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High water content food: Does it replace water?

It’s been touted for years now that on average we should aim to drink eight glasses of water a day to stay properly hydrated. Though some experts now dispute that figure, we know water is essential and some people just don’t like the taste, or lack of taste thereof. We now know it is possible to stay hydrated, which is essential for all metabolic processes, by eating foods with a high water content.

There is so much good news about having a diet that is full of water-rich foods, particularly for those watching their waistlines, that you might be tempted to give up drinking water altogether. DON’T. Water in its pure form is important for quenching thirst, replenishing fluids after exercise and avoiding dehydration in hot weather and during illness.

Good news for slimmers

Foods with a high water content tend to make you feel fuller for longer as they take up more room in your stomach. It used to be thought that drinking a glass of water before a meal would have the same effect, but a study from the Clinical Journal of Nutrition shows this does not create a feeling of fullness. However, having a nutritious bowl of soup will fill you up and has a high water content. A book based on this study, called Volumetrics, shows that foods which have a lower energy density (which means fewer calories in higher volumes of food) make you feel sated for longer than smaller portions of high-energy density foods.

Here’s an example:

If you are feeling peckish, a healthy option is a handful of raisins. But raisins are just dried grapes, so a quarter of a cup of raisins is equal in calories to nearly two cups of grapes. Think of why grapes are such a popular gift for hospital patients. They are great for hydration and contain all the nutritional benefits of fresh fruit.

Other benefits

Foods which have a naturally high water content are mainly fruit and vegetables, which also contain essential vitamins and minerals, bioflavonoids (which are compounds thought to prevent heart disease) and antioxidants, which help cellular regeneration and slow the aging process, as well as being good for the heart. They are also high in fibre, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer and helps the digestive system run more efficiently. There is much evidence showing a link between healthy skin and lots of water, a top beauty tip from most models and stars. Water is also important for the brain, which is made up mostly of water. That is one of the reasons drinking too much alcohol gives you a stinking headache; it is dehydrating and your brain is crying out for water.

Top water dense foods to include in your diet

Vegetables: Broccoli, cucumber, lettuce, cabbage, courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, spinach, rocket and watercress

Fruit: Apples, plums, blueberries, apricots, oranges, grapefruit, pineapples and watermelon

Warming water dense foods

Soups, particularly vegetable-based ones, and any grains that absorb lots of water during the cooking process, such as rice pasta, and bulgur wheat and barley. Stick to whole grains for added fiber.

More healthy diet tips

Choosing healthier food options for every meal
4 Tips to help your tween make healthier food choices
Superfoods: Myth or must-haves?

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