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Best Hydrating Foods for the Skin & Active Lifestyles
By Jill Levy
July 31, 2022
Staying hydrated is important for so many reasons, including because it helps to support our muscles, nerves, heart and brain. 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. So when it’s hot outside and you’re feeling sweaty, what foods are good for hydration?
The best hydrating foods for summer or any time of year — such as if you’re working out intensely — are those that provide water plus other essential minerals. For example, hydrating vegetables and fruits include things like melon, cucumber and leafy greens. These same fruits and vegetables also make great skin-hydrating foods, plus they contain antioxidants that fight free radicals and their effects on your skin.
Hydrating foods are those that have a high water content. They’re the opposite of dehydrating foods, which contain lots of sodium but little water.
Here’s a tricky question: What hydrates better than water? Water plus other electrolytes combined together!
Electrolytes are minerals (including potassium, calcium and magnesium) that the body needs a steady supply of every day because they facilitate many functions. They’re especially important for regulating normal fluid levels, blood pressure, digestion and muscle contractions.
When you’re dehydrated, meaning you’re lacking water and/or other electrolytes, you’re bound to feel fatigued or weak. This is exactly why a diet rich in hydrating foods is a great way to stay energized and sharp, not to mention that it helps to support overall health, including digestion.
Most types of fruits and vegetables in the melon family (aka cucurbit plants) are water-rich, especially melons including honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon. In addition to containing lots of water, melon is a good source of potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium.
Plus, you’ll obtain nearly 100 percent of your daily need for vitamin C in one cup of cantaloupe.
How to use it:
Try melon in summer salsas, served with cottage cheese or yogurt, in smoothies, or in healthy homemade sorbets. Melon also pairs well with cheeses and meat, so some people serve it with prosciutto or cheddar.
There’s a reason cucumber is one of the most popular hydrating foods for skin. It’s very high in water, with more than 95 percent of the veggie being made up of H2O, plus it’s a decent source of other nutrients including antioxidants such as flavonoids, triterpenes and lignans, along with vitamin C.
How to use it:
Add sliced or diced cucumber to iced water, herbal tea, smoothies, salsas and salads. For skin-soothing effects, allow sliced cukes to rest on your eyes for about 10 minutes to help decrease puffiness.
A summertime and BBQ staple, watermelon lives up to its name because it’s super watery. You can tell when you bite into a juicy, crunchy piece of watermelon that this fruit is supplying you with plenty of water. It’s also a good provider of vitamin C.
Another little known fact about this hydrating fruit? The seeds are edible and full of healthy fats, plus they contain minerals and some protein.
How to use it:
Similar to cucumber, you can add watermelon to smoothies, beverages such as teas or “mocktails” or salads (try it with feta cheese or mint). Of coursem it’s also great all on its own or mixed into fruit salads.
Of all the hydrating foods available to us, leafy greens are among the healthiest overall, considering they’re very low in calories but very high in phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Greens also have a ton of water, additional electrolytes and some fiber, too.
While nearly all leafy greens are healthy choices, some of the best include watercress, spinach, kale, arugula and romaine. Eating greens daily is a smart way to increase your intake of magnesium, potassium and calcium as well as antioxidants such as carotenoids.
How to use it:
Enjoy a big salad with different greens everyday, or try adding a handful to smoothies or fresh pressed juices. Greens are also great additions to omelets, soups and sandwiches.
Most tropical fruits are considered hydrating foods, which makes sense considering they grow in locations where it’s very hot and humid.
Pineapple not only holds a lot of water, it’s also one of the best sources of enzymes such as bromelain that assist in digestion. Additionally, pineapple is high in flavonoids and phenolic acids that contribute to skin, eye, heart and brain health.
How to use it:
Both fresh and frozen pineapple can be used to improve the taste and nutrition content of smoothies, sorbets and fruit salads, plus you can bake with pineapple, add some to yogurt or an acai bowl, or stir some into chia pudding or oats.
They're best known as excellent sources of vitamin C, but oranges contain plenty of electrolytes and antioxidants, too. Oranges are high in the type of flavonoid called hesperidin, which has been shown to help support normal blood pressure and inflammatory responses.
Oranges and 100 percent orange juice are also great providers of potassium, which balances the effects of sodium in your diet.
How to use it:
Add sliced oranges to fruit salad, hot or iced tea, smoothies or cottage cheese. You can also juice oranges at home to make fresh, no-sugar added OJ.
Here’s another water-rich veggie that’s related to cucumbers. Zucchini and squash are about 90% water and low in sugar and carbs, making them a good fit for many types of diets such as paleo, keto and low-FoDMAP diets.
They contain some other nutrients and antioxidants too, including lutein and zeaxanthin, along with potassium.
How to use it:
Enjoy spiralized zucchini in place of carbs such as pasta, add some to stir-fries or omelets, throw them on the grill next to a piece of meat, or stuff them with healthy ingredients such as rice, quinoa, beans or tomato sauce.
Given that it’s crunchy and hardy, you might not expect cauliflower to be made up of mostly water. But in fact, it’s about 90 percent water and also high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K and many other essential nutrients.
How to use it:
Use diced cauliflower as a low-carb rice substitute; boil and mash it to make a healthier “mashed potato”; or roast cauliflower pieces and toss in buffalo sauce or spinelle with lemon and parmesan cheese.
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.
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.
If you’re bored with plain water, try these skin-supporting collagen boosting powders to provide a flavor burst without any added sugar or artificial sweeteners: Multi Collagen Protein Strawberry Lemonade, Cucumber Lime and Beauty Within Guava Passionfruit.
It’s also 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 percent 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.
What should you not consume 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:
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.