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healthy diet

30 Days to Change Your Diet Sustainably: Step 7 - Hydration

Let’s talk about hydration for a minute: why is it important, and how our hydration habits impact the world we live in.

Why do people keep telling me to hydrate?


As you probably already know, fluids are essential to our survival. Taking a look at why we need fluids can help us to conceptualize the importance of staying hydrated.

Here are some examples of the function of fluids in your body:

  • Flushing bacteria out of your bladder
  • Lubricating joints
  • Carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells
  • Restoring fluids lost through breathing and sweating
  • Protecting organs and tissues

Basically, fluids are an important factor in most bodily functions, which is also why we have thirst, the hard-to-ignore, built-in reminder that happens when we’re running low on fluids.

For a healthy person, it is recommended to drink four to six cups of water a day. Water is a very good source of fluids, as it’s relatively easy and cheap to access for most people, and has zero calories. However,  there are valuable fluids in every type of beverage, and you don’t have to stick to only water to hit your fluid goal. Coffee, tea, milk, and juice contribute to your 4-6 cups of fluid a day, and you also get some fluids from the foods you eat!

So even though it’s very trendy on social media to drink several gallons of water a day, there is no substantial evidence indicating that cups a day.

Alcohol

Alcohol isn’t just fun and games; it’s also a diuretic. A diuretic is a substance that increases the production of urine, leaving you less hydrated than if you consumed an equivalent amount of water instead. We’ve all read those tabloid headlines touting that ‘science has found wine is actually great for you!’  - but there is actually no conclusive evidence that alcohol has any considerable health benefits. In fact, consumption of over two units a day can have serious consequences for your health, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.

Caffeinated Beverages

Caffeinated beverages have been a contentious topic for decades; it almost seems too good to be true that they can boost your energy, taste amazing and be healthy for you at the same time. But a large 2017 study has further substantiated a large number of other studies linking coffee consumed in the right amounts (3 to 4 cups a day) with a number of health benefits. These include increased longevity and reduced risk of developing many diseases including liver and cardiovascular disease as well as weight gain with aging.

The health benefits of coffee level out around four cups per day. Since coffee is a stimulant, drinking it too much or too late may interfere with sleeping patterns - so make sure to be strategic about the timing of your coffee breaks.

Hydrating without hurting the environment

Many of the beverages we drink daily come in disposable packaging, which is another reason to cover your fluid needs with water. If you buy a glass or aluminum bottle, you can refill it again and again - and if plain water becomes too bland you can spruce it up with some squeezed fruit juice. 

If you’re someone who stops by a coffee shop on a regular basis, you can also bring a thermos instead of wasting resources on a cup that will be thrown out as soon as your coffee break is over. It can feel inconvenient to drag around bottles and thermoses on the go, but it can make a big difference: in 2009, 30 million tons of plastic waste were generated in the US, only 7 percent of which was recycled. This has an extremely detrimental impact on our environment.

Due to climate change, coffee farmland is expected to be cut in half in the next 50 years. Since the world consumes around 2.25 billion cups of coffee a day, it is important to consume coffee as sustainably as possible. Since we know that coffee isn’t bad for you, here are some things you can do to further ease your coffee conscience: 

  • Beans - Your main focus should be on how your coffee beans are grown. Sustainable coffee farmers use shaded plantations and waterway buffering, which reduces the footprint of production and doesn’t negatively impact biodiversity. Farmers who use sunlight to increase yield tend to contribute to deforestation. This is why it can be a good idea to double-check that the beans you buy have been certified by a credible organization such as the Rainforest Alliance.

  • Fairtrade - By buying fair trade coffee, there is a higher chance that growers aren’t exploited. However, this does not guarantee that it’s farmed sustainably though, so you still want to keep an eye out for sustainable certification. Keep in mind that fair trade certifications can be costly for farmers, so uncertified farmers may still be run sustainably.

  • Make it at home - It’s already enough of a hassle to source your own sustainable beans, so finding coffee shops that do the same can take some time. In the meantime, you can try to brew more coffee at home or work, and to be extra climate-conscious, make sure to use reusable coffee filters.

To sum up: drink around 4-6 cups of fluids a day, keep packaging waste to a minimum, take it easy with alcohol but feel free to go crazy with coffee as long as you take the source into consideration. Now go hydrate!

Recipes 

The only juice recipe you will ever need!
Let us look at making the perfect juice, both in terms of flavor and making a drink, that is beyond healthy. Juicing is obviously a very simple, straightforward and effective way of raising one’s intake of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. My experience is, that many get stuck with a few basic recipes – carrots + ginger, carrots, apples + ginger, beets + apples, beets + apples + ginger and a few other classics. People hesitate going beyond those classic ingredients and combinations, out of fear that the result will not be tasty however healthy it may be.

You can take juicing way beyond that…and you can do it without being a classically trained chef or professional gourmet. You just have to know a few basic tips about how to essentially “sculpt” or “build flavor” with juice. Having spent the last few months creating a whole range of juices and smoothies for a new cookbook, I have come across a generic formula for juices, that seems to work every single time regardless of what ingredients I use.



Amount

The recipe makes 3-4 glasses of delicious juice.


Preparation time

10 minutes or so.


Expiry

In case you are not able to drink all of it at once, the juice does actually keep quite well in the refrigerator until later the same day. The combination of vitamin C, bioflavonoids and essential oils from the peel and juice of the citrus fruit seems to preserve the juice.

 

Kitchen gear needed

A powerful centrifugal juicer.



Ingredients

At least 1 (whole/portion/serving) of a green vegetable (broccoli, cucumber, lettuce, white cabbage, Napa cabbage, green cabbage, parsley, watercress, spinach, beetroot leaves, leeks, spring onions, fresh basil, green bell pepper or the like)

1 (whole/portion/serving) of a white, yellow, orange, red or purple vegetable (beetroot, carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, red onion, parsley root, parsnip, red bell pepper, yellow/orange bell pepper or the like)

A bit (or a lot) of fresh ginger

Optionally a few twigs of fresh “Mediterranean spices” (rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage or the like

optionally a bit of fresh chili

1 citrus fruit (lime, lemon, orange, mandarin or grapefruit)

1 apple or pear or a few slices of melon

1 tsp of cold-pressed unrefined omega-3 rich vegetable oil (flaxseed, hempseed, walnut or chia seed oil)



How to prepare

Push every single ingredient through your juicer in the above order. The citrus fruits and apple or pear will carry along the remaining juices and flavors from the previous ingredients. You might also consider pouring ¼ a glass of water through your juicer whilst still running to get the last bits of juice and flavor out.

Mix the juice with the vegetable oil.