How Food and Diet Can Impact Dehydration
Food plays a vital role in maintaining hydration by replenishing lost sodium, electrolytes and amino acids while eating also encourages fluid consumption by triggering thirst.
Working in harsh on site conditions can adversely affect appetite, however, it is vital that workers ensure they eat regularly and consume foods that will drive hydration rather than hinder it.
Eating regular, fluid-rich meals helps your body stay hydrated and replaces lost sodium and electrolytes.
Milk, soup, juice and fruits contribute to daily fluid intake requirements as does chicken, vegetables and most other solid foods (see “What’s in Your Food”, page 15 of the THORZT Workplace Dehydration White Paper). In fact solid foods contribute approximately 20% of our total daily water intake.
It is therefore critical that workers adhere to a good diet in order to avoid exacerbating dehydration on site.
The Australian Government’s Dietary Guidelines recommends all adults consume foods from five major food groups to ensure all daily health and nutrition needs are met:
- Vegetables, including legumes/beans
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high fibre varieties, lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives.
Foods that can negatively affect hydration include those containing high levels of salt and sugar, which inhibit our kidneys from functioning properly. Diets that are extremely high in protein or caffeine are also ill advised. To avoid increasing the risk of food contributing to dehydration, the following precautions should be taken:
Steer clear of High Salt Foods such as:
- Cured meats such as bacon or ham
- Soy sauce
Unfortunately, these types of food are always high in salt, so it’s best to try and limit their intake as much as possible.
Also be aware of other foods that can be high in salt such as:
- Ready meals
- Some breakfast cereals
The amount of salt in these type of food varies from brand to brand, so make sure you read the label before purchase.
Bear in mind that Australian adults are recommended to consume less than 4g of salt per day, although this may increase among those who are sweating a lot or have high sweat-salt concentrations.
Drink caffeine in moderation
Although it has long been reported that caffeine can lead to dehydration, drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks in moderation actually contributes to fluid intake.
However, if you are not a regular coffee drinker, caffeine can have a mildly dehydrating effect. Whatever your level of consumption, it is advisable to keep an eye on your intake and not to rely on caffeinated beverages as thirst quenchers.
Avoid a diet excessively high in protein
Proteins such as meat, fish, beans and legumes are crucial to our diet and to keep our bodies hydrated, and it is recommended that 15-25% of total energy intake per day is from protein sources.
However, high-protein diets can cause mild dehydration due to increased water loss through urine. It is best to combine protein intake with other food groups to avoid this.
Where adequate foods are not being consumed – a common scenario for workers in hot and humid conditions – a low-sugar electrolyte solution such as THORZT will help maintain correct blood-sugar and sodium concentrations while also driving hydration.
For further information check out the resources in the THORZT Information Centre.