Milk: A Healthy, Unexpected Choice to Help Stay Hydrated
During these hot days of summer, staying hydrated becomes more important for your health than ever. This is particularly true for persons at risk of dehydration such as exercising children and adult athletes who lose body fluid through sweat, and for older adults, many of whom have a blunted sensation of thirst and experience other physiological changes that lead to decreased water intake.
To stay hydrated, the popular advice is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (i.e., the “8 x 8” rule). However, there is no one-size-fits-all water recommendation. Individuals differ in their need for water based on their activity level, geographic location, age, size, health status, etc.
Some people find it difficult to drink enough plain water every day. The good news is that there are additional options. A national survey of U.S. adults reveals that among men, 30% of total water consumed is from plain water, with the rest coming from other liquids and foods; among women, plain water makes up 34% of total water intake, with the remaining 66% coming from other dietary foods and liquids. The important message is to get enough water from all sources – plain water, other beverages, and foods.
Milk – an effective way to hydrate. Research has shown that milk, including chocolate milk, is an effective post-exercise recovery beverage by helping to keep children and adults hydrated. This is not surprising given that milk is 90 percent water and contains electrolytes to support hydration. A study in Canada showed that milk is better than either a sports drink or water to hydrate kids following exercise in the heat.
A recent British study involving 72 recreationally active, healthy men in their mid-20s investigated the hydration potential of 13 common beverages using a new “beverage hydration index.” This hydration index showed that some drinks remain longer in the body than others, thereby providing more hydration. Both fat-free and whole milk exhibited better hydrating characteristics than water.
The researchers suggest practical implications for identifying beverages that promote hydration. For example, for older adults who are at risk of dehydration because of their low water intakes, milk, with its high hydration index, can be a good choice to help meet hydration needs. In addition to providing water, milk is a significant source of essential nutrients for older adults, including under-consumed nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, which are important for bone health.
Bottom Line. To keep your body hydrated, especially during the warm summer months, it’s important to consume enough water from all sources – plain water, other beverages (e.g., milk, smoothies, yogurt drinks), and foods high in water such as fresh fruits (e.g., watermelon, strawberries, grapes), vegetables (e.g., broccoli, spinach), yogurt, and soups.