Research and everyday experience show us that if we drink enough water we feel much healthier. It is also thought that if we sip water regularly during the day it helps to keep the brain more alert. We also know that children should be encouraged to drink more water too, but why do we really need water?
Every cell in our body needs water to function. In fact, the body is made up of around 60% water. It controls body temperature and prevents dehydration when we sweat. Water also helps to move nutrients around the body, aiding their absorption, and assists ridding the body of toxins. If you drink plenty of water, you are less likely to suffer from constipation, urinary infections, colon cancer and kidney stones - now I think we all like the sound of that! So why do we struggle to drink more and do you and your family really get enough?
The amount of fluid we drink differs enormously, and it can be hard to always hit the water target. Try to drink a glass an hour, as a guide. For the first few days you might find that you're running to the loo more often than normal, but keep up with the drinking and it'll settle down. To check that your children are getting enough water, look at the colour of their urine. If it's very pale, it's fine - the darker it is, the more fluid needs to be drunk. When children say that they're hungry, they may in fact be thirsty, so give them a glass of water - particularly if it's nearly mealtime, or they'll end up eating a snack and not their meal!. When you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated, so make sure you drink plenty then. If you don't you are likely to suffer from a headache and dry mouth and eyes, feel tired, and cannot concentrate for long.
Ok, so we know we have to drink more, but does it have to be water? Well as it turns out, all drinks count - but water is the healthiest. Sweetened soft drinks and pure fruit juices contain large amounts of sugar, which can cause tooth decay and obesity. It has been proven that children who consume large quantities of sweet drinks eat less at mealtimes, so they may not get all the essential nutrients they need. If you give children water from the start, they won't crave the sweet drinks. Tea and coffee also count towards your fluid intake, but it's best to cut down on caffeine, as it is a stimulant, acts as a diuretic and suppresses the absorption of calcium. It's best to choose caffeine-free instead!
Here's some of my favourite ways to jazz up water and help you to keep your intake up:
Snap a couple of sticks and infuse in boiling water. Sweeten with a little honey, if you like. Cinnamon can have a natural anti-inflammatory effect on the body and help reduce pain.
Buy a root of fresh ginger, grate it, and freeze it packed in ice cube trays. Just take one cube out at a time and pop it straight into a cup of boiling water. Ginger is good for the digestion and for alleviating nausea.
Freeze some fresh berries in water in ice cubes. Float in sparkling water and add a straw for a pretty fruity treat. You can do the same with the leaves of fresh mint or other herbs too - great for the summer!
LEMON AND MINT
You just can't beat slices of fresh lemon and mint leaves mixed with water. For a fresh take try freezing the juice of lemons in ice cube trays with sprigs of fresh mint - handy to have in and make in advance!