Like flossing or putting down your phone at night, staying properly hydrated is one of those things you know is super good for you, but struggle to make happen. There are plenty of reasons why: some people don't enjoy the taste of plain water; others forget to replenish the liquids they lose through exercise.
Even things like caffeine and fiber intake can affect your fluid levels, says Isabel Maples, RD, a registered dietitian based near Washington, D.C., and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And as we age, our body's thirst mechanism (the thing that tells us when to drink) gets less responsive, so if you struggle now, know that it's not likely to get better down the road.
But there's hope (even if you'll never win a chugging contest), because certain foods are hydrating too. "We naturally get some water from what we eat," says Maples. She estimates that a person eating an average 2,000-calorie diet will down between 2 and 3 cups' worth of H2O from food alone. And often, those foods have additional vitamins and nutrients that are good for our bodies, at minimal calories because they're mostly water.
So if you have a drinking problem—as in, you don't do it enough (Maples advises a pee check: the color of lemonade or lighter is healthy; apple juice or darker, and you're in need of a refill)—try chowing down on these refreshing options:
You probably knew this, but watermelon is a good standard to measure other foods by when you're looking for hydration. Melons of all kinds are water bombs, but this pink-fleshed fruit also contains more of the anti-cancer compound lycopene than any other fruit, plus citrulline, an amino acid that may improve exercise performance. (Find our favorite healthy watermelon recipes here.)
While most fresh fruits and vegetables are water-rich, apples tend to be at the top of the scale thanks to their density. Celery and lettuce may be 95% water, compared to an apple's 86%, but it's way easier to eat one apple than the equivalent amount of greens. Serving size matters too, kids.
Not only are tomatoes at their in-season best during summer, they're also 94% water. And we're convinced the other 6% is pure flavor. While there truly is nothing like in-season produce, Maples says that canned tomatoes are just as hydrating as an off-season alternative. But for now, we're using this as an excuse to make this summer-perfect Grilled Zucchini with Tomato-Mint Relish.
Yup, the humble spud is three-quarters liquid. Eat a whole baked potato (with skin), and you'll get a decent dose of fiber and potassium, and a surprising amount of water.
Few foods are healthier than beans. These plant-based proteins have antioxidants, fiber and iron, among other nutrients. And they're all stewing in a water bath, even after you've drained them. Drink—er, eat up!
View Recipe: Moroccan Kidney Bean & Chickpea Salad
Everyone's favorite dairy food has more than just protein and probiotics going for it. It's also thirst-quenching. If you're a fan of Greek-style yogurt, though, just know that the straining process that makes it thicker, creamier and more protein-packed also removes some of the water. (Kefir and packaged yogurt smoothies have more liquid, but beware of added sugar.)
Foods like rice and dried pasta absorb lots of water as they cook, so they're surprisingly hydrating. Plus, it's a good way to get more whole grains, which most Americans are still falling short on, according to a recent study.
View Recipe: Easy Brown Rice
Water-packed tuna really is—even without accounting for the water it's packed in. A 3-ounce serving of this canned fish contains more than 2 ounces of water, so it's a good option for a post-workout snack that will help replenish your protein and fluids in one shot. Plus, it'll get you some omega-3 fatty acids. Just be careful not to overdo it, since tuna can have high levels of the toxin mercury.
As you refuel, it's also good to remember which foods supply the least amount of hydration: mostly fats and oils, including butter and cheese, and dried fruit. If you tend not to drink enough, you'll want to eat those foods sparingly in favor of juicier options.