One Healthy Habit for 2017
How to Nourish Your Best Self in 2017
In keeping with the new year’s tradition, many of us will be making resolutions, setting goals and generally taking stock of where we are at. While January 1st is an arbitrary date, I do believe it is important to acknowledge each year how far we have come and where we want to continue to grow. As a certified nutritionist, I am often asked “what is the one thing I can do to be healthier?” Admittedly, there is more than one thing but, to play along with the new year, here is my one small change you can make for big results in the new year:
Drink More Water. I grew up in the 60’s when there was no such thing as bottled water and football coaches used to call you a ‘sissy’ if you wanted a drink during practice. Despite knowing better, it is shocking how few of us are doing better. Most people far overestimate the amount of water they are drinking in a day and they underestimate the amount of diuretics (liquid that flushes water from our system) they consume. This means that most of us walk around chronically dehydrated. Water has so many important functions in the body: it flushes out toxins, regulates body temperature, cushions joints, and improves cell to cell communication to name just a few.
How much water should you consume? Half your body weight in ounces is the recommendation. And, if you consume diuretics (coffee, soda, juice, alcohol), add an additional ounce and ½ to stay hydrated. A good gauge that your water needs are being met is the color of urine. A well-hydrated person produces colorless urine. It is important to start your day with water before anything else; when we break our fast in the morning, our bodies are already experiencing dehydration. Try starting the morning with a large glass of water with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sea salt. Why salt? It is important to regulate the sodium/potassium balance as you increase your water consumption. Drinking water will temporarily treat the symptoms of dehydration, but the balance of salt intake is what makes the real difference in health and hydration. Dr. Batmanghelidj, author of “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water,” offered a good analogy when he wrote: “Basically, there are two oceans of water in the body: One ocean is held inside the cells of the body and the other ocean is held outside the cells. Good health depends on a delicate balance between the volumes of these two oceans.” The balance of the two oceans in our body is achieved by (1) drinking enough water daily, (2) adding a moderate amount of natural salt to our diet, and (3) eating a variety of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables.
Can’t tolerate the taste of plain water? This is no surprise as our typical American diet bombards our taste buds with super sweet, super salty, super tangy to the point that our palates don’t respond to simple, pure, natural. Try making your own ‘flavored’ water: add sliced lemons, cucumbers or grated ginger. In the summer my family loves water with raspberries and mint; another favorite is cucumber with basil leaves.
A common complaint I hear is that drinking more water will make me go to the bathroom constantly. Yes, and no. Initially, as your body adjusts to the extra water you will pee more but gradually your body will start to absorb and use the additional water reducing your bathroom breaks to a normal range.
The number one reason to drink water is to help your body as it naturally works to prevent disease. We know we must drink extra water when we have a fever or when we experience congestion but water helps with a host of other issues as well. According to Dr. Ong in ‘Mind your own Body’ water helps with:
- Preventing kidney stones
- Urinary tract infections
- Helps treat cough, colds, sore throat, and respiratory infections.
- Reduces heartburn
- Water prevents constipation and its complications.
- Keeps you alert and energetic
- Reduces the occurrence of migraines
- Helps with weight loss
So, remember to raise a glass of healthy, nourishing water to the New Year; cheers!