Chapter 4. Water and Electrolytes

Water Concerns

At this point you have learned how critical water is to support human life, how it is distributed and moved in the body, how fluid balance and composition is maintained, and the recommended amount of fluids a person should consume daily. In Canada you have a choice of thousands of different beverages. Which should you choose to receive the most health benefit and achieve your recommended fluid intake?

Reading the Label

Most beverages marketed in Canada have a Nutrition Facts panel and ingredients list, but some, such as coffee (for home consumption), beer, and wine, do not. As with foods, beverages that are nutrient-dense are the better choices, with the exception of plain water, which contains few to no other nutrients. Beverages do not make you full; they satiate your thirst. Therefore, the fewer calories in a beverage the better it is for avoiding weight gain. For an estimate of kilocalories in various beverages see Table 4.9 “Calories in Various Beverages”.

Table 4.9 Calories in Various Beverages

Beverage Serving Size (oz) Kilocalories
Soda 12.0 124–189
Bottled sweet tea 12.0 129–143
Orange juice 12.0 157–168
Tomato/vegetable juice 12.0 80
Whole milk 12.0 220
Nonfat milk 12.0 125
Soy milk 12.0 147–191
Coffee, black 12.0 0–4
Coffee, with cream 12.0 39–43
Caffe latte, whole milk 12.0 200
Sports drink 12.0 94
Beer 12.0 153
White wine 5.0 122

Scientific studies have demonstrated that while all beverages are capable of satisfying thirst they do not make you feel full, or satiated. This means that drinking a calorie-containing beverage with a meal only provides more calories, as it won’t be offset by eating less food.  Soft drinks and fruit drinks, increase energy intake, are not satiating, and that there is little if any reduction in other foods to compensate for the excess calories. All of these factors contribute to increased energy intake and obesity.

Table 4.10 Recommendations

Beverage Servings per day*
Water ≥ 4 (women), ≥ 6 (men)
Unsweetened coffee and tea ≤ 8 for tea, ≤ 4 for coffee
Nonfat and low-fat milk; fortified soy drinks ≤ 2
Diet beverages with sugar substitutes ≤ 4
100 percent fruit juices, whole milk, sports drinks ≤ 1
Calorie-rich beverages without nutrients ≤ 1, less if trying to lose weight
*One serving is eight ounces.

Source: Beverage Panel Recommendations and Analysis. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. US Beverage Guidance Council. Accessed November 6, 2012.

Sources of Drinking Water

Women should drink at least 32 ounces and men drink at least 48 ounces of water daily. Producing water safe for drinking involves some or all of the following processes: screening out large objects, removing excess calcium carbonate from hard water sources, flocculation, which adds a precipitating agent to remove solid particles, clarification, sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection. These processes aim to remove unhealthy substances and produce high-quality, colorless, odorless, good-tasting water.
Most drinking water is disinfected by the process of chlorination, which involves adding chlorine compounds to the water. Chlorination is cheap and effective at killing bacteria. However, it is less effective at removing protozoa, such as Giardia lamblia. Chlorine-resistant protozoa and viruses are instead removed by extensive filtration methods. In the decades immediately following the implementation of water chlorination and disinfection methods in this country, waterborne illnesses, such as cholera and typhoid fever, essentially disappeared. In fact, the treatment of drinking water is touted as one of the top public-health achievements of the last century.



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Water Concerns by Karine Hamm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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