Staying hydrated is incredibly important for human function, and dehydrating food and drink can make that more difficult. It’s crucial to know which foods and drinks have a dehydrating effect so you can ensure you combat that with hydrating food and drink!
What are the Symptoms of Dehydration?
Feeling thirsty is actually the first sign of dehydration. f.1 When you notice that feeling, dehydration has already set in, so it's really important to eat hydrating foods and drink fluids throughout the day, avoiding ever feeling thirsty.
Other symptoms include dark-coloured or strong-smelling urine, dry mouth and lips, feeling lethargic, tired or dizzy and peeing less often than usual.2
How Does Dehydration Affect the Body?
Urinary tract infections are a long-term effect of dehydration that commonly occur. They can become recurring and cause damage to the body if the problem of dehydration is not dealt with.3
Seizures can happen if your electrolytes are out of balance, which can occur when you are dehydrated. Dehydration can cause there to be less blood in the body which causes strain on the heart. This can cause a seizure as the body goes into shock.4
Hypovolemic shock can be life-threatening, and can happen if dehydration happens over a prolongued period of time. It happens when low blood volume and a drop in oxygen levels causes blood pressure to plumet. 5
Dehydration can lead to organ failure when serious dehydration or long-term dehydration occurs. Each and every part of your body needs fluids in order to function, so without that important hydration, your organs can shut down. 6
Hydration is also incredibly vital to the digestive tract and gut microbiome. For our food to be digested, it needs fluid to move through the digestive system. If there is not enough fluid, it can cause excess gas, constipation, bloating, pain and discomfort.
What are the Top 5 Most Dehydrating Foods?
Surprisingly, the vegetable asparagus is one of the least hydrating foods. This is because it is a diuretic, meaning you need to wee more, making you lose the fluid that you consume. Diuretics help your body to get rid of salt and water, so are useful for the body, but should be consumed in moderation.7
The best-known dehydrating food is salty snacks such as pork scratchings. Too much salt can be really hard on the kidneys, so limiting how much salt you consume is imperitive for overall health.
Bread, although not terribly high in salt per slice, is one of the leading reasons that people eat too much salt in their diet. Bread is so versatile it can be used in so many meals and snacks; all that bread together can add up to an high salt diet. Limiting how much bread you eat will help reduce the sneaky salt that you didn’t know you were consuming.8
Cured meats are usually heavily coated in salt, with gammon being a big offender. Drink plenty of water when you have cured meats! The kidneys overcompensate for salt being in the bloodstream, and pull water from elsewhere in the body, leading to dehydration.9
Sugar, sugar, sugar. The list goes on for why we should limit sugar intake! When you have sugar, the kidneys pull water from other parts of the body, as the kidneys don’t want sugar in your bloodstream; a similar reaction to when they encounter salt. 9
What are the Top 5 Least Hydrating Drinks?
Sugary Fizzy Drinks
Caffeine is a naturally dehydrating ingredient, meaning even watered down high caffeine drinks like an instant coffee can end up neutralising the benefits of hydration from the water or dehydrating you. Fizzy drinks often contain caffeine on top of the high sugar content, making them one of the least hydrating options.10
Alcohol is dehydrating - the higher the alcohol content, the more dehydrating it is. Water is removed from the tissues in your body by alcohol, which is why its common to feel like a shrivelled up prune after a night of drinking.
Drinking spirits straight is the most dehydrating alcohol, with low-alcoholic beer being perhaps the best option to stop dehydration.10
Hot chocolate can be dehydrating due to the high sugar content it contains. Often, they contain more sugar than fizzy drinks and often use high-fat milk to add flavour. Opting for a low sugar and water-based alternative hot chocolate is better to keep hydrated.10
Energy drinks are often packed with caffeine; although this is great to boost energy levels, it is not so great for hydration. (10) The hugely increased caffeine content along with often a lot of sugar makes energy drinks dehydrating.
Smoothies aren’t beneficial for hydration, even though the fruit and veg content is often full of water.10 When you combine lots of fruit and veg and blend it, the sugars are released making it far less hydrating. When the sugar is contained within the structure of the fruit or veg, it can digest through your body more slowly.
So, now we know which foods are dehydrating, we can make more conscious choices about what we consume, particularly on hot days. As we sweat, we lose lots of fluid meaning that must be replenished by what we eat and drink.
So remember, if you want to eat some of these dehydrating foods, make sure to up your fluid intake to combat the effects of dehydration!