As nutrition myths go, the one about needing to drink eight glasses of water a day just might be the biggest. Nobody knows where that number came from or how it caught on, but it’s told as if it were a basic fact, like gravity. In truth, the amount of water we require varies widely, depending on the climate, whether you’re a man or a woman, and how active you are. Actually, there’s no need to even pin down an amount, since our bodies are remarkably efficient at telling us when we need a drink of water.
Thirst, it turns out, is our best guide. The listen-to-your-body method of nutrition isn’t always best (do I really need that piece of chocolate cake I’m craving?), but when it comes to water, our yearnings are spot-on. The hotter it gets, the more we want refreshing, cooling foods and drinks, and if we listen to those desires, the research shows that we wind up getting the right amount. All we really have to do is choose which way to hydrate.
Drink your water (and eat it, too)
As the weather heats up, it’s no coincidence that the fruits and vegetables that are fresh for picking are plump with water—juicy, ripe peaches, plums, and melons, crisp lettuces, succulent tomatoes, and cool cucumbers. And the dishes we lean toward, like salads, smoothies, yogurt with fruit, gazpacho, and seafood, also contribute to hydration. Surprisingly, about 20 percent of our total water intake comes from the foods we eat.
You’ll get the remaining 80 percent from beverages. Water is best, but other drinks count, too—milk, juices, even coffee and tea. (The latest research shows that despite their caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, coffee and tea do provide a net gain of water for the body.) Water, though, is the ideal choice because of what it lacks—it has no calories, additives, caffeine, or sweeteners, so you can drink it liberally, with no downside. It’s as pure and quenching as you can get. But sometimes you want something with flavor.
DIY flavored water
Of course, it’s easy to find a wide beverage selection at the store, and some are decidedly better for you than others. I am mesmerized by the variety of options, from soda to sports drinks to enhanced waters. My 8-year-old daughter is easily lured by the supermarket’s beautiful array of colorful drinks and regularly begs me for some water concoction that often sounds healthier than it is. There are some good picks, like waters with just a hint of natural flavor, but for others, one look at the ingredient list will make you want to drop the bottle. The vast majority of these drinks are really just soft drinks without carbonation, loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners and dyes. Plus, they can be pricey.
I’ve found that the healthiest (and least expensive) way to get stunning color and taste into water is to flavor it at home. The basic idea is quite simple: Purée a fruit or vegetable, strain it to extract the juice, sweeten slightly to taste, and dilute with fresh water to your desired concentration. The three flavored waters here are great examples. The cucumber-flavored water is enhanced with fresh mint and a touch of lemon juice, the blackberry is paired with fresh sage, and the watermelon gets a bright squeeze of lime and a floral hint of basil. All are enticingly tasty ways to quench your thirst.
|Good to Know
A few tasty garnishes make these homemade waters even more delicious. Here are some to try:
• Add unpeeled slices of orange, lemon, or cucumber, or a sprig of a fresh, tender herb like basil or mint to each glass.
• Serve with fruit-filled ice cubes: Put a few small berries or berry slices in each section of an ice cube tray, add water, and freeze.
• Skewer some seedless grapes, freeze, and use as an icy edible stirrer.
|Blackberry-Sage Water||Cucumber-Mint Water|
Photos by Scott Phillips