Staying hydrated is important year-round, but it’s especially crucial to up your water intake during the late spring and summer months, when rising temps lead to losing more fluids through sweat. Here’s the thing, though: There are more ways than one to stay on top of your hydration needs. In addition to drinking plenty of water throughout the day, eating the right foods can go a long way. Here’s what you need to know.
First things first: Let your thirst guide you
Staying hydrated is an absolute must for feeling your best. “Proper hydration impacts our cognitive function and energy in a major way,” says dietitian Trista Best, M.P.H., R.D., L.D. “Studies have found that even a mild form of dehydration, just one to three percent water loss, can impair brain function. This includes mood, energy, concentration, and memory. Slight dehydration can increase headaches.”
Read More: ‘I Tracked My Water Intake For 2 Weeks—Here’s What Happened’
While the symptoms of dehydration are less than desirable, the idea that all people must sip on a specific amount of water per day to stay hydrated is actually outdated.
“The common advice to consume 64 ounces of water each day is misguided,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and certified health and wellness coach Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.C.E.S., C.H.W.C., F.A.N.D. “In fact, the National Academy of Medicine issued fluid guidelines way back in 2004 that suggest healthy adults simply let thirst guide their fluid intake. They further stated that even caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee count toward an individual’s fluid needs.” So if you’re forcing yourself to drink water constantly—even when you don’t feel thirsty—take this as a cue to ease off.
Eating your Water: Which Foods Are The Most Hydrating?
Good news for those who tend to forget their water bottle at home or just don’t love sipping on plain H2O: Certain foods are very hydrating.
“Foods contain water and meet our hydration needs. Some—like watermelon and peaches—are obvious because they drip all over our hands and face,” says Weisenberger. “But most foods provide at least a little water. For example, an apple is 85 percent water, while skim milk is 91 percent water. Pasta and rice are also full of water, which we know because we see them plump up when cooked and watch the water in the pot disappear. Even cheddar cheese is 37 percent water by weight.”
Read More: Are You Dehydrated Without Even Knowing It?
A good rule of thumb for knowing if a particular food is extra hydrating: Consider whether it releases liquid when you bite into it (like fruits and some veggies), whether it’s been cooked in liquid (like whole grains), or whether it shrinks up terribly when cooked (like spinach).”
Ultimately, eating for hydration comes down to choosing healthy, plant-based foods. Not only do they contain lots of water but they also offer vitamins, minerals, disease-fighting phytonutrients, and lots of flavor, says Weisenberger.
How To Make Your Meals & Snacks More Hydrating
If you want your snacks and meals to bolster your hydration levels, incorporate the following dietitian-approved tips.
1. Snack on fresh-cut veggies
When you’re heading out the door in the morning, go ahead and pack a couple of baggies of water-based vegetables. “Adding vegetables like celery and cucumber to your daily snack routine is a great way to get extra water into your diet,” says Best. “Cucumbers are 95 percent water, making them an easy and inexpensive way to hydrate through food.”
If cucumbers aren’t your favorite, you can opt for celery or cherry tomatoes, which are also super-high in water content, Best suggests.
2. Add classic summer fruits to your meals
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy in-season fruits like watermelon, peaches, blackberries, and strawberries. These delicious options make for great snacks, hydrating desserts, and sweet sides at barbecues.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that watermelon is particularly good for hydration… “water” is right there in the name, after all. But the water content isn’t the only reason to add a side of it to your dinner. “For ultimate hydration, eating foods that are both water- and potassium-rich is ideal,” says dietitian Katie Tomaschko, M.S., R.D. Yep, watermelon offers this important electrolyte—as do fruits like strawberries, bananas, and oranges, too.
3. Enjoy a post-workout strawberry banana smoothie
Speaking of that important water-electrolyte combo, Tomaschko loves a smoothie made with strawberries and bananas for after sweaty summer workouts. While you’re at it, throw in some water-rich spinach and your favorite protein powder for a blend that hydrates you, packs in plenty of other important micronutrients, and sends your muscles the protein they need to recoup.
4. Start your dinner with soup
Soup may not be the first thing you think of chowing down on during the summer, but if there were ever a hydrating dish, soup is the obvious choice; it’s literally liquid food. “Soups and broths also contribute to total water intake and can be a more satisfying way to hydrate than drinking a glass of water,” says Danielle McAvoy, M.S.P.H., R.D., a dietitian with Strong Home Gym. And if you choose a broth that contains other hydrating ingredients, like zucchini, spinach, and beans, your soup could be a home run when it comes to keeping summer dehydration at bay. Gazpacho, anyone?