Friday, August 5, 2011

Fill 'Er Up!

One of the things that I love and hate about nutrition is that it is always changing.  You know what I mean...one day you see an article that says something is good for you, and the next day it seems like someone is reporting that it is bad.  Believe me, I get that it can be confusing and frustrating to know what to eat.  Part of what makes my job fun is that I get to sort through all of the information that gets published, and use my trained mind figure out what information is backed by scientific proof, and what information is spun by the media to make for good news.  Researchers are still learning so much about what our bodies do with food.  So, yes, from time to time, the facts do change, and we have to accept that this is progress. 

It can be hard to understand why experts are constantly changing their minds about what is good for us, but it's not opinion, it's science.  It's important to remember that this sort of change and discovery happens in all areas of science from time to time.  Need I remind you of poor Pluto...you know, used to be a planet, now...not so much?  I know, I know, we have a much more personal relationship with food than we do the planets, so we tend to get a bit more bent out of shape when the science of what we are supposed to eat changes.  Here's my advice on how to handle confusing (and sometimes conflicting) information...I strongly believe that you should follow your gut, literally.  The trick though, is that first you and your gut need to learn to speak the same language!!  I'm also a fan of employing a little simple logic to any food related situation.  If something makes good, honest sense...then do it! 

One of the things that has changed is the advice on how to stay properly hydrated, and what exactly that means.  I know as well as you how life can sometimes get in the way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and it can be so easy to forget to hydrate.  In the summer months though it becomes increasingly important NOT TO FORGET!   

So there I was the other day, all stressed out about one thing or another, tired, and on my way to work in 90+ degree weather.  What did I do, I grabbed a GIGANTIC iced coffee...I mean huge.  Did I know better? OF COURSE!!!  Should I have had a nice big bottle of water instead of the iced coffee?  YES!!!  But I lived, and learned, and that's the point of all this babble...to share my own trials and tribulations, so that you know that I'm human, and I make mistakes from time to time just like everybody else!  It is my hope that I can gain your trust and give you some valuable advice so you can avoid the same pitfalls that I have fallen victim to.

Now, we used to be told that 8 glasses of water a day was the key to hydration, but now scientists have conceded that we may not need quite that much, and that even beer and caffeinated beverages can help a person stay hydrated...WHAT!  Ok, Ok, let me decode this for you.   You may not need as much liquid as was once thought (unless you are living in an extreme situation or participating in an extreme activity) and all liquids provide you with at least some level of hydration.  This is all true, but it also needs to be applied to real life on a case by case basis. 

Back to me and my iced coffee.  I consider working in a restaurant in 90 degree weather with less than optimal AC to be kind of an extreme situation, so I should have consumed more liquid than I would in an average day, according to the recommendation above, and I did not.  Lets call that mistake #1.  Also, I can tell you from a bit of my own scientific research that if you don't water a plant for days, it gets limp and lifeless, and I can also tell you that if you then water it with iced coffee (or beer)...it does not bounce back, it DIES!!!  Ok, mistake #2 = giant iced coffee instead of water.  

What did I learn? Well, I was thirsty and tired so I thought I was listening to my "gut" by getting an extra large caffeinated beverage.  In fact, I was assuming my gut speaks English...not so much.  I should have applied some logic before imbibing, and gotten an extra large H2O instead!!!  If my car runs out of gas would I put iced coffee in the tank!!!  No!!  Duh!!! 

Your body looses 6-10 cups of water on a normal day (from breathing, sweating, peeing, and so on and so forth) and more on a really hot and humid day, so shouldn't you put that much water back in at least?  I think it's not a bad goal.  If you plan to consume other beverages (the cafinated or alcoholic kind in particular) then consider them bonus liquid intake and don't forget to drink the water as well, it will make you feel far more refreshed in the long run than even soda or sports drinks.

I have probably lost a few people preaching about the virtues of water consumption, but hopefully you think I am an amusing read, so you have gotten this far anyways...yes/no?
So lets just say that you're not big on water, not fond of it, not in the mood to drink it, bored with it...whatever.  Well, you are not alone, I hear that lots of people feel that way.  But I beg you, don't give up...find a creative way to get it into you.  Some simple tricks are to add lemon, orange, or cucumber slices to give it some flavor, or even a tablespoon of fruit juice or so.  And don't forget, caffeine free iced tea (unsweetened of course) is just flavored water, so drink up!!! 

This may surprise you, but food can provide you with water too.  Typically, we take in about 20% of the hydration that we need from food without even realizing it.  There's no reason that you can't make that a higher percentage by eating more hydrating foods.  You can kill two birds with one stone by eating great nutritious fruits and veggies that also have a high water content.  These things won't replace the fact that you need to drink fluids, but they'll certainly help you to hydrate if you're having a hard time remembering to drink lots of water on a hot summer day!  How do you find hydrating foods?  Well, apply a bit of logic again here.  When you cut or bite into something does it leave the knife wet or does juice run down your chin? If the answer is yes, then it contains a high water content and eating it transfers that water into you!!!  Bonus!  Here's a few things to try:

Cucumber
Watermelon (of course right?!)
Tomatoes
Lettuce
Citrus fruits
Bell peppers
Grapes
Apples
Berries
Kiwi
Onions
Celery

And a few more no brainers...Remember, if it started watery, or is made of water, it will help to keep you hydrated, just think outside the box!!

Soups/Stews
Jello
Popsicles
Sorbet
Smoothies

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