Good news for all you java lovers. If you fear that the caffeine in coffee, tea and other beverages is dehydrating and doesn’t count toward your water needs, you’ve got something to celebrate. The old mantra — drink eight 8-ounce cups of plain water everyday — just doesn’t hold water, according to two scientific reviews.1,2 Plus, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies issued a report in 2004 giving you permission to simply let your thirst guide how much you drink, and it stated that caffeinated drinks can meet your hydration needs.
One caveat: Often the elderly, young children, athletes, sick individuals or people on certain medications either ignore their thirst or do not recognize thirst. These people will need to pay more attention to the amount of fluid they consume.
Now that you have permission to meet your fluid needs with beverages other than water, should you? Nothing is better than water when you’re watching your calories. If water bores you, however, attaching a filter to your faucet or filling a filter pitcher may be all you need to brighten the taste. If that’s not enough, flavor your water with some of your favorites fruits, vegetables and herbs. Lots of my patients like these:
- Cucumber slices and mint or lavender
- Orange slices or orange and lemon slices
- Lemon slices and grated gingerroot
- Blackberries, lime slices and mint
- Peach slices and basil
- Cubed watermelon, pineapple, honeydew or cantaloupe
Before adding herbs, gently crush them in your hands to release their flavors. Refrigerate your flavored water. Some combinations may take several hours to reach their best flavor.
Coffee and tea are also good choices, and they both contain health-boosting compounds. But watch those add-ins like sugar, cream, syrups and whipped cream, or you’ll take your near-zero calorie beverage to the level of a rich dessert. Both 100 percent fruit juice and the whole fruit have hydrating water, too. Because of the calories, I recommend that most of my patients limit their consumption of fruit juice to a cup per day.
- Valtin Heinz. “Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.” Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 x 8”? American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. Vol. 283: R993–R1004, 2002.
- Kolso J, Jeckel K, Wildman EC. “Water, Hydration and Health: What Dietetics Practitioners Need to Know.” SCAN’s Pulse, Winter 2012 Vol. 31, No. 1.