When you were a kid, maybe your parents used to prod you to eat your fruits and veggies. But "Eat your water?" Not something you hear often.
But it’s not as weird as it sounds—lots of foods we eat contain plenty of water, and therefore can help keep us hydrated. And since adult bodies are made up of 60% water (the brain and heart are 73% water, the lungs are 83%, skin is 64%), we need all the H2O we can get.
All that water in us does very specific jobs, like regulating our body temperature, making saliva, helping our brain manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters, protecting our spine, lubricating our joints, and getting rid of bodily waste with urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The amount of water we need to drink varies depending on who's weighing in, and even the CDC admits there's no consistent recommendation about how much plain water we all need. We do need more when it's hot, when we're doing more physical activity, and when we're sick with a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Independent estimates for women vary from, for example, 2.2 liters or 74.4 ounces per day, to 2.7 liters, or 91.3 ounces. For men, the amount varies from 3 liters or 101 ounces to 3.7 liters or 125 ounces.
Approximately 80% of water intake comes from—you guessed it—water and other beverages, and the other 20% comes from food. We'll show you how when you eat them.
The nutritional darlings described below are fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free, low in calories, and they contain fiber. They also have several vitamins and minerals in common, including, for example, small amounts of vitamin K and folate in most of the top water-bearing veggies.
And as a bonus? Many of these hydrating foods also contain powerful antioxidants, and we know that eating them regularly can also lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.
Here are some of our favorite water-rich foods.
1. Cucumbers: 96% water
Slice open a cucumber and behold this veggie bursting with moisture. Cukes bequeath to us vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and even some calcium. Slice ‘em up over your favorite salad, toss some slices into a jug of ice-cold water for zippy flavor, and don't forget, cucumbers make the world's best pickles.
2. Lettuce: 96% water
We're talking your basic iceberg variety here. Although it's a tossed salad staple, it's not that heavy on vitamins. There's a little bit of vitamin C and calcium, but the star of this vegetable is really it’s high water content. Lettuce also stars in wraps, spring rolls, and tacos.
3. Celery: 95% water
"Crrruuncchh!" You can hear a celery stick from across a crowded room, but don’t be shy—celery’s got tons of water in it, along with a tad bit of vitamin C, some calcium, and magnesium. Not to mention, all those little strings add up to a mighty portion of fiber. Stuff a celery stick with a low-fat spread or peanut butter, add to tuna or chicken salad, or braise it for a truly different side dish. Can you say "versatile?”
4. Zucchini: 95% water
The vegetable with the complicated name is a squash and a multitasker on our kitchen tables. It's laden with vitamin C, and even choline, and contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium. It's great on the grill and lovely in lasagna. It also holds its own in salads and on a crudité platter with best buds celery and carrots. Chop and add to spaghetti sauce or stir fry with other water-laden veggies featured here.
5. Red Tomatoes: 94% water
Who doesn't love a red, ripe, juicy tomato, just plain or resplendent as scrumptious tomato juice that just beckons to be a Bloody Mary? Tomatoes, which are fruits (case closed!), have vitamin C, choline, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, loads of potassium, and a hint of sodium. Don’t forget lovely lycopene, an antioxidant and member of the carotenoid family, responsible for making tomatoes red. It's a friend to our bodies and may help prevent heart disease and some cancers. We love our tomatoes in salad, soup—including gazpacho—sauces, stews, and salsa.
6. Watermelon: 92% water
With a name like this, makes sense that water makes up a significant portion of this economy-size melon, now available with or without seeds. Again, this one sports vitamin A on its nutrient list, accompanied by vitamin C, folate, and choline. It's heavy on the potassium, followed by phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and fluoride. Mix with blueberries and bananas for a heavenly salad. Pickle or grill it. Top it with feta cheese, mix it with seafood ceviche, or serve it as a sweet and savory salsa. Of course, you can also just keep it simple: Hold it in both hands and dive in, napkin at the ready!
7. Strawberries: 92% water
There's something about seeing a red, ripe strawberry that just begs us to eat it, in addition to all the good press it gets as a "superfood." Talk about loaded—strawberries have vitamin A and C, with choline and minimal amounts of other vitamins along with minerals including calcium, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and plenty of potassium. We also love them plain, in smoothies, dipped in dark chocolate, in a cobbler, mixed and cooked with rhubarb, in preserves and jam, and as a tasty topper on ice cream and cheesecake.
8. Grapefruit: 91% water
Don't squirt this juice in your eye, but do use a grapefruit spoon to get the tender, juicy flesh, best served at room temperature. Not surprisingly, this fruit is loaded with vitamins C and A, and it has choline, too. Who knew there was so much potassium, befriended by calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and even a tad of selenium. You can see and taste the pithy fiber. Be careful, though, because grapefruit and its juice can negatively interact with some medications, including statins, high blood pressure drugs, organ-transplant rejection drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, corticosteroids, drugs that treat abnormal heart rhythms, and antihistamines. Always check with your doctor if you're uncertain of a medication interaction.
Eat Up for Hydration
Finally, encourage more fruit and veggie consumption by exploring the produce at your grocery store or farmer's market, display it at home within easy reach, and try some of the many recipes you'll find for making more meals with vegetables—capped off by fruit for dessert!