The South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines include the recommendation of “Drink lots of clean, safe water.”

Many nutrients, including certain vitamins and minerals, are dissolved in water in the human body and we need to drink enough of it to be able to absorb these nutrients. Other reasons for increasing water consumption include breastfeeding, sport, very hot weather, diarrhoea, vomitting and fever due to illness. Water constitutes the major part of the human body (50 – 70%). Clear and refreshing, it’s the most hydrating, thirst-quenching liquid available to us and it’s kilojoule free!

Water is also responsible for eliminating certain waste products from the body, via the kidneys, through the urine. With further losses of water through the bowels, skin and lungs, it is therefore necessary to replace these losses. If not, signs of dehydration can set in eg. Dizziness, fatigue, irritability, dry skin and increased thirst. Dehydration over a longer period of time can lead to dry skin, constipation (very common in children) and darker coloured urine.

There are several ways to increase your water consumption:

  • drink water before and after sport and exercise set reminders on your cell phone to drink every hour
  • make water the fluid of choice for your children’s lunchbox every day
  • unsweetened Rooibos/ herbal teas also have the same benefits of water
  • add mint leaves or lemon slices to your water, to add more flavour and interest
  • always have it on your desk at work/ at school
  • when driving in your car, take a water bottle with you

If we aren’t drinking water, we are probably choosing a kilojoule laden sweet drink. This can spike our glucose levels, increase insulin secretion and weight gain, contributing to the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases like Type 2 Diabetes (on the increase in children), hypertension and raised cholesterol. Replacing sugary drinks with water assists in regulating body temperature, assisting with digestion and lubricating the joints.

Children who consume more water than sugary drinks are at a lower risk of dental cavities. Drinking more water is associated with diets of higher nutritional quality and healthier food choices, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, as opposed to eating more sugary foods and drinks.

 

Julie Peacock

Registered Dietition

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