By the time you feel thirsty and reach for a beverage, you’re probably already dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t contain enough water and minerals to function efficiently. Sweating on a hot day, losing fluids from excessive vomiting or diarrhea and taking diuretic medications can all lead to dehydration. Eating certain foods that contain water and minerals can remedy dehydration before it becomes more serious and life-threatening.
Dehydration involves the loss of water and electrolytes, which are minerals that conduct electricity when dissolved in fluid. Electrolytes such as sodium and potassium help relay nerve messages and control the movement of fluid into and out of cells. Dehydration symptoms usually occur when about 2 percent of your normal water volume is lost. Common symptoms include thirst, dry skin, chapped lips, headache, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps and low blood pressure. Athletes, under extreme circumstances, can experience up to a 30-percent loss of fluid before they collapse and suffer life-threatening symptoms such as rapid pulse, elevated body temperature, loss of consciousness and heart failure. Drinking water without any electrolytes does not reverse all the symptoms associated with moderate to severe dehydration and may actually make some symptoms worse because it further dilutes the electrolyte concentration in your blood. Consequently, eating foods rich in water and electrolytes is usually a more effective remedy.
Sliced oranges are commonly offered at marathons and endurance events that trigger lots of sweating because they are high in water and potassium as well as good sources of sodium, calcium and fructose sugar. The electrolytes and other minerals in oranges help to prevent muscle cramps, whereas the fructose is a sustainable source of blood sugar and energy. The water in oranges replenishes fluid loss and keeps your blood volume from dropping too much, which negatively effects blood pressure and heart rate.
Watermelon contains even more water than oranges -- typically up to 92 percent of its volume -- making this fruit a great choice for quickly reversing mild dehydration symptoms. Watermelon is not particularly rich in fructose, but it is a very good source of most electrolytes and contains many other minerals in trace amounts.
Cucumbers are also very high in water and contain all of the important electrolytes that your body needs. They are also relatively good sources of calcium and magnesium, which are essential for muscle tone and function. For some extra sodium, sprinkle natural sea salt on freshly cut cucumber before you eat it. Beware that high sodium intake may lead to high blood pressure, so consult your doctor if you have hypertension.
Although most people consider tomatoes to be vegetables, they are actually citrus fruits. Tomatoes are high in water content, similar to oranges, and are excellent sources of sodium, potassium and other electrolytes. Ripe tomatoes are usually juicier, so use this type to combat dehydration. Slices of tomatoes and cucumbers naturally combine with lettuce to make healthy salads, which are the perfect meal or appetizer during the hot summer months.
- Textbook of Functional Medicine; David S. Jones
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet; Tonia Reinhard
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.