The Benefits of Plain Water

By Charlyn Fargo

March 4, 2016 6 min read

Looking to lose weight and improve your diet? Grab a glass — or two — of plain water.

A recent study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics examined the dietary habits of over 18,300 U.S. adults. It found that the majority of people who increased their consumption of plain water by 1 percent reduced their total daily calorie intake and their consumption of saturated fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol. Plain water is considered tap water or water from a cooler, drinking fountain or bottle.

Dr. Ruopeng An, an assistant professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, released this study. It said that people who increased their water consumption by one percent decreased their total intake by 68- to 205 calories, and also reduced their sodium intake by 78 to 235 grams. They also consumed 5 to 18 grams less sugar and decreased their cholesterol consumption by 7 to 21 grams.

An found that "The impact of plain water intake on diet was similar across race/ethnicity, education, income levels and body weight status." To take things further, he noted that his findings "might be sufficient to design and deliver universal nutrition interventions and education campaigns that promote plain water consumption in replacement of beverages with calories in diverse population subgroups, without profound concerns about message and strategy customization."

To conduct his research, An examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. All participants had to recall everything they ate and drank for two nonconsecutive days over a 10-day span.

Next, An calculated the amount of plain water each person consumed as a percentage of their daily food and beverage intake. Beverages partially composed of water, such as unsweetened black tea, herbal tea and coffee, were not counted as sources of plain water but were counted in An's calculations of participants' total dietary water consumption.

He found that largest decreases among men and young and middle-aged adults. But on average, participants only consumed about 4.2 cups of plain water on a daily basis, which only accounts for slightly more than 30 percent of their recommended daily water intake. Participants took in an average of 2,157 calories; 125 of those calories came from beverages sweetened with refined sugar, and 432 calories came from low-nutrition calorie-dense foods, such as desserts, pastries and snack mixes. These foods may add a little variety to your diet, but they're not healthy.

A 1 percent increase in daily plain water consumption may be a small percentage; but it's statistically significant. The change accounted for an 8.6-calorie decrease in daily energy intake. Most notable was participants' slightly reduced intake of sweetened beverages and discretionary foods, along with their consumption of sugar, far, cholesterol and sodium.

Information courtesy of the Illinois News Bureau.

Q and A

Q: Do raw and cooked spinach provide the same nutritional benefits?

A: Spinach is rich in many nutrients, including carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and lutein, vitamin K, folate, minerals and dietary fiber, regardless of whether it is raw or cooked. The carotenoids tend to be more easily absorbed after cooking, but it really doesn't make a big difference. Alice Lichtenstein, a nutrition expert at Tufts University, believes that you should enjoy eating spinach first and foremost; eat it in the form you prefer. The good news is, spinach doesn't lose a lot of heat-sensitive nutrients, like vitamin C, during most methods of cooking. However, boiling spinach for even just a minute reduces the amount of oxalic acid, which helps you absorb the calcium from spinach and other foods.

Information courtesy of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter published in March 2016.

Recipe

This recipe for chocolate chip zucchini bread from EatingWell magazine is an easy low-fat dessert or snack. Substituting whole-wheat flour to boost the fiber content.

ZUCCHINI BREAD WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS

3/4 cup low-fat milk

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)

2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl. Stir in the zucchini. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients and chocolate chips to the dry ingredients; stir until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool the loaf in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it over onto a wire rack. Let it cool for at least an hour before slicing. Makes one loaf; 12 slices.

Nutrition information per slice: 229 calories; 5 g protein, 34 g carbohydrate; 9 g fat; 32 mg cholesterol; 3 g fiber; 209 mg sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Photo credit: Petras Gagilas

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