Water is typically one of the most underestimated vital nutrients. It only makes sense when you realize that 60% of our bodies are made up of water and the brain alone is made up of 80% water. For a person weighing 150 pounds that means 90 pounds is water.

With summer knocking on our doors, temperatures heating up and the simple fact that we are surrounded by the Atlantic and St. Johns River it is only logical that we shed some light on the importance of water. We’re separating the facts from myths when it comes to the most indispensable nutrient our bodies demand–WATER!

MYTH:Water’s most important function is to “clean us out.”

FACT:Water actually has many very important functions that are equally important:

  • Helps regulate body temperature
  • Dissolves nutrients (glucose, amino acids, vitamins and minerals)
  • Carries nutrients throughout the body and to cells that need them
  • Keeps the tissues and blood clean
  • Lubricates joints
  • Plays a role in many chemical reactions within our bodies
  • Acts as a shock absorber

 

MYTH: Everyone needs eight cups of water a day to meet fluid needs.

FACT: While fluid needs are truly individual the Institute of Medicine has recommended the following amounts as a guide for most general healthy people to meet their hydration needs:

Males Females
9-13 years old: 8 cups 7 cups
14-18 years old: 11 cups 8 cups
19+ years: 13 cups 9 cups

These amounts account for 80% of our total fluid needs. We also obtain another 20% of fluids from the moisture in the food we eat.High temperatures and excess sweating will increase your fluid needs.

 

MYTH:An easy way to remember when it is time to drink is when your body tells you that you are thirsty.

FACT:It is important to drink when you are thirsty, but many times waiting until your body signals thirst you are already dehydrated. At this point your body may be at a loss of about two cups of fluid. Dehydration can be very serious.A one percent loss of body weight as fluid will impair the body’s function leaving you feeling weak, confused and forgetful and often increasing your heart rate. As we age our thirst mechanism is lost so it is very important for the elderly to drink throughout the day.

 

MYTH: Coffee, tea and sodas do not count as fluid because they have caffeine in them.

FACT: Fluids are just that – fluids. All beverages count and will meet your body’s fluid needs. However, it is a good idea to consume most of your fluids as water simply because it contains no calories and will not contribute to weight gain or leave you with potential side effects from too much caffeine. Yes, caffeine-containing drinks can cause a slight increase in urine output by acting as a diuretic but this effect is small and those beverages are still accounted for in total fluid intake.

 

MYTH: Sports drinks are the best choice when exercising or working outside in the sun.

FACT: Water is your best option to replenish fluids, maintain hydration and keep your body cool. However, endurance athletes and those exercising in the heat for longer periods of time (45 minutes or longer) will benefit from a sports drink that contains glucose, sodium and electrolytes. Also, those who are “salty sweaters” may benefit from an electrolyte containing sports drink or a salty snack with their water to replace the salt they lose through their sweat. You know if you are a salty sweater by the taste of your sweat, and yes, many people have tasted their sweat inadvertently because it drips from your brow or forehead landing on your lips.

 

MYTH: Bottled water is safer than tap water because it is more regulated.

FACT:Whether tap or bottled the water comes from the same sources – either underground from an aquifer or from what is called surface water which includes lakes, springs, ponds or reservoirs. Both types of water undergo testing and treatment to remove harmful contaminants. However, the Food and Drug Administration only regulates bottled water sold across state lines so it is important to check labels and know where your water is coming from. Even when choosing FDA regulated bottle water the testing standards are not as strict or tested as frequently as tap water. Some people prefer bottled water because of taste, which is due to how the water is disinfected. Ozone is typically used to purify bottled water leaving behind no taste or smell unlike tap water which is sanitized using chlorine. Another difference between these two types of water is minerals. Bottled water is usually absent of minerals where tap water often contains them. These trace minerals add to the taste and some studies have shown them to be beneficial to our health. So, which one should you choose? I am personally a fan of tap water for many reasons – cost, better for the environment, and with a little extra filtration (through the filter in the fridge) it tastes good. If you are concerned with your local water quality check out your area’s water quality report. The latest report I have found is from 2010 and you can check it out here.

 

This artricle first appeared in the June 2012 issue of Void and was written by Catherine Wallace, MSH, RD, LD/N