Water has no taste, scent or color. It contains no calories and is free of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Yet, the human body is about 60 to 75 percent water, and without it we can’t survive. Read on to learn just how important water is for us and how it can help promote health.
Health benefits of water
Here’s what water does for us:
- Water keeps us hydrated. We lose water every day through sweating, urination, bowel movements and even breathing. Exercise, hot weather and having a fever can cause even more water loss. For these reasons, we need to replace the water that we lose every day. Why? Water is needed for normal body functions, including breathing, digestion, circulation and body temperature regulation.
- Water can prevent constipation. Fiber, which is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods and beans, is certainly key for preventing constipation. But water plays a role in digestion, too, by helping to soften stools and keeping food moving along the digestive tract until it’s eliminated.
- Water controls body temperature. The body’s temperature is very carefully regulated. Water is between 60 and 75% of a body composition; it works to maintain heat, and provide cooling through perspiration.
- Water is a transporter. Nutrients and other key substances that the body needs must be carried, or transported, throughout the body; water is necessary for this to happen.
- Water lubricates. Have you ever had a dry mouth? Water makes up saliva, which helps keep your mouth moist. Water is also needed to make the fluid that lubricates your joints.
- Water helps with weight loss. Start any weight loss program and you’ll likely be told to drink plenty of water. A recent study found that drinking one pint (16 ounces) of water 30 minutes before each meal helped 84 obese adults lose about 9 pounds each over a period of 12 weeks.
- Water can lower the risk of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). In a study of 3600 men and women with healthy blood sugar levels, those who claimed they drank more than 34 ounces of water each day were 21% less likely to develop high blood sugars over the next nine years, compared to people who drank 16 ounces or less of water each day. However, it’s important to note that drinking water won’t lower blood sugar levels that are already high. If your blood sugar levels are above your target range, take your diabetes medicine as prescribed, follow a healthy eating plan and fit in physical activity. High blood sugars can lead to dehydration, so be sure to drink plenty of water.
How much water should you drink?
Chances are, you’ve heard that you should drink at least 8 8-ounce glasses of water every day. The reality, though, is that there isn’t much science to support drinking this amount. The amount of water you need depends on many factors, including your age, gender, activity level, state of health and even the type of climate that you live in.
How much is right for you? There’s nothing wrong with aiming for about 8 glasses of water each day. Remember that other fluids also “count,” like milk, juice, diet soda, tea and coffee. (Despite what you may have been told about caffeine being “dehydrating,” it’s okay to count caffeinated beverages as part of your daily fluid intake.) Water is found in fruits and vegetables as well.
One easy way to know that you’re drinking enough: your urine is clear or pale yellow. If you have questions about your fluid intake or have certain health issues, such as kidney disease or congestive heart failure, be sure to talk with your doctor about how much water and fluid is safe for you to drink.