Health: Rethink your drink — hydrate right

By Debbie Bell/Franklin County Health Department, Published:

Although we have recently enjoyed a brief reprieve from summer’s escalating temperatures, history has proven that the warmest months are yet to come. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in its latest media release, encourages everyone to “rethink your drink” and keep hydrated during summer months and throughout the year.  

“With warmer temperatures and increased outdoor activities of a typical summer, it is important that everyone make sure their bodies are getting the fluids they need to stay healthy and avoid dehydration,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Kelly Pritchett.

“With an almost endless variety of beverages to choose from, we need to make smart choices when it comes to hydrating right while keeping calories in check.”

A September 2012 study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests calorie intake from beverages has more than doubled since the 1960s, primarily because of a surge in sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), which include soft drinks, sports drinks and sweetened tea consumption. Fruit juice, often marketed as a healthy alternative, isn’t a better option. Even though it has more nutrients, it contains as much sugar and calories as soft drinks.

“According to the research, people don’t balance out these extra liquid calories by eating less from food or by increasing physical activity,” Pritchett says. “Over the long run, these additional beverage calories can lead to energy imbalance and weight gain.”

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers these four tips for quenching your thirst and maintaining energy balance at the same time:

Drink plenty of refreshing, calorie-free water: Whether it’s bottled or from the tap, water does the body good. Without any unnecessary calories, it helps your muscles and brain stay hydrated for optimal physical and mental performance.

“Add slices of citrus fruit, strawberries or cucumber to water to make the flavor more appealing, which may help you drink more,” Pritchett says. How much water you need depends on your gender, size and activity level; larger, more active people need more fluids. Drink enough for your urine to be pale or almost colorless.

Limit soda and sugar-sweetened drinks: More than 35 percent of added sugars in the United States come from soft drinks. “Make beverages like soda, sweetened teas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, ‘energy’ drinks or your favorite coffee drink a special treat instead of a daily need,” Pritchett says.

“They have little if any nutrition value, and they add a significant amount of calories to your diet.” Sports drinks are appropriate for athletes engaged in moderate to high intensity exercise that lasts an hour or longer.

Add milk and milk-alternatives daily: Milk is one of the best sources of calcium for the body and can be a good way to keep hydrated since it contains almost 90 percent water. “Whether it’s flavored or unflavored, milk offers calcium, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin and Vitamin D,” Pritchett says. Non-dairy alternatives that are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D can be nutrient-rich alternatives for vegans and those with milk allergies or intolerances.

Drink alcohol in moderation: Barbecues, picnics, beach parties and baseball games are all traditional venues for drinking alcohol, but alcohol actually has a diuretic effect, meaning it can dehydrate the body.

“If you feel thirsty, drink water first and alternate a glass or two of water in between each alcoholic beverage to keep your body hydrated,” Pritchett says. Women should limit themselves to one alcoholic drink per day, while men should limit consumption to two drinks per day.

“Fluids, like food, are essential for our health, but it’s important to remember that not all beverages are treated the same,” Pritchett says.

For more information about which fluids are best for your lifestyle, consider consulting a registered dietitian. These services are available at your Franklin County Health Department. Appointments can be made by calling 502-564-7647. Learn more about proper hydration by visiting www.eatright.org.

Debbie Bell is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at the Franklin County Health Department, 851 East-West Connector.   

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