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food for thought

Most of us know that it’s important to stay hydrated, especially on hot summer days when it’s easier to become dehydrated. Water helps regulate our body temperature, delivers oxygen and nutrients to cells, cushions our joints and nourishes our skin.

The U.S.-based Institute of Medicine advises that healthy adults need 2.7 (women) and 3.7 litres (men) of fluid a day to stay adequately hydrated. (These guidelines don’t account for exercise or hot weather, factors that drive up the body’s need for water.)

You don’t need to get all that water from the kitchen tap, though. Roughly 20 per cent of it comes from foods especially fruits and vegetables, which owe at least three-quarters of their weight to water.

Research suggests that encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables can improve their hydration status. A study published in 2013 revealed that, among 442 children ages 4 to 10, those with high intakes of whole fruits and vegetables had significantly better hydration status compared to kids with low intakes.

The water in fruits and vegetables also includes naturally occurring sodium and other minerals which can help replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Plus, their natural sugars help re-energize muscles after exercise.

Another benefit to eating your water: water-dense foods have a greater “satiating power,” meaning they help keep you feeling full longer.

Add the following water-packed fruits and vegetables to your summer diet. They’ll help hydrate your body while delivering plenty of other nutritional benefits. To reap their full hydrating potential, eat them raw; cooking fruits and vegetables causes their cells to lose water.

Cucumber. This member of the gourd family may not be a nutrient powerhouse, but it’s king when it comes to water content, containing 95-per-cent water. Snack on one cup of cucumber slices and you’ll consume nearly one half-cup of water.

And for only 16 calories, you’ll also get some potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, and bone-building vitamin K, plus a smattering of other vitamins and minerals.

Zucchini. Like cucumber, zucchini is also made up of 95-per-cent water. If you eat a medium-sized zucchini (that might sound like a lot but it’s only 33 calories) you’ll get three-quarters of a cup of water.

This summer squash also delivers lots of potassium and is a very good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that help protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Romaine lettuce. A side salad of two cups of romaine lettuce contributes one-quarter of a cup of water to your meal. It also provides one-half of a day’s worth of folate, a B vitamin that makes and repairs DNA in cells.

This leafy green is also an exceptional source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant linked to protection from heart disease and stroke.

Tomatoes. This fruit, a close runner-up to cucumber and zucchini, is 94-per-cent water. One cup of cherry tomatoes, for instance, supplies one half-cup of water toward your daily fluid requirement.

Tomatoes get their red hue from lycopene, an antioxidant that’s thought to guard against cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer. And, they’re a decent source of vitamin C and potassium.

Watermelon. Made up of 91-per-cent water, one cup of diced watermelon delivers nearly two-thirds of a cup of water. The quintessential summer fruit also serves up a hefty amount of lycopene.

And watermelon is a lot less sugary than many people think. One cup has only 11 g of natural sugar (half as much as one medium apple) and 46 calories.

Strawberries. Eat one cup of sliced strawberries and, at the same time, you’ll be “drinking” two-thirds of a cup of water thanks to their 91-per-cent water content.

There’s another reason to eat this water-dense berry: Like other berries, strawberries are a top source of anthocyanins, potent antioxidants believed to help slow cognitive decline and guard against Alzheimer’s disease.

What’s more, one cup of sliced strawberries supplies more than a day’s worth of immune-enhancing vitamin C (98 mg) and 10 per cent of your daily folate.

Cantaloupe. This water-rich melon (90 per cent) also boasts a high potassium content. In fact, one cup of cubed cantaloupe serves up 473 mg of the mineral, more than a medium-sized banana (422 mg). (Adults need 4700 mg of potassium each day.)

Cantaloupe is also an excellent source of immune-enhancing vitamin C (65 mg per cup) and beta-carotene.

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is Director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan.

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