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Wandering through the UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ 2016 AG Day, the Meado-Larks 4-H Club presented a water taste test that was intriguing. 3 small cups of water labeled A, B, and C were sitting on trays and each participant was asked to sample each cup and note their preference on a slip of paper. Clustered at the educational end of the table were bottled waters and popular beverages. Participants could spin a spinner to choose one of the beverages pictured and labels on the bottles revealed what was really in those bottles! Posters also revealed answers to questions such as: Where does my water come from? If my water source is my well, how frequently should I test my water? Who will test my water? I walked away with a Home Water Testing handout from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, answering all of those questions and much more. www.epa.gov/safewater/labs
My taste buds put to the test, the preference that I jotted down and placed into the basket was “B”. This was Deer Park, a spring water and the “winner of the day”, per Janice Melson, the Meado-Larks’ founder. Choice “A” was Smart Water, a popular distilled water and choice “C” was Acme’s Refresh, purified water from a public water source, treated to remove chemicals and any harmful bacteria. Spring water comes from underground and naturally flows to the surface of the ground. It is collected directly from the spring or through a hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. Distilled water is created when water is boiled to collect the vapor and cool it to return to a liquid state for bottling. Distillation removes bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and other materials. Purified water comes from a well, spring, or the public water source, and treated to remove impurities (contaminants and minerals).
Why is water so important? Often labeled “the Forgotten Nutrient”, water is what makes all the systems in our bodies work. The Centers for Disease Control says water helps keep your body temperature normal, lubricate and cushion joints, protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and eliminate wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. That’s a nutritional powerhouse!
Are you drinking enough water? Fluid needs are different, depending on your age, activity level, health status, and environmental conditions. Thirst should be your guide. Signs of dehydration or excessive water loss start with fatigue and dry lips and tongue, but progress to heat cramps, dizziness, nausea, delirium and unconsciousness. Hot temperatures, direct sunlight, and humid summer days call for drinking extra water, especially when you are exercising or playing outdoors. If you have a fever, diarrhea and vomiting, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, your body needs more water. Anyone with a medical condition requiring fluid control, athletes, and those living in extreme conditions have individual water requirements which may not follow current general recommendations.
For adults, the popular guideline to “drink 8 cups of water each day” is not supported by hard evidence, but it is easy to remember and is similar to the recommendation from the Institute of Medicine for total fluid intake from fluids and foods. The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups of total beverages a day. Remember, thirst determines fluid needs. The smaller body size of a child and inability to tell when too thirsty or hot should be a red flag for parents on hot, humid days. Children, four to eight, require 5.5 cups. Teenagers need to drink more- 7 cups for girls and 10.5 cups for boys. When playing during hot weather, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 5 ounces of cool tap water every 20 minutes for a child weighing 85 pounds and 9 ounces for a teen weighing 132 pounds.
To prevent dehydration and make sure your body has the fluids it needs, make water your beverage of choice. Water has zero calories, is sugar-free, and choosing water instead of sugary drinks reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Drink a glass of water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal. Water is a great choice, but we also need the calcium and vitamin D in fortified, low-fat milk. Drink water before, during and after exercise and on warm days. Some tips for hydrating in hot weather include:
Start hydrating right away. It’s easier to maintain your fluid balance if you start out in a well-hydrated state.
Schedule regular beverage breaks and keep a water bottle handy so you can take frequent sips of water while you work or exercise. Choose electrolyte-replacing drinks for maximum water absorption only when there is a need for rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water during prolonged, vigorous physical activity.
Drink water after you’ve finished work or an exercise session.
Snack on fresh fruits like berries, watermelon, peaches, and nectarines that are high in water volume. Other foods containing water include lettuce, broccoli, milk, orange juice, carrots, yogurt, and apples.
Don’t drink large amounts of plain water all at once – this can lead to hyponatremia or water-toxicity.
While rare, water intoxication is caused when too much water is consumed in a short period of time, diluting other nutrients in the body and putting pressure on the brain. This condition is called hyponatremia. If not treated, it can lead to coma or death. Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners who drink large amounts of water, are at higher risk of hyponatremia. How do you know if you’ve consumed enough water? One way to gauge your hydration level is to look at the color of your urine. If you’re well-hydrated, it should be pale. Also, you’ll be urinating more frequently.
Water is also easy on the wallet. You can save money by drinking water from the tap at home or making it your beverage choice when eating out. Many people think bottled water is purer. The facts learned at the Meado-Larks’ table showed that both bottled and tap water from a public water source must meet the same standards. If you get water from a private well, the owner is responsible for testing it, which should be done each year. Contact a private commercial laboratory certified to test drinking water or the Delaware Public Health Laboratory at (302) 223-1520. The Safe Drinking Water Hotline is (800) 426-4791 or www.epa.gov/safewater/labs
Just remember drink water to refresh, restore, and reinvigorate!
“Home Water Testing.” EPA Office of Water, Bulletin. EPA 816-05-013 May 2005.
Zaneta M. Pronsky, MS,RD,LDN,FADA and Sr. Jeanne P. Crowe, PharmD, RPh. “Food – Medication Interactions, 17th edition.” 2012.
8 Great Reasons to Drink Water. Santa Cruz: Journeyworks, 2014. Print.
Janice Melson, Master Food Educator and 4-H Meado-Larks AG day 2016 water educational display
“Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day? Mayo Clinic, 05 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 May 2016.
“Dehydration: MedlinePlus.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 03 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 May 2016.
“Drinking Water.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 03 June 2014. Web. 14 May 2013.
Crowe, Kristi M., and Coni Francis. “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Functional Foods.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 113.8 (2013): 1096-103. Web.