Nothing quenches like water

An ice-cold beer? Iced cappuccino? Or a tall glass of iced tea? What’s the best drink to quench your thirst and keep you hydrated when the temperature rises?

Kim Ouelette holds up a jug of water in this undated photo. The debate continues as to what's the best drink to quench your thirst and keep you hydrated when the temperature rises.

An ice-cold beer? Iced cappuccino? Or a tall glass of iced tea?

What’s the best drink to quench your thirst and keep you hydrated when the temperature rises?

None of the above.

The answer is actually simpler than most people think: Water.

Pure, unflavoured, unaltered, un-everything water. With maybe a few slices of lemon, lime, even cucumber to give it a taste kick.

In fact, the only two drinks you really need are milk and water, says Kim Ouellette, registered dietitian at the Niagara Region public health department.

The one exception is if you’re an athlete working out over a prolonged period of time. Then you’d probably benefit from a sports drink to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat, says Ouellette.

Otherwise, your body doesn’t need anything else.

An average man needs about 13 cups (3.250 litres) of fluid daily — two cups (500 millilitres) of milk, the remainder water. A woman needs nine cups (2.250 litres) of fluids, including two cups (500 ml) of milk.

And that’s assuming you’re already getting about 20 per cent of your fluid needs from food.

So, what about all the other drinks?

They’re OK once in a while. A treat. But they shouldn’t be guzzled regularly for hydration, she says.

“People have developed a culture of drinking,” says Ouellette. “If you come to visit me, I’m going to offer you a beverage.”

“We’ve been cultured to think that one of our hands should be holding a beverage.”

Dehydration can sneak up on us. Especially the elderly or young children who may not pay attention to early warning signs such as dry lips and thirst. (Other signs of dehydration can include headaches, stomach cramps, nausea, feeling hot, fatigue and dizziness.)

The best way to tell if you’re properly hydrated is to look at your urine. Dark urine means you’re not getting enough fluid. Light, and you’re good.

Here’s what the hydration experts think of your options:

Water

It’s calorie-free and the best choice to keep hydrated. Water has other benefits, too. It regulates body temperature, helps maintain normal blood pressure levels and heart rate, carries oxygen and nutrients through the body, flushes out toxins and lubricates joints. It also keeps our skin and lips moist.

Someone who is chronically dehydrated is at risk for developing kidney stones, says Ouellette.

You’ll need more water if you’re exercising, outside in hot weather, pregnant or nursing.

If your tastebuds aren’t satisfied with plain water, add some slices of lemon, lime or cucumber. Powders that add flavour to water, even if they’re sugar free, are OK just once in a while, she says.

Research suggests that artificially sweetened drinks increase a person’s preference for other sweet-tasting things.

So, even if you think you’re being good by choosing diet pop or sugar-free drink powders, you could be increasing your cravings for all things sweet, says Ouellette.

Water is the best drink on a hot day, except if you’re an athlete who is working out over a prolonged period of time, says Ouellette.

Milk

More than two-thirds of adults and over half of teens don’t get enough milk daily, says Ouellette.

Here’s what Canada’s Food Guide has to say about milk: two cups (500 ml) daily for children two to eight and adults 19 to 50; three to four cups (750 ml to 1 l) daily for children nine to 18; three cups (750 ml) daily for adults 51 plus.

Juice

We actually don’t need juice. A better choice is simply eating a fruit or vegetable, says Ouellette. They contain water as well as fibre that’s usually lacking in juice.

Even juice without added sugar contains sugar.

In fact, each of the following have five to six teaspoons (25 to 30 ml) of sugar in one cup (250 ml): real fruit juice, fruit punch, lemonade and regular soft drinks.

The problem with sugar is not only the calories, but the dental horrors it can cause. If you sip a sweetened drink over a long time, “You bathe your teeth in it for three or four hours.”

Have juice as a treat, not as the main beverage of hydration.

Iced coffee

They’re called beverages because we drink them. But Ouellette would rather call them dessert.

Your average 500-ml (two-cup) size of iced coffee or cappuccino can pack 300 to 400 calories.

They also contain caffeine, a mild central nervous system stimulant which can cause greater effects on children.

Caffeine is also a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration.

Sports drinks

Gatorade and Powerade are two examples of sports drinks. They typically contain simple sugars that can be quickly used by the body, and electrolytes — salt and potassium.

If you’re exercising heavily, especially outdoors in the heat, you’re losing electrolytes through sweat.

Energy drinks are useful because they replace lost electrolytes. And losing electrolytes can not only affect an athlete’s performance, it can also be dangerous, says Ouellette.

Electrolytes also help the body absorb and retain fluid.

But they’re meant for high-performance athletes, or someone who’s losing a lot of sweat over a prolonged period. Not for the average guy who sweats a little after mowing the lawn for a half hour. Water would rehydrate him nicely, she says.

The problem with guzzling a sports drink if you really don’t need one is this: unnecessary salt and sugar.

Energy drinks

Energy drinks should not be confused with sports drinks, says Ouellette. They usually contain caffeine. Some examples include: Red Bull Energy Drink, SoBe Adrenaline Rush and Red Dragon Energy Drink.

According to Health Canada, people drink them for two reasons: to keep up their energy during short periods of intense physical exertion and to quench their thirst after exercise.

Problem is, they could actually lead to dehydration.

As well, they can cause other problems when they’re mixed with alcohol (as they often are at all-night dance parties, bars and clubs) or when too many are consumed.

Health Canada has reported some cases of adverse reactions due to misuse of energy drinks including: electrolyte disturbances, nausea and vomiting and heart irregularities.

Alcohol

Alcohol can quickly pack on the pounds. Not only is it high in calories, it increases appetite and the likelihood that you’ll overeat, says Ouellette.

Each of these alcoholic drinks provides about 100 calories: one cup (250 ml) of beer (about two-thirds of a bottle); five ounces (150 ml) of wine; or 1 1/2 ounces (45 ml) of spirits.

Two drinks a day can add one pound in 2 1/2 weeks, she says.

Pop

If iced coffee is dessert, pop is liquid candy.

It’s packed with sugar, calories and has zero nutritional value, says Ouellette.

If you drink a can of regular Coke, you consume 42 grams, or just over eight teaspoons (40 ml), of sugar. That’s about 160 calories.

Trouble is, it doesn’t make you feel full, says Ouellette. So, those calories will be extra calories, in addition to what you usually consume in a day.

And even if you’re being extra vigilant and hold back calories elsewhere, chances are you’re forfeiting nutrients for a can of pop. In other words, you’re likely drinking pop when you could have downed a glass of milk, says Ouellette.

For more information on hot-weather drinks visit the website www.niagararegion.ca/living/health—wellness/healthyeating/default.as px

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