Kill cravings, cut calories and ditch sugar with this one easy trick

Mar 3, 2016 at 1:01 p.m. ET
Image: Epicurean/Getty Images

When it comes to living a healthy life (or living a life at all) water is one of our most important needs, second only to oxygen for survival. And yet most of us still don't get enough of it. But a new study wants to remind us exactly why we need more H2O.

"Drink more water" is probably the oldest piece of health advice in the book, not to mention one of the simplest. It's so common that most of us probably tune it out by now. Yeah, yeah, drink more water, eat less crap, get some sleep, we know. But maybe we should be paying more attention to our water intake.

More: Blogger claims he hasn't had a sip of water since 2012

I learned this lesson the hard way just over two years ago when I started suffering from horrible chest pains, nausea and fainting. (I was like one of those fainting goats, except way less adorable and way more panicky.) After many doctors' visits, I finally discovered that I have a congenital heart defect called a myocardial bridge that was making it hard for my blood get enough oxygen around my body. It also lowered my blood pressure to scarily low levels. But even though I've had it since birth I'd never noticed it until we moved to Denver, Colorado. Living at an oxygen-starved 6,000 feet above sea level was taxing my heart in a way it never had been before.

Thankfully my condition isn't serious and I can manage the symptoms relatively easily with lifestyle modifications. But one thing my doctor told me to do immediately was to start drinking more water. It was a simple fix to help raise my blood pressure without medication and to help me stop fainting.

More: The water bottle that tracks your H2O so you don't have to

As I downed bottle after bottle of water (reusable, don't worry), I began to feel a little better. But I also began to see some other benefits from my H2O campaign. My skin looked better, my contacts fit better (seriously), and I was having fewer cravings for sweets. As a total sugar addict — 4 o'clock is known as chocolate o'clock at my house — this was huge.

And I'm not the only one who's noticed this strange but wonderful side effect of water, according to a new study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Researchers combed through data from over 18,000 Americans and discovered that drinking just one percent, or about one to three cups, more plain water per day provided a host of health benefits.

The researchers reported that the extra water drinkers:

- Decreased their daily food intake by 68 to 205 calories.

- Decreased the amount of salt they ate by 78 to 235 grams per day.

- Decreased their cholesterol consumption by seven to 21 grams daily.

- And ate five to 18 grams less sugar per day.

And all this was true regardless of education, gender, race, income and body weight.

This is great news since all of these things can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer and other illness — just from an extra cup or two of water a day! Plus, you know, glowy skin, less risk of dehydration (it's more common than you think!), and less fainting.