Staying hydrated is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps to keep our brain, digestive system, heart, and immune system working properly, while giving us more energy and even boosting our mental health.
However, making sure we drink enough water can be difficult. With all the tasty beverages on offer, water can sometimes seem quite bland – and some people simply don’t like the taste.
So, to help you get your NHS-recommended six to eight glasses of fluid a day, we’ve come up with nine healthy and hydrating alternatives to water.
1. Cow's milk
Cow’s milk is an excellent drink for hydration. In fact, this study found that both full-fat and skimmed milk were higher on the beverage hydration index (BHI) than water.
This means that your body retains more water after drinking milk than it does plain water – so you stay hydrated for longer.
We lose salt and water when we sweat, so it’s important to replenish the body’s supply. If we just replace the water, our body will get rid of it via urine to balance out salt and water levels. But by drinking milk – which is a natural source of small amounts of sodium – we can replenish both our water and salt levels, causing our body to retain more water.
If you’re looking for low-calorie options, it’s best to choose skimmed or semi-skimmed milk over full fat. And remember, as with anything, milk should be consumed in moderation. Health experts suggest that we should drink no more than three cups a day.
2. Soya milk
There are many reasons why you might choose not to drink cow’s milk. Perhaps you’re lactose intolerant or follow a plant-based diet. Fortunately, soya milk provides an alternative to cow’s milk which is also good for hydration.
There’s currently little research explaining exactly how good soya milk and other milk alternatives are for hydrating your body. However, this study found that alongside cow’s milk, soya milk was a better choice for re-hydration after exercise than sports drinks.
To find out more about milk alternatives, check out our article; What are the pros and cons of different types of milk?
3. Coconut water
Coconut water has become a very popular drink over the past few years, not only because of its refreshing, nutty flavour, but because of the various health properties associated with it.
For one, it’s a good source of antioxidants, which can combat harmful, unstable molecules in our bodies (known as free radicals).
Coconut water is also thought to help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes and is a good source of various vitamins and minerals.
Because it contains electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium, experts believe coconut water to be more effective at rehydrating our bodies than plain water.
Plus, unlike other fruit juices, coconut water is low in calories – so, if you want to make the most of its health benefits, try to buy the kind without added sugar.
4. Water infusions
Infusing water with fruit, vegetables, and herbs can be an excellent way to make great-tasting drinks that keep you hydrated. Plus, because all they contain is water and your chosen fresh ingredients, they’re low in calories.
You can buy ready-made infused water, though, it’s worth noting that many brands add sugar, which can actually contribute to dehydration if consumed in high amounts. If you’re drinking multiple glasses a day, the calories can quickly add up.
But luckily, making infused water at home couldn’t be easier. Simply pick your fresh produce, add it to water (you can let it float freely or you can use an infuser jug/bottle to keep things separate) and leave it to steep for three or four hours in the fridge.
From strawberry and basil to lemon and blueberry, the combinations are endless, so making infusions is a chance to get creative.
If you’d like some inspiration, this article from Culinary Hill has some great suggestions. These tasty creations are a great alternative if you’re in the mood for a soft drink and want to maximise hydration while keeping calories low.
Thought to have originated in ancient China, kombucha is a fermented tea that people have been drinking for centuries. But recently, it has spiked hugely in popularity.
Kombucha is made by adding a specific mix of bacteria and yeast into black or green tea, along with sugar.
Alongside hydrating you, kombucha has many other health benefits – the main one being that it contains lots of healthy bacteria, which can be good for digestion.
If you’re looking for a project that’ll save some money, you can try making kombucha. Our article on fermented foods you can make at home will show you the ropes.
However, it’s worth remembering that the fermentation process can be tricky, and can be harmful if done wrong. If you’re concerned and just want to try kombucha, you can buy it ready-made in a range of flavours in supermarkets, health food shops, or online.
Note: Drinking too much kombucha may lead to excessive calorie consumption, bloating, and digestive issues, so it’s important to drink it in moderation. To give you an idea of how much you can have, the Centre for Disease Control in the U.S recommends that around 4 ounces (almost 120ml) can be safely consumed each day.
