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13 Hydrating Foods to Eat to Boost Your Water Intake

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Your body requires H2O to perform at its peak, and 60% of the body’s total volume is made up of water. Everything from digestion and body temperature to your energy levels and your appetite is affected if you don’t get enough. Not to mention the health of your skin and nails is dependent on water as well. Plus, our bodies constantly emit water through breathing, sweating and urination. So it’s vital that we replenish our body’s water supply throughout the day. 

But does that old rule of thumb to aim for eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day really stand the test of time? Not exactly. Those 64 ounces are a solid place to start in terms of what you drink, but this varies a bit based on your body size and gender. The National Academies of Medicine recommends 15 ½ cups (125 ounces) of fluids for men and 11 ½ cups (91 ounces)  of fluids a day for women. That’s “fluids,” though, not just water. So tea, sparkling water and even the hydrating foods below can help you hit your mark.

Think of those eight glasses as a starting point, then build from there to ward off dehydration with these water-rich foods. 

13 Hydrating Foods to Add to Your Menu

About 80% of the average American’s daily water intake usually comes from beverages, while the other 20% or so comes from foods, reports the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here are some of the most hydrating foods on the planet, plus a healthy recipe idea to put each to delicious use. Bonus: Since these hydrating foods include such a high volume of water, they’re all naturally satiating. Another benefit to water. 

RELATED: 7 Healthy Ways to Hydrate Without Drinking Water

1. Cucumber

Water content: 96% 

Fresh sliced cucumbers in a clear bowl on an old wooden table

In addition to being wildly low in calories (30 calories per medium cucumber) and one of the very best hydrating foods, cucumbers are also a good source of potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamin K and vitamin A. For all these reasons and more, research suggests that this salad star and dip vehicle can offer anti-aging and anti-wrinkling benefits.

Try this hydrating recipe: Cucumber Salad with Chickpea, Tomato and Broccoli Rabe 

2. Iceberg Lettuce

Water content: 96% 

Fresh iceberg lettuce

Yes, iceberg does have nutritional value! And it’s a super-hydrating food, too. Beyond helping with overall hydration, iceberg lettuce has fiber, potassium, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin K, all while being very low in carbs and calories (10 calories for ⅙ of a medium head of lettuce).

Try this hydrating recipe: Roasted Chicken Lettuce Wrap (with Iceberg Cups)

3. Celery

Water content: 95% 

Chopped celery in a white bowl on a wooden background

Speaking of low-calorie and under-appreciated vegetables, it’s time for celery to get its moment in the spotlight—beyond celery juice. (That’s fine, by the way, but it does strip off some of the fiber and won’t deliver on all of the health claims social media influencers might lead you to believe.)  Celery is low in calories (15 for 2 medium stalks) yet high in vitamin K, vitamin A, folate and potassium. 

Try this hydrating recipe: Celery and Tomato Gazpacho

4. Tomatoes

Water content: 95% 

Red ripe tomatoes

One of the most versatile fruits on the planet—try them in salsas, soups, salads, roasted, grilled and beyond—this hydrating food is rich in fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K and cell-protective lycopene. In fact, tomatoes are the main source of dietary lycopene for Americans. Each medium tomato has about 25 calories.

Try this hydrating recipe: Cherry Tomato Salad with Feta

RELATED: 13 Foods a Nutritionist Always Has in the Fridge 

5. Romaine Lettuce

Water content: 93% 

Close up image of Romaine Lettuce

Closely trailing behind iceberg in the lettuce race for most hydrating salad base, romaine wins for providing more nutritional benefits. In general, the darker the green, the more vitamins the leaves pack in. With just 15 calories per 1 ½ cups of shredded romaine, this vegetable delivers a lot of bang (water, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and vitamin A) for your calorie buck.

Try this hydrating recipe: Romaine Goat Cheese Hazelnut Salad 

6. Zucchini

Water content: 93% 

Yellow and Green Zucchini

Ideal for stuffing, as a spaghetti substitute (zoodles for the win!), in soups, stir fries and more, each medium zucchini has just 40 calories plus a healthy dose of fiber, manganese, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Two of zucchini’s starring antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, may help protect you from environmental free radicals that can damage the body’s DNA. 

