Water: An Important Nutrient

drinking water

Welcome to the Missouri WIC Participant Nutrition Education website. If you are a WIC participant, please enter your name and State ID number. Type the Household ID if more than one family member is a participant.

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By the end of this lesson you will be able to:

  • Identify fluid sources from solid foods.
  • List 2 reasons why you might need extra fluids throughout the day.
  • Describe at least 2 ways to increase your fluid intake throughout the day.
  • Know the difference between water versus other beverages.

Activity 1

 1. How much water do you and your child drink per day?

Water is an important nutrient!

water bottle

Water is an essential nutrient in our bodies. Without water, we cannot survive.
An individual can live for up to two months without food but only a few days without water. If you lose weight from dehydration, you may be at risk for developing extreme weakness and heatstroke. Living in the hot desert puts us more at risk.

What does water do for the body?

  • Satisfies thirst
  • Aids digestion and absorption of food
  • Protects tissues and organs
  • Regulates body temperature and blood circulation
  • Carries nutrients to cells
  • Removes toxins and other wastes from the body

Keep the water flowing in...

Keep an ongoing water supply so your body will function properly. During a tough workout, losing water weight is common, especially on a hot day. You must continue to drink water while you're active!

Drink water and other beverages to avoid dehydration. Foods also supply your body with fluids, especially fruits and vegetables. Watermelon contains more than 90% water. Take a look at the following list of foods to see how much water is provided by each food.

Food Percent Water by Weight
Lettuce (1/2 cup) 95
Watermelon (1/2 cup) 92
Broccoli (1/2 cup) 91
Grapefruit (1/2) 91
Milk (1 cup) 89
Orange juice (3/4 cup) 88
Carrot (1/2 cup) 87
Apple (1 medium) 84
Cottage cheese, low-fat (1/2 cup) 79
Yogurt (1 cup) 75
Potato, baked with skin (1 medium) 71
Tuna, canned, drained (3 ounces) 70
Rice, cooked (1/2 cup) 69
Kidney beans, boiled (1/2 cup) 67
Pasta, cooked (1/2 cup) 66
Chicken, roasted, no skin (3 ounces) 65
Beef, lean, roasted (3 ounces) 64
Cheddar cheese (1 ounce) 37
Wholewheat bread (1 slice) 38
Bagel (1/2) 29
Honey (1 tablespoon) 17
Butter or margarine (1 tablespoon) 16
Raisins (1/3 cup) 15
Pecans, dried (2 tablespoon) 5
Vegetable oil (1 tablespoon) 0

What are common signs of dehydration?

  • Thirst
  • Constipation
  • Frequent joint pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Low energy
  • Confusion

How much fluid do you need?

exercising womanYou are constantly losing body water. You lose water through perspiration, urination, bowel movements, and even breathing. You lose even MORE body fluids during hot, humid weather, or strenuous physical activity. Unlike some other nutrients, the human body doesn't store an extra supply of water for those times when you need more. To avoid dehydration and to keep your body working normally, you must replace the fluids you lose through normal body functions.

Most people need 8-12 cups of water daily. Sometimes you need extra water.

Drink more water when:

  • You are exposed to extreme temperature- very hot or very cold.
  • You exercise. (Drink at least one to three cups per hour of activity.)
  • You're exposed to heated or re-circulated air for a long time.
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You are sick. (Fever, diarrhea, and vomiting all cause increased water loss.)
  • You eat a high-fiber diet. (Your body needs extra water to process the additional roughage and prevent constipation.)

Activity 2

1. Thirst is a warning sign for dehydration.

2. Watermelon is a source of fluids.

3. The average adult loses about 10 cups of water daily.

4. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more water daily.

5. Which of the following foods will not provide your body with fluids?

 6. List 2 reasons why you might need extra fluids throughout the day.



How do I know if I'm drinking enough fluids?

To see if you're drinking enough fluid, check your urine. A small volume of dark-colored urine indicates that you aren't consuming enough fluid. Besides feeling thirsty, this is your signal to drink more. Almost clear urine means you're drinking enough. (Note: If you are taking vitamins, your urine may be a bright yellow.)

Caution: If you always seem thirsty or urinate too much, talk to your health care provider. This may be a sign of diabetes. On the other hand, water retention, for reasons other than premenstrual syndrome, may suggest kidney or a liver problem.

Drinking for Health

Let's increase our water intake...

  • Take water breaks during the day instead of coffee breaks.
  • Drink water or milk with all meals and snacks.
  • When you walk by a water fountain, take a drink!
  • Before, during, and after any physical activity, drink water, especially in hot weather.
  • Remind children to drink water while they're playing.
  • Travel with a supply of bottled water. Even for day outings, pack along some bottled water.

pitcher and cupCaffeinated beverages-coffee, tea, and some soft drinks-and alcoholic beverages aren't your body's best sources of water. Caffeine and alcohol can increase water loss in your body. Decaffeinated beverages, however, don't have this effect.

When you're feeling thirsty, reach for a glass of water! Water has no calories, is low in sodium and has no fat and cholesterol. If you feel like having a "fruity" beverage squeeze your favorite fruit juices in your water such as lemons, limes, cherries, or strawberries. Adding fruit will also increase Vitamin C in your diet.

For more information about vitamin C, click here.

If you reach for juice to quench your thirst read on. You might think that a juice that contains 100% Vitamin A or 100% Vitamin C is nutritionally superior. Yet the percentage of vitamins has little bearing on the amount of actual fruit juice. Be sure to choose juice made with 100% fruit juice (or 100% vegetable juice).

For more information about Food Labels, click here.

All juice products contain water and sugar. Fruit juice contains naturally occurring fructose, or fruit sugar, whereas juice drinks also have added sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup. Drinks with added sugar also have extra calories.

For more information about sugar, click here.

Activity 3

 1. Describe at least 2 ways to increase your fluid intake throughout the day.



 * 2. Which of the following is the best source of fluids?

To receive more information on safe drinking water for children click on the following website for activities for children: Drinking Water & Ground Water Kids' Stuff

Thank you for completing Water: An Important Nutrient Education Component.

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You have completed the lesson on “Water: An Important Nutrient”.  If you have any questions or comments, please contact your LWP nutritionist who will be glad to answer any of your questions. 

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