So you’re at the beach with the family. It’s a real scorcher, and your thirst is unbearable. So you pack up the kids, toys and chairs, walk off the beach and head directly to what seems like the perfect solution: the ice cream shop. A cool scoop of vanilla will shake that thirst for sure, right? Wrong!
OK, then maybe you’d do better by pairing it with a beverage. Instead of one scoop, it’s Coke floats for everyone. Try again—that’s a thirst-quenching double-whammy!
Considering your beverage, you decide to balance out the health factor a bit by ordering a nice grilled chicken breast with a side of asparagus. Well, sorry, that’s strike three for solving your thirst issues.
Believe it or not, in this scenario you’d walk out of that shop thirstier than when you entered. You may temporarily feel better, having cooled off with air conditioning and the ice cream float. But in just those three items—ice cream, soda and grilled chicken—lurk a plethora of ingredients that, when ingested, trigger thirst. It’s the body’s red alert that you are becoming dehydrated. Let’s break it down.
When sugar from the ice cream enters your bloodstream, it courses through your body, “sucking” water from your cells and depleting fluids. Ice cream and other sugary foods make you thirsty. You can see why adding soda doesn’t help. (Hint: Making it a diet soda won’t help either!) In addition, that soda most likely has caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, increasing the frequency of urination and fluid removal from the body. As for that grilled chicken with asparagus, first consider the salt/sodium used to flavor that dish. Like sugar, salt pulls water out of your body’s cells and into the urine stream for removal from the body. Too much salt in the diet is one of the major culprits of dehydration. Moreover, studies show that high-protein diets can alter kidney function, leading to dehydration. Lastly, the asparagus contains an amino acid that causes your body to release more water.
Wow, right?! Protein, salt, sugar, cool foods, hot foods, veggies—they can all make you thirsty and challenge your ability to stay hydrated. So how can you combat thirst and dehydration while still enjoying summer? Three steps:
- AVOID. As much as possible, avoid foods on the “most wanted” list of the dehydration police when you are thirsty. As part of this step, take care not to be fooled by a “wolf in fluid’s clothing”! In addition to the things we just discussed, shockers such as coconut water, energy drinks and fruit juice are on the most wanted list! Here’s a great source for discovering others.
- REPLENISH. “Restock” your fluids with and between every meal. Based on our previous conversation alone, you can understand why drinking plain water is by far the best way to stay hydrated and to rehydrate—most likely there will be at least one ingredient in other types of beverages that work against hydration. You should also eat foods with a high-water content. Cucumbers, watermelon, cottage cheese and yogurt are just a few great options topping the list of hydration-friendly foods.
- PREVENT. The best solution to thirst and dehydration is to not reach that point in the first place. Don’t wait until you are thirsty before you drink—by then your body is already on the downward dehydration spiral! Again, consistent fluid intake achieved by drinking plain water throughout the day is the key. Get in the habit of practicing the “Replenish” tips above before your body signals you to do it.
Now, I’m not here to be the “hydration humbug” of your summer pleasure. It’s OK to have that ice cream, fruit smoothie, frozen latte, fresh-picked veggie feast and those other things that make summer special. But, if you do, remember to balance the negative impact of these hydration-thieves is by drinking plenty of tap water, especially when other factors such as higher heat and activity levels are also working to dehydrate your body.