By the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing


      When you think about a healthy diet, it’s easy to overlook the most important nutrient of all - water. It’s the “juice” that keeps your body’s chemical processes going. It dissolves minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients and carries them to where you need them. And it helps form the structure of your cells, tissues, and organs.

      Before you were born, water cushioned your entire body against the shocks of the world. Today, it cushions your joints and spinal column. Water helps regulate your body temperature, lubricates your digestive tract, and maintains pressure in your eyes.

      REPLACE WHAT YOU’VE LOST. You need to drink as much liquid every day as you lose through perspiration and excretion. Otherwise, your body will become dehydrated. If you lose 5 percent of your body fluids and don’t replace them, you may experience headache, fatigue, lack of concentration, and an elevated heart rate. Lose greater amounts, and you face the risk of confusion, shock, seizures, coma - even death.

      SIP WATER THROUGHOUT THE DAY. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink a glass of water. Your thirst, especially as you get older, may not be a reliable gauge of your body’s need. You could be two cups low before you feel it.

      DRINK MORE WHEN IT’S HOT. When the weather is hot and dry, or you get more exercise than usual, you’ll need more water. If you eat a lot of soups or juicy fruits and vegetables, you may require less. Most people need between 8 and 12 cups of fluids a day.

      Don’t include beverages with caffeine, like coffee, colas (these are boycott anyway), or tea, in your count. These are diuretics, which cause you to lose water faster than usual. If you drink any of these, you need to drink more water to replace what you lose. Herbal teas and juices are good substitutes when you want something other than water.

      FILL A PITCHER IN THE MORNING. Fill a pitcher with water in the morning and drink from that pitcher throughout the day. Make sure the pitcher is empty by the time you sleep at night.