Dehydration is common during summers and there could be multiple factors causing it — excessive sweating, high humidity levels, exposure to harsh sunlight and not drinking enough water. This can lead to fatigue, dizziness, headaches and digestive problems. It is a commonly known fact that the best way to keep yourself hydrated is by drinking enough water, but there could be foods in your diet as well that could help you maintain an adequate hydration status.
“Fruits and vegetables that have a high water content are suitable for such weather. For example, watermelon, water chestnuts, peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, lettuce and zucchini. One of the easiest ways to consume them is to have them in their natural fresh state but these can also be included in other forms like infused water, smoothies, broths, infused teas, lime water, coconut water, peppermint teas and mint-flavored drinks . Fruits and vegetables rich in water help in better absorption of water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin B complex, which help in maintaining healthy skin and controlling inflammation,” says Dr. Eileen Canday, HOD, Nutrition and Dietetics, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai.
People with diabetes, she feels, should confine themselves to fruits like watermelon, muskmelon and berries. “A 100 gram serving of watermelon has a glycemic index of 72. But since the glycemic load of watermelon is only 2 per 100 grams, it can be moderated by diabetics. Also, they should never strain their juices because they may end up using more fruits than their carbohydrate count allows and can spike blood sugar levels. Besides they lose out on fibers which take time to be digested, delaying the release of glucose into the bloodstream and blunt blood sugar levels. Eating the whole fruit with its intact fiber is permissible for diabetics. All other vegetables, especially from the cruciferous and gourd family like bottle gourd, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini and green vegetables like lettuce, spinach, fenugreek leaves are highly recommended because of their high fiber and water content. It is recommended to prevent over-cooking the vegetables because high heat exposure will lead to loss of certain vitamins. Salads, in combination with nuts and seeds, are a great way to include fiber and essential fatty acids which will also help in decreasing the glycemic load of the meal,” adds Dr Canday.
Fruits, explains Dr. Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Nutritionist, Apollo Hospital, by themselves cannot cause high sugar surges as they contain fructose. “Even in diabetics, fructose changes blood sugar levels much more gradually than glucose and doesn’t seem to impact insulin levels. Studies have shown that unlike glucose, which is processed throughout the whole body, fructose is metabolized by the liver. Of course, have fruits in their natural form and don’t treat them with either salt or sugar. Try to take a fruit as a snack in between meals to avoid carbohydrate overload. This helps you avoid cramps in the hands and legs,” she says.
Dr. Rohatgi advocates fruit-infused water because it can be made at home and it contains vital salts and electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium and, therefore, can prevent dehydration. “Besides, it can help in blood sugar and weight management as a substitute for sugary drinks,” she adds.
What are water-rich fruits and vegetables we should know about? “Watermelon and strawberries in their natural form have 92 per cent water, apples, oranges, pineapples, blueberries and musk melon, all contain 85 to 88 per cent water. Among vegetables, cucumber and tomato have 95 per cent water, mushrooms, lettuce and spinach hold 91 per cent and broccoli has 90 per cent. And all of these are safe for diabetics,” said Dr. Rohatgi.
Infused water is an interesting and diverse way to ensure hydration and adequate electrolyte balance throughout the day. “Different combinations of fruits and vegetables can be chopped and combined to provide refreshing flavours. Drinks like herbed watermelon lemonade, banana-oat milk smoothie, kesar milk with basil seeds, fennel water, sattu buttermilk, jaljeera, cucumber mint cooler, wild berry sugar-free iced teas, strawberry chiller with mint leaves and jamun smoothie with chia seeds are great ways to include a combination of foods along with fiber, vitamins and minerals,” says Dr Canday.
While we talk about hydration, it is also important to limit certain items in your diet like spices, because they increase heat in the body, highly processed and packaged foods because of their high sodium content and caffeine, all of which can lead to dehydration, she advises.