Whether you need your daily caffeine fix or you simply love the taste, coffee is a staple in many of our diets – and lots of us wouldn’t have it any other way. And luckily, drinking coffee in moderation can actually be an effective source of hydration.
This may come as a surprise, as coffee is often thought to be dehydrating. Mainly because studies have shown that caffeine may have a diuretic effect on our kidneys, causing us to urinate more frequently and, therefore, lose more water.
However, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that caffeine only has a significant diuretic effect when you consume more than 500mg per day – which equates to more than five espresso shots.
So, if you want to stay hydrated, drinking a coffee or two a day won’t hurt – it might even help. To read more about the relationship between coffee and hydration, why not check out this article from Healthline?
Tea is another drink that can give your body a hydration boost. Though, how effective it is at hydrating you will depend on what variety you choose.
Many teas contain caffeine – for example, black and green tea. When drinking these teas with hydration in mind, the same rules as with coffee apply: try to drink them in moderation because large amounts will have a diuretic effect and cause you to expel more fluid through urination.
Therefore, it’s best to limit caffeinated tea intake to under 500mg a day. If you’re wondering what this looks like, BBC Good Food tells us that the average cup of black tea with milk contains around 47mg of caffeine, while green tea clocks in at 33mg. But, just as with coffee, it’s generally best to limit your tea consumption to no more than four cups a day.
Alternatively, herbal teas like peppermint, ginger, and chamomile don’t contain caffeine and are great alternatives to water. Plus, each comes with its own additional benefits. For example, this study suggests that drinking ginger tea may be beneficial for reducing pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
To read more about the various benefits of different types of tea, why not check out this article from Good Housekeeping?
8. Fruit and vegetable juice
Lots of us like to start our day with a refreshing glass of OJ, and it can be a great way to give our bodies a hydration kick. Fruit and vegetable juices also contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are excellent for our overall health.
However, fruit juice contains a lot of sugar, so the NHS recommends limiting juice consumption to 150ml (one small glass) per day. Though, you could consider diluting it with some still or sparkling water.
A blanket rule when it comes to hydration is to try and avoid consuming too many drinks with high sugar content. This is because experts believe that increased sugar levels in cells causes the body to transfer more water out – leading to more frequent urination and dehydration.
If you want to take advantage of all the health benefits of fruit and vegetable juices, try to buy 100% juices with no added sugar. Also, it’s best to be aware of ‘juice drinks’, which are basically just soft drinks dressed up as juice.
9. Broth-based soups
While this one might not technically be a drink, broth-based soups can contain up to 92% water (depending on how chunky or creamy you want yours to be), so they’re a great way to get your daily dose of fluids.
What makes broths so hydrating is that they’re a good source of sodium which, as we’ve discussed, is one of the main electrolytes we lose through sweat. This means they’re particularly effective at rehydrating our bodies after a workout.
Plus, soups can be very nutritious (containing protein and vegetables) and convenient, as we can feed and hydrate ourselves in one go.
Popular broth-based soups include Wonton, chicken noodle, and French onion. For some tasty broth-based soup ideas, why not check out this article from Feasting at Home?
Note: While food and drinks containing sodium are great for rehydrating our bodies, it’s important not to consume too much, as too much salt (in which sodium is found) can lead to high blood pressure. The NHS recommends that adults should eat no more than 6g (around one teaspoon) of salt per day, which is 2.4g of sodium.
When it comes to hydration, it’s important to remember that water is your best bet. Not only is it the cheapest option, but it has zero calories and sugar, which is helpful for maintaining healthy teeth and a healthy weight.
However, if you’re struggling to get your NHS-recommended six to eight cups of water a day, these nine healthy and hydrating drinks will make good substitutes. As with all things, just try to drink them in moderation.
It’s also best to try to keep your consumption of soft drinks (like fizzy sodas, squash, and energy drinks) to a minimum as they offer little nutritional value and tend to contain lots of calories and additives.
Alcoholic drinks like beer, wine, and spirits should also be enjoyed in moderation. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, so you’ll actually end up losing more water than you consume. The NHS recommends drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
For more information on hydration, including why it’s important and some tips to help you drink more water throughout the day, why not check out our article; 11 tips for staying hydrated and why it’s important?
What’s your favourite drink for staying hydrated? Is it on this list? If not, what is it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.