We sat down to redefine water with Alice Mackintosh, superstar nutritional expert and blogger to find out her tips and tricks for healthy hydrational habits. As one of the UK’s leading nutrition consultants, Alice works at the forefront of nutritional medicine, using an innovative and unique approach to help clients overcome a myriad of health problems.
1. When we talk about nutrition most of us naturally think about food, but our hydration is largely overlooked. What do we need to know about hydration in terms of its impact on our bodily functioning?
When it comes to nutrition, we are really talking about anything we consume – be it foods or drinks. Good nutrition is about consuming what makes the body work optimally in the way it is supposed to; given water is completely indispensable to every single function of the body, this shouldn’t be overlooked! Indeed, dehydration would kill us faster than malnourishment, and we often feel the effects of dehydration before we feel the effects of nutrient deficiencies.
The body has tight control on water levels and minute changes can cause low energy, headaches, poor concentration, changes in appetite, mood and many other things. A simple way to visualise how is to imagine that blood is made up mostly of water; if blood volume changes, oxygen delivery to organs, muscles and the brain can be compromised – which will have enormous impacts. This is just one of the many huge impacts dehydration has on the body – not something to be ignored!
2. There are a lot of studies that link proper hydration to increased levels of performance, concentration and overall functioning. What can employers do to ensure that their workplace is well equipped to maximise hydration and boost performance?
Having water dispensers dotted around the office, encouraging people to have hydration in their minds eye is the first thing any work place should do to encourage people to drink more water. These can supply water hot or cold and ideally it’s great to have a selection of herbal teas and fresh lemon as this can encourage those who struggle to drink water all day. A water dispenser next to the coffee machine is definitely the first place to have a fountain, and this may remind people to make healthier choices or at least drink water at the same time as a coffee.
Campaigns that encourage people to ditch one coffee per day for a glass of water or herbal tea are also a good way to get people thinking about drinking water. Having smart tips on your homepage about the benefits of drinking water is also a good way to enlighten people and remind them to stay hydrated.
3. Can we get our required level of hydration from other drinks like tea, coffee or fruit juices?
Though the best way to hydrate is certainly to drink mineralised flat water, herbal teas, diluted fruit, sparkling water, juice and veggie juices do also count as part of your water consumption. Anything sweetened or caffeinated however doesn’t count, so don’t be tempted by sugary fruit flavoured waters! The other thing that absolutely doesn’t count is coffee or tea – even if they are decaffeinated. Indeed these act as diuretics, so have the opposite effect.
4. What are the current trends around hydration and water consumption amongst the nutritionist community?
Water isn’t just water these days – with many new products marketing themselves as the superior options for our health and hydration, as well as being more sustainable for the planet.
Firstly, be aware of synthetic drinks like vitamin waters and fruit flavoured water that may not contain sugar or calories but are full of artificial sugars and flavours that are damaging to health and don’t work in the same way as water.
Coconut water, birch water and maple water are totally natural and though there is some sugar (coconut being the highest) these options are a much better alternative to unhealthier options before/post sport, after being unwell or the day after a few drinks! Be careful not to drink them in excess however, and always make sure to drink mineral water alongside these too.
5. On your blog you have a number of delicious ideas to spruce up our water intake, like this lemon, ginger and cayenne tea. What are your favourite water-based potions, and what can they do for us?
I love hot water with lemon and cayenne first thing for lots of reasons – it support digestion, hydrates and also warms the body up after sleep which gets your metabolism moving! The lemon is also an added source of vitamin C which supports the liver. The perfect wakeup call!
I also love adding cucumber to my water jug at dinner, sometime also with mint as it makes drinking water that little bit more interesting. You can experiment with citrus fruits, veggies and berries too and also freeze them into ice cubes which not only looks beautiful but tastes great.
I also admit to loving sparkling water with fresh lemon – perfect if you want to hydrate but also fancy a a refreshing cold drink. Remember to also drink flat mineral water as well, since this hydrates better and is lower in acidity.
Having originally set out to qualify as a medical doctor, Alice’s instinctive understanding of the impacts of diet on health and the development of disease led her to pursue her career in nutrition instead. Using her knowledge and experience she now advises on all aspects of nutrition at the prestigious Food Doctor clinic on Harley Street. Having witnessed the effects that a busy lifestyle can have on health, she has gained a reputation as the best consultant for those wanting no-nonsense regimes that are based on the most up-to-date scientific research.
By Erin Potter