Drinking water replenishes lost fluids, lubricates joints, and moisturizes the skin. It’s important to your mood, sleep, digestion, cognition, and energy levels. But if you don’t like the taste of water, it can be difficult to drink enough to reach your daily needs. This is especially problematic in older adults because, with age, one’s sense of thirst diminishes, increasing the likelihood of dehydration.
Fortunately, you can satisfy much of your daily hydration needs by drinking liquids that are just as thirst- and body-quenching as water, but run the gamut of flavor, texture, and temperature.
You may find water more palatable with just some simple twists:
Sparkling water is just as hydrating as tap water, but it comes in dozens of flavors, such as grapefruit, lemon-lime, cherry, blackberry, and watermelon. The tingly bubbles can make drinking water feel more exciting. Experiment with different brands to see which bubbles you like best. Some brands have more powerful carbonation, and others boast more delicate, “softer” bubbles.
Sparkling waters don’t contain phosphoric acid, an ingredient in carbonated soft drinks that can reduce bone density. In fact, many brands contain trace amounts of calcium, so they may have a positive effect on bone.
Check the label and avoid sparkling waters that contain sugar, which adds needless calories, or artificial sweeteners, which can cause stomach trouble and have been shown to cause sugar cravings in some people.
Fruit-infused water. Make your own flavorful infused water, sometimes called spa water, by adding your favorite sliced fruits, vegetables, and herbs to a pitcher of water. Let it steep in the refrigerator for four to six hours or, even better, overnight. The flavor of your berries, citrus, or cucumber slices will permeate the water, making it more enjoyable to sip. Strawberry-basil and cucumber-mint are two winning combinations. Crush the herbs before adding to intensify the spa water’s flavor.
Tea. With 2 billion cups drunk every day, tea is the second most consumed beverage worldwide. (Water is number one). Green, black, oolong, and white tea all come from the same Camellia sinensis plant. They taste and look different from each other thanks to how the leaves are processed. All four are caffeinated but still contain less caffeine than coffee, so if java gives you the jitters, tea is a smarter bet.
They also contain antioxidant compounds called polyphenols which, when consumed regularly, lower the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Habitual tea drinkers have better cognition, and a new University of California, Irvine, study found that compounds in green and black tea relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.
For extra health benefits, try matcha, a type of green tea that is made by crushing green tea leaves until they reach a powdered consistency, then whisking with water. This means you consume the actual green tea leaves when sipping matcha, along with all of their great-for-you compounds. Matcha has high levels of L-theanine, an amino acid known for promoting a calm sense of mental alertness. It has a grassy, non-bitter flavor.
Avoiding caffeine? Herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, rooibos, and ginger are made from the flowers, leaves, and roots of various plants. They each offer unique health perks, such as improving digestion (peppermint) or soothing a sore throat (slippery elm).
Enjoy tea hot or iced for equal hydration and health benefits. Just be sure not to load it up with excess sugar or you’ll negate many of the health advantages.
Despite the old wives’ tale about coffee being dehydrating, it actually counts towards your daily water quota. In fact, when a group of UK researchers asked 50 men, all regular coffee drinkers, to consume four mugs of black coffee a day for three days, followed by three days during which they consumed an equivalent amount of water, they found no difference in hydration status.
Regular coffee intake confers some protection against cancer and cognitive decline thanks to its high antioxidant content. It can also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A 2021 study published in PLOS Medicine linked coffee consumption with a reduced risk of stroke and dementia. That same study found that drinking two to three cups of coffee and two to three cups of tea a day reduced stroke risk by 32 percent and dementia risk by 28 percent. Again, steer clear of excess added sugar or cream.
Kefir (pronounced “KEE-fir”) is a tart, tangy, slightly effervescent, fermented dairy drink that offers two to three times more probiotics than yogurt. Probiotics are helpful bacteria that help regulate gastrointestinal health, immunity, mental health, and more. Kefir is also anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, and antioxidant. It’s high in protein and calcium for strong muscles and bones.
Some commercially available kefirs are high in added sugars, so check the label. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 36 grams of added sugar per day for men and 24 grams for women.
(Note: This differs from the total sugar content, which can be high in dairy products thanks to naturally occurring milk sugars. Just pay attention to added sugars.)