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Water: the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle

1 April 2016
Lady and grandaughter

It's surprising how few of all the healthy lifestyle tips, articles, blog posts, and media advice start with the simplest recommendation: drink more water.

The trouble with sugary drinks is that they often look and taste fairly innocent. Yet, as the NHS points out, soft drinks, fruit juices and other drinks make up for 25% of sugar intake in adults. This goes up to 40% for teenagers.

Switching to water can kick-start your new routine

Switching emphasis toward healthy hydration when you are on a health-kick is quite simple as we all need to drink every single day. Naturally, you eat every day as well but it's more complex; the choices of food are almost endless. When deciding what to eat there are multiple things into account: what you feel like eating, what's in the fridge or on the menu, what nutrients it has, how much it costs etc. In fact, one of the difficult aspects of eating a healthy diet is avoiding monotony because no single recipe contains all the nutrients you need. No dietician would praise you for eating the same meal again and again.

With drinks, it's different. There is no harm in monotony - drinking water every day is actually a desirable habit. Water is a nutrient in its own right. Over half of our body weight constitutes water and your body needs plenty of it to compensate for what's lost through urination and sweating. Obviously, no one would suffer from dehydration voluntarily and our brains quite reliably prompt us to drink when the body is drying up.

There is a common misconception about hydration to note. Many websites claim that plain water has a better hydrating effect than other beverages. That's not true. If you exclude alcohol and excessive amounts of coffee or tea, any drink will hydrate you. It makes sense: content-wise, most drinks are mostly water anyway.

Therefore, the focus needs to be on what type of liquids you choose to hydrate with. Committing to plain water can make a huge difference: it's sugar-free, calorie-free, fresh, and you have a much better idea of what you are drinking. (Have you ever tried looking at your tap water content? Water companies publish quality data on their websites).

To come back to comparing drinks with food: in terms of weight, you drink a similar amount to what you eat (1.5-2kg a day). So drinking water rather than sugary drinks has a massive calorie-cut potential. One other direct benefit of water for your health is the prevention of tooth decay: as The British Dental Association warns, sugar consumption is driving an epidemic in tooth decay in children.

Although drinking water is extremely beneficial, a healthy diet cannot rely on one simple solution. You also need to exercise and eat a balanced diet to remain healthy.

The NHS: Water, drinks and your health

Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center: Water Access and Consumption

Obesity Journal, Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-aged and Older adults

European Food Safety Authority, Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to water

BUPA, Keeping hydrated