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Why Is Water Important in a Balanced Diet?

author image Mala Srivastava
Mala Srivastava covers health and business for several online publications. She holds a Master of Science in microbiology from India's HNB Garhwal University and a Master of Pharmaceutical Business Management from ICFAI University.
Why Is Water Important in a Balanced Diet?
Woman drinking a glass of water Photo Credit Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

Although often taken for granted, water is truly an indispensable resource for your body, accounting for roughly 50 to 60 percent of your body weight. If this percentage of water is decreased by 1 percent, your thirst instinct triggers. A 5-percent reduction leads to decreased muscle strength and endurance, and a 20-percent reduction causes death. Many of the processes within your body rely heavily on water, so it’s important that you get enough of this essential nutrient in your diet.

The Universal Solvent

Water serves as an important solvent for all biochemical processes in your body. Because of its polar nature, water allows other charged and polar molecules to mingle with it. Carbonates, hemoglobin, various proteins and other molecules in your body use water as a solvent. Water carries dissolved substances all around your body. About 83 percent of your blood is water, which helps transfer nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide and waste products from one cell to another.

Maintains Electrolyte Balance

Water helps maintain the right balance of electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes are the electrically charged ions, such as sodium or chloride ions, that need to be stored at certain levels to maintain the correct water content of your cells. Electrolytes supply all types of information to your brain in the form of electrical signals called nerve impulses. They also help regulate muscle activity. To maintain proper electrolyte levels, water gushes in and out of the cells so that these ions stay in equilibrium.

Regulates Body Temperature

Water helps your body stay cool by regulating your body temperature -- which is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit -- through sweat. When you venture out in the sun, the internal temperature of your body shoots up and you immediately start to sweat. Sweating is just your body’s way of cooling itself down. Sweat evaporates from the surface of your skin, removing excess heat and cooling you down.

Makes You Brainy

A Center for Human Nutrition review published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” in October 2007 reported that a 2-percent loss in body weight due to inadequate water intake, heat or physical exertion can impair cognitive, psychomotor, physical and visuomotor performance. Researchers at the University of East London discovered that drinking water when feeling thirsty improves the performance of the brain in mental tests. The participants, who consumed 3 cups of water before finishing a task, increased the reaction time of their brains by 14 percent. The study was published in the July 2013 issue of “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.”

Boosts Your Physical Performance

When you exercise, the rate of water loss through sweating can hit 1 liter to 2 liters per hour. If you are exercising in hot weather, you should drink water every 15 minutes to maintain muscle strength and a stable body temperature. Water plays an important role in transferring oxygen to your muscles and helps you perform physical activity efficiently. A water loss exceeding 2 percent of body weight can impair physical performance, according to a Gatorade Sports Science Institute review published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in October 2007. The article further reports that a lower-than-normal body water percentage stimulates changes in cardiovascular, metabolic, thermoregulatory and central nervous functions. Dehydration during physical activity in the heat produces a greater decrement in performance than similar activity in cold environments. This is partly because performing exercise in hot environments places a considerable burden on cardiovascular function and thermoregulatory mechanism.

Offers Protection

Water protects your body structures and organs as well. It also flushes dirt and grime out of your eyes and lubricates your joints, preventing them from getting stiff and allowing smooth movement between your bones. Drinking water helps keep your mouth from feeling dry.

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