With temperatures soaring to record highs in the UK recently, and the outlook for August looking balmy, it’s more important than ever to stay hydrated.
The NHS guidelines advise an intake of 6-8 glasses of water a day, and we need even more in hot weather. But most of us don’t drink enough, either because we simply forget or we just aren’t that keen on plain old water. Happily there are a few other ways to stay hydrated in the heat.
1. Drinks count towards your fluid alcohol – but not alcohol
Most drinks do count towards your fluid intake, so you can include tea, coffee, milk and soft drinks in your tally. But avoid sodas, shop-bought fruit juices and smoothies, as these can be high in sugar which has a hypernatremic effect, meaning it draws water from your tissues and depletes your body of fluids. Even some commercial drinks marketed as “rehydrating” can actually contain a fair bit of sugar so do check the label. Alcohol should also be avoided as it has a dehydrating effect on the body.
Coconut water (without added sugar) and watermelon juice are good choices as they are naturally hydrating and contain electrolytes, chemicals your body needs to perform many essential processes which can be lost via excessive sweating.
A good tip in hot weather is to make a jug of something hydrating that’s a bit more exciting than water, like this cucumber, lime and mint cooler. In a blender, add two cucumbers (roughly chopped with the skin left on), the juice of around six limes (100ml) and a large handful of mint leaves. Top up with cold water to around ¾ full. Blend on high for a minute until completely smooth, then pass through a sieve with a spatula into a jug. Add extra lime slices and mint leaves and chill in the fridge.
2. Eat more fluids to keep hydrated
We usually get about 20 per cent of our fluids from our food, so eating more foods with a high water content makes sense when it’s warm. Watermelon is an obvious choice, along with grapes, strawberries, peaches, citrus fruit, cucumber, lettuce, courgettes, celery, tomatoes, red peppers, cauliflower and cabbage.
Make a hydrating salad by combining halved green grapes, cucumber and courgette cut into cubes, sliced celery sticks and a handful of chopped, fresh mint leaves. To dress, mix the juice and zest of half a lemon with 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and a little salt and pepper. Pour over the dressing and toss well just before serving. Goes well with grilled fish off the barbecue.
3. Food to avoid in the hot weather
Staying hydrated isn’t just about filling up on fluids – we also need to limit fluid-sapping foods. A high-salt diet is the key culprit when it comes to dehydration, and it’s not only the salt added at the table that’s the problem. Salt turns up in all sorts of processed foods and snacks, as well as fried fast foods, cured meats and soy sauce.
And, finally, asparagus, artichokes and beetroot all have a mild diuretic effect. While they are undoubtedly nutritious and delicious, it is best to save them for cooler weather.
This article is kept updated with the latest information.