference to how many litres of water a day you need (so, for instance, if you’re exercising a lot on a hot day, you’ll need to drink more).
You get about 20% of your water every day through food so a general rule is to drink 2 litres of water a day. This is the equivalent to a large bottle of fizzy drink or three-and-a-half pints.
If you’re feeling thirsty you’re already dehydrated so don’t wait until you need a drink, sip small amounts throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated.
How much water is everyone else drinking?
However, if those stats terrify you, and you find you’re perhaps not drinking half as much as you should, never fear – you’re not alone.
According to a a new study commissioned by Robinsons, a third of Brits admitted that they don’t drink water every day, with a huge 62% revealing that they rarely drink the recommended two litres of water a day.
52% of people within the research explained that they thought water was ‘boring’ , suggesting that they prefer different beverages for their daily fluid intake. Worryingly, the study showed that 20% admitted to last drinking a glass of water over a week ago – yes, you heard that right!
Do tea, coffee and fizzy drinks count?
You can get a certain amount of water from tea, coffee and fizzy drinks but they’re all what’s called diuretics – in other words, they make you wee a lot more as well as increase the amount of water your body uses. Water is also much healthier for you – it has no calories or sugar which can damage your teeth.
We’ve rounded up the top 10 benefits to drinking lots of water – you won’t believe how good it is for you!
The health benefits of drinking water
1. Water helps with weight loss
Great news for anyone trying to lose a few pounds – water naturally reduces your appetite.
A lot of people confuse feeling thirsty with feeling hungry so they eat when their body wants them to drink something. When you’re dehydrated, fat cells become harder to break down and so anyone actually trying to diet will find it a lot harder if they don’t drink very much. Research has shown that drinking 500ml water prior to each of your daily meals could cause you to eat fewer calories per meal, triggering weight loss.
2. Water is a natural wrinkle-buster
According to a recent study, almost 1 in 5 women who drank 1.5 litres of water per day saw a reduction in wrinkles after 6 weeks without making any other changes to their diet.
As well as wrinkle-busting, it’s said to give us sparkly eyes, clear our skin of spots and make us look glowing and healthy – sounds like a one of the most promising benefits of drinking water to us!
3. Water stops headaches and dizziness
Don’t reach for the pills straight away, your headache could be a symptom of being dehydrated so drinking water should make it go away.
Even tension headaches and dizziness, which can be brought on by fatigue, can be cured or helped by drinking water – this is because fatigue is also a sign of dehydration.
4. Water clears your skin
Most people know that drinking more water can be good for clear skin and it can also help the symptoms of acne.
If you’ve got dry skin, drinking water will give it more moisture but that’s not all. Water flushes toxins out of your body and anything else that shouldn’t be there so it clears your skin of any dirt and bacteria. This sounds like one of the most promising benefits of drinking water.
5. It fights infections
Benefits of drinking water includes helping to fight infections all over your body, not only because it flushes out toxins but because when you’re dehydrated you’re more likely to catch a bug.
It’s especially good for getting rid of and preventing urine infections and kidney stones.
Being well hydrated is also great for allergies and colds, because it clears the airways. Even cold sores can be reduced by drinking more water because they tend to pop up in places where your skin is particularly dry.
6. It keeps you regular
If you suffer from constipation or piles you might have been told to increase how much fibre you eat. This is definitely one way of getting rid of the problem but you’ll need to drink more water for the fibre to work properly. Otherwise it could have the opposite effect and make you worse.
7. It makes you exercise better
It’s common sense to replace the fluids you lose when you sweat with water, but what might not be obvious is that your body works better and harder during your workout if you drink water.
8. It improves concentration
Because your brain is made of around 85% water if you get dehydrated it can affect your concentration and even your short-term memory. It has a particularly strong effect on your maths skills and it’s all because lack of water causes your brain’s energy levels to decrease.
9. It boosts your energy
In the same way that not drinking enough water makes your brain slow down it has the same effect on your body.
For example, your muscles are around 75% water, your bones are about 22% and your blood is around 83%.
If you’re dehydrated, all these body parts don’t work as well as they should meaning you lack energy and feel tired or lazy.
10. It supports your heart
The hardest working muscle of all needs a lot of water to keep it going at full speed.
When you get dehydrated your blood gets thicker so the heart has to work even harder. And if your heart is weak it can lead to more serious heart problems later in life.
A study by Eden found that drinking more than five glasses of water a day could cut your chances of having a heart attack by 41%, compared with people who drank less than two glasses a day. This sounds like a one of the most promising benefits of drinking water.
If you’re worried you’re not drinking enough:
– Measure how much you’re drinking for a few days to see if it’s anywhere near the minimum amount – Check your wee. If it’s pale and clear then you’re drinking a healthy amount. If it’s dark yellow and cloudy you might be dehydrated or not drinking enough.
