Think before you drink: When your beverage causes dehydration

Contrary to what is believed that anything liquid is what you go for to quench your thirst, oft-consumed beverages such as tea, coffee and sodas actually strip your body of water

While hydrating well is important in all seasons, it is more so during summers when your body sweats profusely to cool itself
While hydrating well is important in all seasons, it is more so during summers when your body sweats profusely to cool itself

By Shubhangi Shah

When under immense heat, a bottle of cool water is what one goes for to quench the thirst. Some also opt for chilled sodas or juices as tastier and refreshing options. Many also go for a beer and other alcoholic beverages to cool themselves at the end of a tiring day. While hydrating well is important in all seasons, it is more so during summers when your body sweats profusely to cool itself. Hence, focusing on hydration is crucial.

“About 60% of the human body comprises water,” says Sreemathy Venkatraman, a wellness nutritionist, clinical dietician, and founder of Mitha Ahara: Eat to Live. It’s vital for our metabolic functions, she explains. It regulates the body’s temperature, keeps joints lubricated, delivers nutrients across cells, and protects against infections, as per Harvard Health. Beyond physical health, it improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood. On the other hand, dehydration leaves you tired, dizzy, and lightheaded, and your skin, lips, and eyes dry. “You also lose your appetite, not feeling like eating anything,” Venkatraman adds.

Many believe that anything liquid hydrates you. Yes, water is the best option. However, the truth is that some extremely common drinks are dehydrating in nature, meaning they strip your body of water.

Drinks that dehydrate

Coffee and tea are loaded with caffeine and sugar, both of which dehydrate.

The fact that caffeine makes you alert is widely known. “But studies have shown that it can also have a diuretic effect on the kidneys, especially at high levels,” says Neha Pathania, chief dietician at Paras Hospitals, Gurugram. Diuretics cause your body to produce more urine than normal. “Caffeine may do so by increasing blood flow to your kidneys,” she explains. Hence, coffee consumption should be limited to one to two cups a day.

Similarly, studies have shown that excessive sugar consumption can also cause dehydration. “This is most likely due to sugar and water interactions within the cells,” says Pathania, adding: “Increased sugar consumption makes cells in our bodies transfer more water and increase urine, resulting in dehydration.” The lowered hydration level, in turn, reduces cell volume, which might affect a person’s blood sugar levels, she adds.

These make energy drinks the worst as they are loaded with both caffeine and sugar. “Yes, such drinks do give you energy as these are loaded with sugar and have ten times more caffeine than coffee,” Venkatraman says.

Aerated drinks, which are nothing but sodas, aren’t great either. “Yes, during summers, it feels great to down a bottle of these drinks to quench thirst, but it does the opposite of hydrating you,” the nutritionist says. It’s because these contain carbon dioxide, which has a dehydrating effect, she explains.

Bottled juices are often seen as a healthy alternative to sodas. However, boxed juices are full of sugar. Even those that claim to contain ‘zero sugar’ contain artificial sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, which have detrimental health impacts.

Alcohol, too, is a diuretic, making you pee more, says Pathania. “It causes your body to drain fluids from your blood at a significantly faster rate than other liquids through your renal system, which comprises your kidneys, ureters, and bladder. You can easily become dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water when drinking alcohol,” she adds.

Apart from these, those readymade powders for iced tea or coloured drinks that claim to be glucose aren’t healthy either. “It’s better that you have natural drinks,” Venkatraman recommends.

Drinks that hydrate

For hydration, water is the best option there is. Drinking at least seven to eight glasses of water is generally recommended. But not all of it needs to be sourced from water.

You can drink tender coconut water, which not only hydrates but also contains electrolytes, sodium, and potassium, nutritionist Venkatraman says. Buttermilk is another option that has probiotics, thus promoting gut health. Juices are great, too, but only if they are not laced with refined sugar.

You can make fresh juices, like watermelon juice with no sugar, or with healthy alternatives such as date or palm jaggery. Venkatraman recommends against filtering it to retain the fruit’s fibre content. One can also explore several smoothie options that are hydrating, healthy, and easy to make. Beverages such as green tea, mint tea, and flower teas are also great for health.

Adding zing to hydrating

To add flavour and a refreshing element, many add some cucumber slices, mint leaves, or lemon drops to the water. “These homemade drinks are healthy alternatives to canned sodas and other high-calorie beverages,” says Pathania, adding: “Adding these cooling elements help against oxidative damage, thus preventing diseases like cancer, diabetes, and cardiac problems.” Shikanji, sans sugar, is a good option.

Apart from water, try that 1/3rd of your diet comprises fluids such as dal, kadhi, sambhar, rasam, and buttermilk, says Venkatraman. During your 10 am or 4 pm breaks, replace the usual tea or coffee with tender coconut water.

In summers, aam ras (mango juice) is excellent. “What you can do is, take some fruits that are about to go bad or aren’t being eaten. Blend them and pour them onto an ice tray. Add some mint leaves, basil (tulsi), hibiscus, or rose petals for flavour, and chill. Whenever you come home exhausted, take a cube or two of these in a glass, pour some chilled water, and drink, instead of those boxed sugary fruit juices. Not only is the drink tasty and hydrating, but it’s also great for skin and hair. Another option is to make ice lollies using a popsicle mould and stick with these blended fruits,” shares Venkatraman.

If you like ginger and lemon, a ginger-lemon drink is what you can go for. “Grate a teaspoon of ginger. Extract the juice and add to ¼ cup of lemon juice, two tablespoons of lime juice, a spoon of honey, some salt, and water. You can also replace water with tender coconut water, and you get yourself a perfect detoxifying ginger lemon drink,” shares Pathania.

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