Best hydrating foods

By Jill Levy

Water is vital for overall health and should be your No. 1 beverage choice; however, drinking water is not the only way to stay hydrated. A diet that includes plenty of hydrating foods — such as fresh vegetables and fruits — is another way to meet your water/fluid needs.

Which foods help to hydrate? In this article we’ll lay out the best hydrating foods for athletes, people who are focusing on their health and remaining hydrated, and for those who frequently consume foods that increase their need for water. 

Best Hydrating Foods

Aside from drinking plain water, how do you hydrate your body fast by choosing the right types of foods?

A hydrating diet includes foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy products, as well as hydrating drinks including herbal teas, coconut water, bone broth and 100% juices.

These foods and beverages can contribute a significant amount of fluids to your diet and help you to meet your water requirements each day. This in turn can help to keep you hydrated and glean all the perks that go along with that. 

Here are some of the top hydrating foods to include in your diet:

1. Vegetables 

While nearly all vegetables are hydrating, some vegetables have a higher water content than others. Among the best for boosting your water and electrolyte intake include:

  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Bell peppers
  • Zucchini and squash
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes/tomato sauce
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach, kale, iceberg lettuce, romaine and other greens
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Eggplant

An added bonus of consuming a variety of vegetables (and vegetable soups, stews, fresh juices and smoothies) is that you’ll also obtain electrolytes like magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium. These minerals are key components of hydration, especially if you’re an athlete, or following a very low-carb ketogenic diet.

Additionally, veggies are rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and many other essential nutrients.

2. Fresh Fruits

Fresh fruit, as opposed to dried fruits, are chock full of water along with nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, fiber, folate and vitamin A.

Some of the most hydrating fruits (due to having a very high water percentage) include:

  • Watermelon
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Mango 
  • Apples/apple sauce
  • Pears
  • Grapes

While eating chopped or whole fruit on its own is a great snack, you can also enjoy 100% pure fruit juices (unsweetened), frozen pops made with blended fruit, and fruit smoothies and sauces.

3. Yogurt and Kefir

Not only are yogurt and kefir often a good source of water and probiotics (“good guy” bacteria), but they also provide you with calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium, not to mention protein, health-focused fats and B vitamins. 

Enjoying 1-2 servings a day is a good way to up your overall nutrient intake and also to support gut health, your digestive system in general, and your immune system thanks to the presence of beneficial microbes. 

4. Whole Grains (Like Quinoa, Oats, Etc.)

Whole grains can be cooked in water, milk or broth (including bone broth, chicken broth or vegetable broth) and will soak up lots of liquid, meaning they provide you with fluids and also filling fiber when you eat them. 

To improve your ability to digest grains and absorb their nutrients — such as B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, protein and others — soak them before cooking which helps decrease their “antinutrient” content.

5. Broths and Soups

In addition to eating hydrating foods, an important step you can take to remain hydrated is to consume an appropriate amount of sodium/salt. While you want to avoid overindulging in high-sodium, processed foods, you also don’t want to skip out on sodium and salt altogether, since sodium is an important electrolyte. 

Broths, such as those made with bone broth protein powder, are an easy way to consume fluids and salt together, as well as other nutrients such as collagen and minerals. 

You can also get enough sodium in your diet by sprinkling natural sea salt — such as Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt — on your meals, especially if you’re otherwise consuming lots of water-rich foods like veggies and fruits.

What about other hydrating drinks? Does anything hydrate better than water?

If you’re active or experiencing fluid loss for other reasons, such as sweating a lot, then hydrating drinks besides plain water can play a role in keeping you hydrated.

It’s thought that supplementing water with electrolytes (like sodium, magnesium and potassium) can reduce the amount of fluid necessary to consume and transport nutrients during extended physical activity. 

In other words, electrolyte-filled drinks like coconut water, 100% fruit juices and bone broth can be included in a healthy diet that helps maintain normal hydration. The thing to keep in mind when it comes to hydrating drinks is that you want to avoid added sugar whenever possible, and you still want to regularly drink water, too.

Sample Hydrating Meals

Examples of meals containing hydrating foods for athletes can include:

  • Smoothies made with greens, fruit, coconut milk or yogurt, and protein water.
  • A big salad of mixed greens topped with chopped veggies, avocado, olive oil dressing and some type of protein.
  • A chicken or steak and vegetable stir-fry, such as one made with broccoli, peppers, zucchini and wilted greens.

Meals featuring hydrating foods for your skin can include:

  • Oatmeal topped with berries, flax seeds and almond milk.
  • Cucumber and citrus salad made with oranges, grapefruit and splash of lemon juice, served with whole grain bread topped with avocado.
  • Yogurt parfait made with berries and chia/hemp seeds.

Hydrating meals to have any time of day can include:

  • Chicken and vegetable soup made with bone broth.
  • Omelette made with chopped veggies, stewed tomatoes and fresh herbs.
  • Baked potato topped with cooked onions, peppers, tomatoes, black beans and cheddar cheese.
  • Tomato soup served with quinoa and veggie salad.

Are There Foods That Dehydrate You?

What should you not eat when you’re trying to stay hydrated? First off, it’s best to avoid alcohol and caffeine when you’re looking to maintain hydration; instead, focus on hydrating drinks and water-heavy foods.

And while some natural salt in your diet can be a good thing, too much sodium in the form of highly-processed foods is going to further increase your need for water.

Some foods and drinks to avoid in large amounts include:

  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Caffeinated drinks (which can increase urination)
  • Processed meats like cold cuts, salami, etc.
  • Frozen, canned and jarred foods that are high in sodium, such as condiments, frozen meals, etc.

If you’re wanting to boost your hydration quickly, what are the best foods? These include those listed above, such as veggies, a variety of fruits, grains cooked in water or milk, bone broth, smoothies and soups.

Final Thoughts

  • In addition to drinking plain water and other fluids, hydrating foods can help you to consume the right amount of water you need each day to feel your best.
  • Some of the most water-rich foods, many of which also provide other electrolytes, include: fresh veggies (along with green smoothies and veggie soups), fruits (including fruit smoothies, pops and sauces), yogurt and kefir, broths and soups.
  • On the other hand, some drinks and foods to avoid include those with alcohol, caffeine and too much added sodium.
  • Whether you’re an athlete, or just trying to eat a balanced diet, examples of hydrating meals can include: salads with chopped veggies, oatmeal topped with fruit, yogurt and fruit smoothies, veggie and herb stews, and vegetable stir-fries.

Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.

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