Hydration and nutrition
Total daily water intake is the sum of water content coming from all types of beverages and foods.
Hydration & nutrition
Many people underestimate the water content of food and beverages – below there is a table showing the content of many common foods.
Water content in common foods and beverages
|Type of food||Water content|
|Water, tea, coffee, light refreshments, sports drinks, soft drinks, lemonade, vegetable juice||90% to 100%|
|Milk, fruit juice, juice beverages||85% to 90%|
|Beer and wine||85% to 95%|
|Distilled||60% to 70%|
|Consommé, onion, meat and vegetable, vegetables, tomato, mushroom cream, Noodle with chicken, vegetable concentrate, concentrated soups, mushrooms cream (made with milk)||80% to 95%|
|Fruits and vegetables|
|Strawberry, melon, grapefruit, grape, peach, pear, orange, apple, cucumber, lettuce, celery, tomato, pumpkin, broccoli, onion, carrot||80% to 95%|
|Banana, potato, corn||70% to 80%|
|Fresh whole milk||87 to 90%|
|Yoghurt||75% to 85%|
|Ice creams||60% to 65%|
|Cheese||40% to 60%|
|Rice (boiled)||65% to 70%|
|Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, noodles)||75% to 85%*|
|Bread, cookies||30% to 40%|
|Breakfast cereals (ready to eat)||2% to 5%|
|Meat, Fish, Eggs|
|Fish and seafood||65% to 80%|
|Eggs (scrambled, fried, poached), omelette, egg substitute||65% to 75%|
|Beef, chicken, lamb, pig, veal||40% to 65%|
|Cured meat, bacon||15% to 40%|
|Source: Holland B. et al (1991) McCance and Widdowson. The Composition of Foods 5th ed. The Royal Society of Chemistry Cambridge, UK.|
|*Note that these values are approximations only and values will depend on source of the food, cooking method, etc. For example pasta cooked “al dente” (Italian style) will have a slightly lower water content than shown here* and is between 50 and 60%. There are many good online databases that will give food composition values for a much wider range of foods.|
Hydration & beverages
Replacement of the body’s water and salt losses is essential to maintain appropriate hydration and a good health status. Replacement of water can be achieved through food and beverages. It is calculated that of the total water consumed, 20-30% typically comes from food and 70-80% from beverages, but this may vary greatly, depending on the diet that an individual chooses.
Plain water is a significant source of liquid intake in many humans, but many beverages like juices, milk, sparkling drinks, coffee and tea are more than 85% water and are therefore also an important source of water. It has been shown that the variety of sources, colours and flavours of beverages is as important as variety of food in nutrition. Variety stimulates greater levels of consumption of both food and beverages. For example, in a study of fluid intake of runners on a treadmill, it was shown that the availability of a variety of beverages resulted in participants drinking up to 50% more liquids than if only water was available1.
There are many reasons why variety leads to greater consumption and these include the pleasant taste of beverages in comparison to plain water, which is the reason why many people choose to drink other beverages in addition to plain water.
The role that beverages play in providing water in the diet has been recognized by international organizations such as the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI)2 and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)3 and it is of special importance for population groups that are especially vulnerable to dehydration such as children, elderly people and people taking certain medications.
Variety can also contribute towards enhancing micronutrient intake. Many beverages provide important nutrients, including vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes. Fruit juices can contribute to the five portions of fruit and vegetables that we are recommended to consume each day. Sport drinks contain small amounts of sugar and electrolytes that help to reduce water, mineral and energy imbalance due to physical exertion. Beverages containing caffeine such as coffee, tea and some soft beverages have also been shown to contribute to hydration.
Drinks can be selected for specific purposes – for example caffeinated drinks when tired, sport drinks during and after intense exercise, juices for their vitamins and nutrients, etc. – but it must be remembered that, unlike plain water, beverages often contain calories and therefore they contribute to daily energy intake. It is calculated that popular beverages such as soft drinks contribute around 3% of calories to the average daily diet in Europe4. Nowadays a great variety of no-calorie and low-calorie drinks are available and Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) are available in most countries to help people to make informed choices about the products they buy for themselves and their families.1. López-Román J, Martínez Gonzálvez A, Luque A, Villegas García JA. Estudio comparativo de diferentes procedimientos de hidratación durante un ejercicio de larga duración. Archivos de Medicina del Deporte 2008; 25(123): 435-441. 2. ILSI Scientific Consensus Statement regarding the Importance of Hydration and Total Water Intake for Health and Disease. J. Am Coll Nutr 2007; 26(S): 529-623. 3. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA); Scientific Opinion on Dietary reference values for water. EFSA Journal 2010; 8(3):1459. [48 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1459. Available online:www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1459.htm. 4. UNESDA. Available on line:http://www.unesda.org/facts-figures
Many types of water may be available for drinking: tap water, artesian water, bottled water, mineral water, purified water, spring water. All waters used for drinking are treated to meet legal and quality standards. In most European countries, tap water is palatable and perfectly safe, but this is not true in all parts of the world. Water has many advantages, including availability, cost and the absence of calories, but for many it loses out on taste.
The name fruit juice is reserved for drinks that are 100% pure fruit juice and contain sugars taken from the fruit, either sucrose, fructose or glucose. Consumption of juices can help children and adults meet the daily recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption. Juice drinks contain some juice along with added water and either caloric or non-caloric sweeteners. Juices or juice drinks contain a source of energy in the form of sugars, though this is reduced in the case of juice drinks that contain non-caloric sweeteners.
Milk, Ice creams and milkshakes
Milk contains several essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin and niacin.
Ice creams and milkshakes can be made with a base of water or milk. Usually they are made from dairy products, such as milk and cream, combined with fruits or other ingredients, and contain flavourings and sugar or sweeteners. These products provide a source of energy as they contain sugars, fat and protein. Reduced fat milk can provide water and essential nutrients and are reduced in calories
Infusions are prepared with water and herbs or parts of plants such as flowers or fruits, and can be taken hot or cold. Tea and coffee are the most popular hot drinks in the world and can also be a good source of hydration as they have a very high water content.
A soft drink is a non-alcoholic beverage, that can be carbonated or not, and that contain flavourings, sweeteners and other ingredients. Beverages like colas, iced tea, lemonade, squash, sparkling water and fruit punch are among the most common types of soft drinks. Soft drinks typically have between 90 to 99% water content.
Sport drinks are intended to reduce water, mineral and energy imbalance due to physical exertion. These drinks contain small amounts of carbohydrates (sugars) and electrolytes, including sodium and potassium. When exercising for short periods or at low intensities, it may not be necessary to drink anything: water is perfectly adequate in these situations if something is needed. For reasons of variety and taste sports drinks may be preferred in this situation. When the exercise lasts longer than about 30-40 minutes, sports drinks may be better than water. One key benefit of taking sports drinks during an exercise session is that they can help to reduce the sensation of effort. This makes exercise seem easier and this means that the individual will be more likely to enjoy the exercise program and therefore more likely to stick with it.
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