Image borrowed from: passionebenessere.it
Knock on wood, but I’m pretty positive that summer is here to stay now. What a beautiful May long weekend we just experienced! While our summer season tends to reach some fairly high temperatures, Calgary is known for its dry climate “compared to the weather in the rest of Canada. Where Eastern Canada and B.C. are quite humid, with ample rain and snow, Calgary is very dry most of the time, with an average annual precipitation of 41 cm (16 inches)”.1 In dry climates there is an increased chance of becoming dehydrated and this risk increases “especially during summer when it’s hotter and people perspire more”.2
We all know it is important to be hydrated. “Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation”.2 Aside from the necessary physiological benefits there are countless other physical benefits too. Such as boosting brain power, helping to maintain the balance of body fluids, appetite control and gut health, improves your mood, and also lowers the risk of heart attacks.3 Wow!
Our bodies are able to obtain some water content from the foods we eat every day. “According to the Institute of Medicine, 20 percent of your water intake comes from food sources. Many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, broccoli and tomatoes, contain 90 percent or higher water content by weight.”4 However, the water obtained from food alone is not enough to achieve a proper hydration status. Thus, an emphasis and awareness on your hydration wouldn’t hurt!
You might have asked yourself before “How do I know if I am hydrated?” Well if you wait until the point that you are physically thirsty that is probably too late and you might already be experiencing dehydration symptoms. “Warning signs of dehydration include weakness, low blood pressure, dizziness, confusion, or urine that’s dark in colour”2 If you’re curious as you are reading this article, please give this quick calculation below a try. Note, this simplified formula only provides a close estimate; does not take into account age, gender, geographical location, humidity levels etc. Additional ounces of water need to be added to your total for every 30 minutes of moderate-high intensity exercise performed.
- Multiply your weight (lbs.) by 2/3 (67%)
Example: 175lbs. x 0.67 = 117 ounces
Divide this total by 8 ounces to calculate the number of cups: 117 ounces / 8 ounces per cup = 15 cups of fluids per day.
‘Drink 8 cups of water per day’ is a notion that has been ingrained in us for as long as one can remember. Is this accurate for every individual to aim for? Well not necessarily. After doing the quick calculation seen above, the majority of people get a result equating to a higher number of cups than 8. To clarify Dietitians of Canada simply state that “fluids include water and other beverages such as milk, juice, broth or soups, coffee and tea. Water is one of the best fluid choices, but it is a myth that you need 8 cups a day to stay healthy.”5 When it comes to the nutritional value of water, plain water contains zero calories; while there are no macronutrients present there are typically minerals fortified and flavours infused into water now.
Now as a Nutrition Educator I must point out that the ‘source’ of our hydration is very important. Hydrating your bodies with Slurpee’s, Frappuccino’s, and soda pop is really doing more harm than good to our bodies. All of these popular beverage examples are packed with added sugars. “Sugars are often added to improve their flavour, colour, texture and shelf-life. Sugar comes in many forms: white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup and corn sweeteners. It may be listed on the ingredient listing on food labels as: glucose fructose, dextrose, maltose or sucrose”.6 The American Heart Association recommends that “women should have no more than 6 teaspoons per day, which is 25 grams of sugar…As a man, you can have up to 9 teaspoons of sugar daily, or 38 grams of sugar.”7 When we accumulate too much sugar from our diets our bodies convert this excess into storage a.k.a. fat. Take for example a can of Coke. “A 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains 39 grams of total sugar, which is about 9 1/3 teaspoons of sugar.”7 Just like that, in one can you are exceeding your recommended daily allowance. To stay informed on your choices, most beverage product labels include a Nutrition Facts Table or we have access at our fingertips to quickly pull up on our phones this nutrition information.
The first-world country, Britain has recently made news headlines for being in the process of passing laws at the highest level of government to heavily tax sugary beverages in hopes of decreasing the increasing prevalence of obesity and related chronic diseases. “Britain is already seeing; even before the tax comes into effect next year, manufacturers have started altering their recipes to reduce sugars.”8 It is important to point out Britain is not the first country to venture into this type of health movement, “France imposed a tax on beverages with added sugar and artificial sweeteners in 2012. Mexico enacted a tax on sugary drinks in 2014. Several California cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, approved sugary-beverage taxes last year.”8 This is definitely something I hope we see Canada’s government move towards in the near future. ‘Children are our future’...and as it sits presently, Canadian children are amongst one of the highest for obesity rates.
While short term you may enjoy indulging in sugary beverages on a regular basis, your long-term self will thank you down the road if you make some healthier options. Healthier options like sparking water beverages (LaCroix, Perrier etc.) are becoming increasingly popular for being sugar free and naturally flavoured with no artificial sweeteners. PepsiCo Canada and Coca Cola companies well-known for their soda pop and juice products have recently introduced healthier alternatives to their brands. Soda Stream is a small kitchen appliance also gaining popularity for its convenience and array of flavour offerings. Another favourite refreshing drink is iced coffee. Try ordering your iced coffee without milk and opting for unsweetened flavor shots to reduce daily liquid calories. Also, simply enhance your plain water with berries, citrus fruits, cucumber slices, or mint. All the healthy habits that you spend the majority of the year engraining into your children and abiding by for yourself does not have to ‘go out the window” by any means when warmer temperatures hit.
Have a wonderful fun & healthy summer!
B.Sc. Nutrition and Food Sciences
1.TripAdvisor. Calgary Weather and When to Go. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g154913-s208/Calgary:Alberta:Weather.And.When.To.Go.html
2.Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School. The importance of staying hydrated. June, 2015. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-staying-hydrated
3. ABC News. 5 Healthy Reasons to Stay Hydrated. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/healthy-reasons-stay-hydrated/story?id=19714263
4. Active. Stay Hydrated With High Water Content Foods. https://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/stay-hydrated-with-high-water-content-foods?page=3
5. Dietitians of Canada. Guidelines for Drinking Fluids to Stay Hydrated. https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Water/Why-is-water-so-important-for-my-body---Know-when-.aspx
6. Heart and Stroke. Health Seekers – Reduce Sugar. http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/reduce-sugar
7. Livestrong. How Many Teaspoons of Sugar Are There in a Can of Coke? October 2017 https://www.livestrong.com/article/283136-how-many-teaspoons-of-sugar-are-there-in-a-can-of-coke/
8. Globe and Mail. Soft drinks, hard decisions: What Canada is doing amid the global sugar tax debate. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/sugar-tax-debate-canada-soda-childhood-obesity/article36591805/