Health & Wellness

First lady touts drinking water, and here's why you should

The White House came out with a new initiative today and First Lady Michelle Obama kicked it off on TODAY with a three-word plea to Americans: Drink more water.

“Water is the best and easiest choice we can make to feel energized, focused, healthy and refreshed, “ Obama said. “You are what you drink. And when you drink water, you’re at your best.

Why such a fuss about something many of us take for granted? NBC News health and diet editor Madelyn Fernstrom says the focus is merited because often, when we think about healthy eating, we only think about food. “Adequate hydration is a definite health plus,” Fernstrom says.

Fernstrom said there are many myths about how much water to drink, starting with the idea that 8 cups a day is optimal. In fact, Fernstrom says “it’s more a matter of total fluid intake for hydration, not number of glasses of water.” New guidelines make it easy to meet hydration needs—just drink when you’re thirsty, she says.

While inadequate hydration might not seem like a health issue, it can cause symptoms such as headache and fatigue.

Another myth surrounds what “counts” as water. While it’s the perfect go-to drink for hydration— only pennies for a glass of tap water, and calorie-free—many people seek other options and would rather not drink anything if water is the only choice.

But that cup of coffee or tea is also mostly water and is a great way to hydrate for adults. Fernstrom suggests sticking with decaffeinated options for optimal hydration benefits.

In addition, fruits and vegetables are mostly water, and contribute substantial amounts of water to the body with every bite, Fernstrom says. Clear or vegetable soups are another secret source of water, but skip the cream versions if calories are an issue.

Fernstrom also has tips on ways to spruce up your water intake.

Frutify it. Water can be easily transformed to a tastier beverage with a slice of lemon, lime, or orange – or even sliced cucumbers, or sprigs of mint.

Juice it up. As a replacement for sugary sodas (just cutting out one 12 ounce can of soda daily would trim 10 pounds in one year), a glass of seltzer water with a splash of juice is a refreshing option.

As a calorie-free beverage, water is also a good tool for dieters. It can help as a standalone drink, or to dilute calories from other foods. “While drinking water before or between meals might not result in further weight loss—the jury is still out on that concept—the sense of “fullness” after drinking water can be a great deterrent to grabbing additional calories,” Fernstrom says.  

So, the next time you’re feeling hungry, reach for a glass of water. “Studies show it’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger,” Fernstrom says. In those moments, you’d be better off taking the First Lady’s advice and, “Drink up.”