The Best Change You Can Make: Drink Water

Patrika Tsai Health Guide
  • How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Many people have visions of making sweeping changes in how they eat or exercise only to be disappointed when they fall short of their goals. Remember that small changes are often easier to make and can still have important health benefits. I would like to propose one change that most of my patients have said they have been able to incorporate into their daily routines without too much difficulty: drink water.

    Why water? Many of us do not drink enough water during the day which makes us dehydrated. If you are dehydrated, you will not function at peak performance. Water is one of the few things that we humans cannot survive without. A person can go without food for several weeks, but a person can go without water for only a few days.
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    Another key advantage is that water has no calories. Juice, soft drinks, alcohol, and coffee or tea with sugar or cream are all calorie laden. While juice is often considered healthy with vitamins and antioxidants, juice contains quite a bit of sugar. Many juices are actually sweetened with extra sugar added. Some of these beverages have a low percentage of juice. Also, it is healthier to eat the actual fruit because the fruit has fiber which is essential to a proper diet and helps you to feel full. It is, therefore, acceptable not to drink juice on a daily basis despite what our parents told us. Soft drinks should also be avoided. A soft drink in a 12 ounce can has 9 teaspoons of sugar. However, soft drinks are also sold in 20 or 24 ounce bottles that many people finish in one sitting. Even the sugar and cream in a cup of coffee or tea adds up. Many people do not realize that the one cup of coffee they buy at the coffee shop may be a hidden source of calories, particularly when the smallest size is 12 ounces. Please see the following table to compare the calories in selected beverages.

    Caloric content of common beverages:

    Food Item Serving size Calories

    Orange juice 8 ounces 134
    Soft drink 12 ounce can 136
    Beer 12 ounce can 153
    Sugar 1 packet 11
    Half and half 1 tablespoon 20
    Latte, whole milk 12 ounces 204
    Latte, nonfat milk 12 ounces 126
    Milk, nonfat 8 ounces 90

    Studies have shown that the body does not compensate for calories consumed from beverages very well. In other words, you will feel more full if you eat 300 calories rather than if you drink 300 calories. The calories that you drink then end up as extra calories in your total caloric intake. Substituting even only one of your non-water beverages with water will make a dent in your overall caloric intake. One pound is 3,500 calories. Over one month, substituting just one can of soda with water is about 4,000 calories or a little over one pound.

    Keep a bottle of water in your car, desk, locker, or any other place that you frequent. Stashing a bottle in your purse, briefcase, or book bag is even better. This keeps the water available whenever you are thirsty or tempted by the café, smoothie bar, or vending machine you see nearby. If you have water already with you, you will probably reach for it rather than stop to buy another drink. Also, some people find that when they have the urge to snack, they are really more thirsty than hungry. The drink of water rehydrates the body, allows them to take a break, and keeps the hands and mouth occupied.

  • For a twist, make your own flavored water at home with a squeeze of lemon or lime. If you buying bottled flavored water, check the label to make sure that no sugar is added. Whether you choose plain or flavored water, this one change is an important step towards a healthier life.
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Published On: January 11, 2007