Try this hydrating recipe: Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Halibut 

7. Cauliflower

Water content: 92% 

Close up shot of cauliflower

If cauliflower can be steak and pizza crust, we don’t have to extoll its virtues. But you can—and should—eat more of this hydrating food. Cauliflower has just 25 calories for ⅙ of a medium head, along with vitamin C, vitamin K and other key essential nutrients that may help reduce risk for cancer and lower total cholesterol.

Try this hydrating recipe: Buffalo Cauliflower Bites 

8. Bell Peppers

Water content: 92% 

Sliced yellow, red, and green bell pepper

Take your pepper and stuff it! Or saute, stir-fry, scoop it into dips … you get the point. Just eat them early and often, as this hydrating food (25 calories per medium pepper) is remarkably nutritious. Rich in fiber, B vitamins, potassium, carotenoids and even more vitamin C than citrus fruits, peppers can help support a healthy immune system, strong bones and iron absorption. 

Try this hydrating recipe: Quinoa Stuffed Pepper 

9. Cabbage

Water content: 92% 

Mixed shredded cabbage, sliced carrot, radish, pepper in a bowl

While you might stroll on by the cabbage stand at the farmers market or grocery store, or perhaps save it for coleslaw season only, it’s time to make this hydrating food a regular part of your diet. You can roast it, stuff it, shred it or sneak it into casseroles. It’s also a great substitute for any other leafy green, if you like. This cruciferous vegetable has just 25 calories for 1/12 of a medium head, and it offers a good amount of fiber, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and compounds called glucosinolates, which may help protect against certain types of cancer.

Try this hydrating recipe: Red Cabbage Slaw with Apples and Cranberries 

10. Watermelon

Water content: 91% 

Summer watermelon drink with mint in mason jar and sliced fruit on table

No surprise here; “water” is in the name, so you probably guessed that this juicy fruit is a top hydrating food. With just 40 calories per cup, this summer potluck staple is particularly rich in lycopene (the antioxidant that lends it the lovely pink hue) which is a boon for your skin, your heart and your brain. Try it in sweet and savory salads, toss wedges on the grill or blend it into fruit smoothies.

Try this hydrating recipe: Watermelon Pizza 

RELATED: 5 Creative, Healthy Ways to Add More Fruit to Your Diet 

11. Strawberries

Water content: 91% 

Plate with ripe red sweet strawberries on farmer on a wooden table with green leaves of strawberry plants as background

Speaking of smoothies, strawberries are also stellar in them, along with yogurt parfaits, salads, salsas, sorbets, or our current favorite: atop toasted bread mixed with goat cheese, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. Rich in fiber, flavonoids (a brain-boosting polyphenol), vitamin C and antioxidants, this hydrating food offers a lot of naturally sweet flavor per 50-calorie, eight medium-berry serving.

Try this hydrating recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

12. Spinach

Water content: 91% 

Fresh spinach leaves in a glass bowl

Follow Popeye’s lead and feast on some spinach. Just 7 calories per cup, each leaf delivers fiber, magnesium, calcium, iron, folate, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin K. Whether raw, canned, or frozen and thawed, you can’t go wrong by mixing this into casseroles, wilting it into soups or even blending it into (you guessed it!) smoothies.

Try this hydrating recipe: Spinach, Banana, and Pineapple Smoothie 

13. Cantaloupe

Water content: 90% 

Melon slices on a plate

Watermelon isn’t the only melon plentiful in water. Cantaloupe, also known as muskmelon, is a terrific hydrating food and clocks in at just 50 calories per ¼ medium fruit. It’s strong in fiber and vitamin C, and like many orange produce, is a good source of eyesight-supporting beta carotene. It’s a treat in fruit salads, grilled, blended into sorbet or even mixed into quick bread batter.

Try this hydrating recipe: Cantaloupe “Ice Cubes”

Image: Shutterstock

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