Way Beyond Watermelon: Foods That Hydrate

Posted on by Kristine Carlson. This entry was posted in Eating Well and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Summer is fast approaching, bringing with it lots of sunshine and outdoor activities—not to mention The Whole U’s 6-week Raise the Bar summer wellness challenge. After months of indoors, we are all eager to get up and go! From perusing farmers markets, sunning at the beach, hiking mountains, dancing at outdoor concerts and festivals, we are bound to work up a sweat doing our favorite summer activities.

While lighter fare and healthier eats come hand-in-hand with summer’s bounty, there is one area where can probably all improve in: hydration. Taking advantage of the lovely weather and activities, we are often just too busy to remember to fit in the number one nutrient needed by the body—water!

Why water?

Water is a vital nutrient and is involved in most functions of the body. In fact, at any given time, the body is made up of 50 to 75% water! According to H.H. Mitchell, writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, “the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.”

Water forms the basis of blood, digestive juices, urine and perspiration, and you will find it in lean muscle, fat and bones. It maintains the health and integrity of every single cell in the body, keeps blood liquid enough to flow through blood vessels, lubricates and cushions joints, regulates body temperature, aids in elimination of the byproducts of the body’s metabolism, carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells, and more. Most adults lose between 2.5 and 3 liters of water per day, an amount that increases with warm weather conditions and prolonged exercise.

Since the body is unable to store water, we need a constant, fresh supply daily to make up for losses. Water must be replaced exogenously – meaning, through food and water intake. The amount of water we need depends on a variety of factors, such as body size, metabolism, weather, activity level, and the foods we eat.

This brings me to the topic at hand: food and hydration. Besides good, old-fashioned H2O, there are certain foods that can provide us with some necessary hydration—up to 20% of the body’s total water requirements. The digestion process itself produces water as a byproduct and can provide around 10% of the body’s water requirements. However, please be mindful that the remainder of our water requirements must come from liquids. During the hotter and more active months, it is especially important to drink enough water. (link to past article)

Which foods are high in water content?

Fortunately, many of the foods high in water content are naturally abundant in the summer months and are bound to show up on your picnic tables! They’re also great for jazzing up regular water for flavorful twists to help keep you hydrated naturally!

Here’s a breakdown of some high-water content foods with tips for how to serve and enjoy them!


Foods Total Water %                Recipe ideas
Watermelon 92% A great addition to salads; see recipe below!
Strawberries 91% Top your yogurt with strawberries and a little granola for a quick and easy breakfast!
Cantaloupe 90% Wrap in very thin slices of prosciutto for a sweet/savory app, perfect for an alfresco dinner
Peaches 89% Delicious eaten as is, preferable over the skin to catch all the juices! Also excellent for grilling!
Oranges & Grapefruit 88% Slice into rounds and sprinkle with chopped mint for a refreshing citrus salad
Cucumber 95% Raw, in salads, or julienned for scooping dips and spreads
Zucchini 94% Cooked and chilled for cold soups, or seeded and stuffed with ricotta and lemon zest
Celery 95% Make ants on a log (adding peanut butter and raisins on top)
Cottage Cheese 80% Lighten up a spinach dip with this healthier base
Plain Yogurt 88% Use as a base for other water-rich fruits; also works well as a substitute base for many dips and sauces
Tomatoes 94% When in season, raw with a touch of salt and pepper
Cabbage 92% Shred; toss with thinly sliced red onion, carrots, caraway, vinegar for a homemade and healthy slaw
Cauliflower 92% Slice thickly, season with olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin, and grill for a vegetarian “steak” dinner
Bell Peppers 92% Wonderful when grilled and used in fajitas or burritos

Greek-Style Watermelon Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cubed watermelon
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup crumbled fet
  • Chopped parsley and mint, to takst
  • Olive oil and red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.

Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Season with salt and pepper, toss and serve.

*recipe adapted from NYTCooking.com


For more ways to stay hydrated and satisfied this summer, download our tip sheet for making delicious infused water with fruit, vegetable, herb, and spice combinations suggested by UW Medicine Dietitians!


Kristine Carlson is a registered dietitian and certified nutrition support clinician who works in the Surgical, Medical and Oncology Intensive Care Units at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Outside of work she enjoys exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest, hiking, yoga, cooking, gardening and spending time with her dogs Charlie and Zachary.

4 Thoughts on “Way Beyond Watermelon: Foods That Hydrate”

On June 13, 2019 at 8:24 AM, Jayney Wallick said:

Hey There, Many thanks for the article. However, although celery is high in water content, I know it’s also high in sodium–kind of a gotcha for me. Are other foods on the list high in sodium too? If possible, I prefer high water content with low sodium. What would good choices be considering that?

On June 13, 2019 at 2:06 PM, Kristine C said:

Hello! Thank you for the comment. Celery is actually not very high in sodium, 32mg per 7″ stalk. In fact, all fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. For specific details, I would recommend looking up nutrition information on http://www.calorieking.com. The recommendations for most people are 1500-2300 mg of Sodium per day.

On June 14, 2019 at 7:32 AM, Toni Booker said:

Thank you for this article. What can I use as an alternative to the olives due to my sodium restricted diet?

On June 14, 2019 at 10:10 AM, Kristine C said:

Hi Toni! You can leave them out altogether, or try replacing them with roasted grapes (sounds weird, I know, but good!) or pickled cherries (find recipes online!)

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