And if after all this you’re still getting thirsty a lot but going to the loo more, there might be an underlying problem, like diabetes, so speak to your doctor.
How do I get more water in my diet?
These five simple rules will help you get more water into your diet. And you don’t even have to buy expensive bottled water so it’s great for your wallet as well as your health.
1. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.
This will wake you up and help your body replace any fluid lost when you were sleeping. It’ll also give you a headstart on your 2 litres.
2. Carry a small bottle of water around with you.
This will not only remind you to drink more but it’s also an easy way of keeping track of how much you’re drinking. If you fill it up from the tap you can reuse it as well – brilliant for the environment!
3. Add some flavour.
If you really can’t stand the taste of water on its own try adding a small amount of fruit juice, sugar-free squash or a squeeze of lemon or lime. The lemon can even help with weight loss.
This is because its sour taste helps your liver get rid of toxins. Your liver plays a really important role in helping you lose weight and if it’s full of toxins it doesn’t do its job properly.
4. Set an alarm.
If you’ve got a watch that beeps on the hour it can be a good reminder. Every hour fill up a glass of water, or drink from your bottle, and make sure you finish the glass before the next hour. You could even set a reminder on your computer at work, or on your phone.
5. Eat water-rich foods.
Food below have a highest level of water in them. This can also help you get your five-a-day.
High water foods to quench your thirst
Water content: 89%
Water per 100g: 88.9ml
Peaches are a delicious summer fruit that can be enjoyed on their own or added to yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies; they are packed with beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein, which are great for our eyes and heart health. They’re also fantastic for digestive health, with one medium peach providing nearly 10% of the daily recommended fibre. Their high levels of vitamin C will also help boost your immune system and vitamin A helps fight skin damage.
Water content: 95%
Water per 100g: 95.5ml
‘Tomatoes are a great source of antioxidant (polyphenol) and vitamin C, which help prevent chronic illnesses and cancer*,’ says Dr Laure Hyvernat, nutrition expert. ‘They are high in potassium and the mix of water and fibre makes them great for gut health.’ Dr Hyvernat says use in juice or slice with anchovies and basil.
Water content: 95%
Water per 100g: 97ml‘
Thanks to a high water content, cucumbers are excellent in juice and smoothies, as well as being low calorie, which is ideal for weight loss,’ says Dr Hyvernat. They also have high levels of vitamin C and anti-inflammatory compounds. ‘I use them in patient recipes to remove toxins and waste from the body.’
4) Romaine lettuce
Water content: 95%
Water per 100g: 95ml
Lettuce is a salad bowl staple and, thanks to its rich nutrient content of vitamins K and A, can keep your bones and immune system healthy. ‘The combination of water and fibre also makes it very filling for a very low number of calories (10 calories per 72g),’ says nutritionist Mays Al-Ali. ‘Go for dark leafy lettuce and avoid iceberg as it doesn’t have as many nutrients.’
Water content: 85%
Water per pot (150ml): 127ml
‘Yogurts make for great snacks, breakfast options or can be added to savoury dishes in place of cream,’ says Rob. ‘Not only do they add fluid but are a rich source of calcium for healthy bones and vitamin B12 for healthy red cell production and the conversion of food into energy.’
Water content: 92%
Water per 100g: 92ml
It’s in the name! Watermelons make an excellent hydrating food, plus they’re rich in vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as being a source of antioxidants. Together these help boost your immune system, produce the happy hormone serotonin, and protect you from heart disease, cancer and other diseases. ‘Watermelon works well in savoury salads, partnered with meats such as duck, and cheeses such as feta,’ says Rob.
7) Broth based soup
Water content: 92%
Water per 100g: 98ml
‘Soups are usually water based so have the potential to be very hydrating and nutritious,’ says Mays. Studies** have shown that eating soup is associated with lower risk of obesity as when eaten before a meal it can reduce calorie intake. ‘You can boost the nutrient content by adding lean meats, shellfish, pulses and chopped vegetables.’
8) Pasta with tomato sauce
Pasta (cooked) water content: 72%, Water per 180g serving: 130ml
Tomato sauce (shop-bought) water content: 90%, water per 1⁄4 jar (125ml): 112ml
‘Pasta is a rich source of carbohydrate but opting for wholemeal is healthier as it contains a greater source of fibre, which has less effect on blood sugar levels,’ says Rob. ‘A single serving is also a useful way to hydrate when teamed with a tomato- based sauce.’ This makes a super quick and easy meal and can be bulked up with meats and vegetables too.
Water content: 95%
Water per 100g: 96ml
‘Like cucumber, celery is very low calorie with just 16 calories per 128g***,’ says Mays. ‘It also has a high fibre content, which is satiating.’ Including celery in your diet can help protect against heart disease, types of cancer and bone- related diseases, thanks to vitamin K and potassium. ‘Add it to soups and salads, or eat with a healthy dip such as hummus.’
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