It’s summertime and it’s hot outside, so we need to stay hydrated to feel our best. When our bodies are fully hydrated:

  • Essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are quickly and efficiently delivered to all our cells.
  • The foods we eat can be efficiently broken down and turned into energy.
  • Waste products and toxins are more completely removed from our systems.
  • Our body temperature stays regulated —we don’t get too hot or cold.
  • Our joints and organs are lubricated and protected.
  • Our organs can operate at peak performance.
  • There are many easy ways to stay hydrated. The obvious one is to drink enough water. What many people don’t realize is that eating foods that contain a lot of water, like vegetables, fruits, and even whole grains can keep one hydrated, too.

Keep in mind that it’s also easy to drink and eat things that dehydrate us. And if we aren’t careful, dehydration can have serious consequences, like muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, headaches, and even kidney stones. Your brain and body are made up of approximately 75 percent water, so it’s critical that you drink enough water to keep your body running properly.

Here are some tips for making sure you get enough water:

  • It takes 8-12 hours to adequately hydrate and 18-24 to reach optimal hydration. Always remember that what you drink today hydrates you for tomorrow.
  • Set hydration goals: aim for half of your body weight in fluid ounces every day. For example, a 140-pound woman should drink 70 ounces daily—that’s about 8½ 8-ounce glasses.
  • Monitor your urine – if it’s clear or mildly yellow, you are hydrated; if it’s darker, you are mildly dehydrated or worse.
  • Water and hydrating foods are the best ways to hydrate.

If you want to avoid the consequences of dehydration, avoid these five food items:

Salty snacks – Potato chips, popcorn and pretzels can negatively affect your hydration levels. The saltier the snack, the thirstier you will be. If you cannot moderate these items, (like me) abstain from them, especially during hot weather!

Frozen dinners – According to the American Heart Association, more than 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet comes from processed foods. Many frozen dinners are so high in sodium they make it hard to properly hydrate. One serving of many packaged foods contains almost half of the recommended daily amount of sodium, so watch out!

Sugary drinks –Sipping a can of soda on a hot day may seem refreshing, but studies have shown that, while high-sugar drinks initially seem to quench your thirst, as the sugar enters your bloodstream, your body releases water from your cells as it attempts to flush out the excess sugar. The result is you get more dehydrated and are still thirsty. In addition, many flavors of soda contain caffeine, which is a mild diuretic. This causes you to urinate more frequently, which further dehydrates you!

Cured meats – Cured meats, are very popular in appetizers, on antipasto platters, grilled (hotdogs), on pizzas and during the holidays (ham). If you enjoy these items, be sure to consume large quantities of water with them—otherwise, their salt can quickly dehydrate you.

French fries – Consuming too many fried foods can dehydrate you, largely because they usually contain large amounts of salt. Eating these types of foods makes it easy to exceed the recommended daily salt intake of 2300 milligrams, which is one teaspoon.

Minimize, or avoid, these foods and others like them, especially during the hot months, so you can continue to enjoy life with minimal discomfort.

Take these baby steps and you will love the way you feel!