Staying Hydrated

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Staying Hydrated

Most of us think about drinking more water when the weather turns hot or after doing physical activity. But no matter the weather or daily activities, keeping up with your fluid intake is important, especially when you have diabetes. Read on to learn why!

Wonders of water

You’ve probably heard at some point that the human body is about 60% water. That seems a little strange, since we think of the body as consisting of bones, muscles, tissues, and blood. But a deeper dive into the inner workings of the body reveals some surprising facts, according to the Journal of Biological Chemistry:

  • The lungs are about 80% water
  • The kidneys and muscles are 79% water
  • The brain and the heart are about 70% water
  • The skin is 64% water
  • Bones are about 30% water (hard to believe!)

Water is so essential to life that we can’t live more than a few days without it.

Why we need water

Why so much water, you might ask? Well, here’s what it does for us, other than quenching thirst:

  • It keeps tissues in the eyes, mouth, and nose moist
  • It makes saliva
  • It regulates body temperature
  • It helps carries nutrients to cells
  • It helps with digestion and prevents constipation
  • It lubricates joints
  • It cushions organs and tissues
  • It helps to flush out waste products
  • It helps you think, remember, and pay attention

Water even makes you a healthier eater, according to a study published in 2016 in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. How so? The people in this study (more than 18,300) who drank one percent more water a day ate fewer calories, and consumer less sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. And fewer calories can mean weight loss. In fact, drinking water before a meal has been shown to help with weight loss.

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Water and diabetes

When it comes to diabetes, water helps in a few important ways:

  • It dilutes glucose (sugar) in the blood when blood sugars are high
  • It can counteract the dehydrating effects of high blood sugars
  • It helps the kidneys flush out excess glucose when blood sugars are high

If you have prediabetes or are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, think about reaching for another glass of water. According to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2011, more than 3,000 healthy men and women without diabetes were tracked for almost a decade. After nine years, 800 developed type 2 diabetes. But those who drank between 17 and 34 ounces of water daily had a 30% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who drank the least amount.

How much water do you need?

Determining water or fluid needs is a little bit tricky because there are a number of factors that through a curveball into the mix. Exercise level, climate, health conditions, and pregnancy are reasons why you may need more (or less) water than others. But, to give you a reasonable ballpark of what you need, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine defines an adequate daily fluid intake as:

  • About 15.5 cups of fluids daily for men
  • About 11.5 cups of fluids daily for women

It’s always best to check with your healthcare provider about your own fluid needs. You may need less fluid if you have, say, congestive heart failure or kidney disease. You might need more fluids at certain times, too, such as if you are ill or have a fever.

Not a fan of water?

Water is mostly tasteless, as well as colorless and free of calories and carbs; as long as it’s clean and free of contaminants, it’s pretty much your best bet when it comes to diabetes. But a lot of people find water to be boring (it has no taste!) or simply dislike it. How else, then, can you stay hydrated? Fortunately, there are a decent number of options.

Give water a chance.

Make it taste better by infusing it with slices of citrus fruits or cucumbers, or berries, pineapples, watermelon, or peaches, for example. You can even infuse with herbs — try basil, mint, lemon thyme, or dill.

Fizz it up.

Sparkling or seltzer water may be more appealing to you, and you can buy flavored seltzer water that has zero calories. Consider carbonating your own water with a SodaStream.

Try unsweetened tea or coffee (hot or cold).

If caffeine is a concern, go the decaf route. Also, many herbal teas are caffeine-free.

Try adding a bit of juice.

Juice is loaded with calories and carbs, but a small amount (i.e., 1/8th of a cup) adds only about 4 grams of carb and can make your water tasty.

Focus on eating high-water veggies and fruits.

Cucumbers, lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, and bell peppers are about 95% water. Watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, and blackberries are fruits that are high in water, and fairly low in carbs, too.

Want to learn more about staying hydrated? See “Best Beverages for Staying Hydrated,” “Water Facts: Getting to Know H20,” and “What’s to Drink?”

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES on social media

A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Good Measures, LLC, where she is a CDE manager for a virtual diabetes program. Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition & Meal Planning, a co-author of 16 Myths of a Diabetic Diet, and has written for  publications including Diabetes Self-Management, Diabetes Spectrum, Clinical Diabetes, the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation’s newsletter,, and

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