The amount of water a human body needs to function normally varies from region to region throughout the world. In the United Kingdom an average person requires about 1.2 litres of water a day. That’s about 6 to 8 glasses. In hotter climates with high humidity it can be much higher than this.
In a healthy person about 67% of his or her weight is water. Water really is the source of all life. Without it all of the chemical reactions within our bodies would not take place or would malfunction. For example without water our blood cannot carry nutrients to the areas where they are required.
We do lose water all the time though, either through sweating, urinating or evaporation through breathing. In hotter climates or when we do more activity we lose more water, mainly through sweat. For our body to remain healthy all this water lost must continually be replenished. This means drinking water and other non alcoholic beverages, although the food we eat does provide a little liquid.
The name given when our body does not have enough water is dehydration. When this happens the body has noticeable symptoms. The first one is very noticeable and obvious, you feel thirsty. Other signs to check for include dark coloured urine or not passing very much urine. You could have a headache, be confused or irritable and you will find it hard to concentrate. If you have any of these symptoms you could be dehydrated. Take a drink of water or any non alcoholic drink, wait a little while and see if things get better.
Types of drinks
The types of drinks and the amounts of flavours on the market today are astounding. It does cause some confusion though because in the case of fruit juices the consumer tends to think that they are all healthy, however many juices have added sugar. Even a 100% fruit juice is full of natural sugar. Great to quench your thirst but if you are on a calorie controlled diet or are far away from your toothbrush then perhaps cool clear water is the best answer. However things are becoming clearer because there are more nutrition labels on soft drinks nowadays to help you choose wisely.
Most people are aware that soft drinks have lots of sugar added but some have caffeine too. Soft fizzy drinks should be avoided because they are loaded with calories in the form of tooth decaying sugar.
The major types of soft or non alcoholic drink available today include water, milk, fruit juices, fizzy drinks, tea and coffee, energy drinks and sports drinks.
To rehydrate your body there is no better option than water.Water is the healthiest drink because it contains no sugars to damage teeth or calories to fatten you up. Compared to some of the other drinks water is a bit bland but you can enhance the taste by adding a slice of lime or lemon.
For younger children milk is very important. It improves their bones and teeth because of its high calcium content. Milk also has vitamins and other minerals present and it also has the added benefit that it does not cause tooth decay.
Milk has been known to be high source of fat for many years now but that is no longer a problem with the introduction of half fat, 1% fat, fat free and skimmed milk, so there is always a healthy option. However younger children, up to about 2 years should always have whole milk. This ensures that they get enough calories.
Although milk is good, some milk products are not very healthy. You should avoid flavoured milks, milkshakes, condensed milk and milk-based energy or malt drinks. These milk products all have added sugar with the associated calorific and dental problems.
Fruit juices and smoothies
Fruit is a good provider of vitamins and so fruit juices and smoothies are good for your health but because they are only the juice they do not contain the fibre associated with whole fruits or vegetables. They also have another disadvantage; in whole fruit the natural sugars are less harmful to the teeth. Once blended or squeezed these sugars become much more damaging to teeth. Mums and dads must be aware of these issues when buying fruit juices for the children. It is also imperative that when shopping the labels are checked carefully. It is very easy to pick up a “fruit” drink with only 5% fruit juice but lots of sugar. This is effectively a sweet in a bottle and should not be confused with 100% fruit drinks.
Fizzy drinks and squashes
With fizzy drinks and squashes we know what we are getting, so it’s no surprise to be told that you’re getting loads of sugar and perhaps a few chemicals. They might taste good but it’s best to limit the kids’ intake.
Because of the large amount of sugars present in the drinks the obvious dental issues are there for everyone to see. However there is a growing awareness of the obesity problems, perhaps not caused by these drinks but certainly increased by them. If your child drinks a lot of these drinks then they are more likely to become overweight. It increases your child’s calorie intake quite considerably.
Tea and coffee
Tea and coffee as part of a diet, without milk or sugar are fine. Add milk and sugar and you leave yourself open to dental and calorie intake concerns. However tea and coffee also have a common ingredient, they both contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant which means that it can help us to remain awake or give us a little boost. But it is only as temporary feeling. Any drinks containing caffeine should not be the sole source of your daily liquid intake. Any caffeinated drink can cause your body to urinate more frequently, thus losing extra liquid. Everyone is different, some people will hardly notice any difference if they take a caffeinated drink whereas others will feel much more effected. The amount drank also has a bearing on the feelings experienced.
All caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee or energy drinks should be avoided by pregnant ladies and younger children. If they really can’t do without it, pregnant women should not drink more than two cups of coffee a day, that’s about 200 mg of caffeine. Studies have shown that high levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight. This adds to the possibility of increased medical problems later in life. There are inconclusive findings that caffeine may also increase the risk of miscarriage.
There isn’t really such a thing as a standard energy drink. Every manufacturer uses a different recipe; however some things are always present in the mix. They always contain caffeine, usually in high concentration, sugar and a few other stimulants. Sometimes additional minerals and vitamins along with herbal substances are added too. The average caffeine level in these drinks is equivalent to a mug of coffee, that’s about 80mg. All of the issues discussed with tea and coffee are relevant here.
Sports drinks are very similar to standard fizzy drinks in that they have high levels of sugar and calories. The benefits from having a sports drink compared to a standard fizzy drink are debatable. It’s the sugar which gives you the energy boost. As with all the drinks mentioned here, water is the best option. If you are doing an endurance sport then you may find it easier to drink the glucose rather than eat it so in this case a sports drink may be better.
The best drinks to give children are water, milk and milkshakes without added sugar.
If you or your children like fizzy drinks, try adding a slice of lemon or lime with sparkling water instead. Remember to dilute squashes well to reduce the sugar content in the drink. Diet versions of fizzy drinks also contain very few nutrients, so milk or water are much healthier choices, especially for children. High-caffeine food and drinks should only be taken in moderation.