Eat Your Water: 12 Hydrating Healthy Fruits and Vegetables

Water in these foods counts toward your daily needs and they’re nutritious, too

Photo: Yulia Reznikov/Getty Images

The human body is 55–60% water, and it needs a fresh daily supply for proper digestion, to keep organs functioning, joints lubricated, and otherwise stay healthy. But you don’t have to drink all the water you need. You can just eat some of it. Fruits and vegetables all contain water, and many are mostly water.

There’s no formal federal guideline for how much water you need, but independent groups say the average adult woman should consume about 11.4 cups of fluid per day and men should take in 15.6 (a cup equals eight ounces).

The total amount of fluid can come in the form of plain water, coffee, tea, or other beverages, soup, water-laden food like milk or yogurt, or produce. The water in any of those foods contributes to your daily needs, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Multiple benefits

Unlike juice or soda, which nutritionists discourage (especially for children) for their lack of fiber and nutrients and overload of sugar or other sweeteners, whole fruits and vegetables are also exceptionally good for you, providing fiber and vital nutrients, says Wesley McWhorter, DrPH, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Produce is also generally free of fat and cholesterol and has little or no sodium.

Consuming more produce can lower the risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to a July 8 study in the British Medical Journal. Big helpings of research have shown that fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and some types of cancer, and promote healthier weight, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The total amount of fluid can come in the form of plain water, coffee, tea, or other beverages, soup, water-laden food like milk or yogurt, or produce.

(Fruits sometimes get a bad rap, by the way, because of the high natural sugar content, but fruit is good for you, the Harvard researchers say, unlike foods laden with added processed sugar. Unlike sweet juice or a candy bar, the fiber in fruit slows the release of the natural sugar into your bloodstream, preventing a sugar spike that can be especially bad for people with diabetes.)

Only 10% of Americans are eating enough produce, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal government recommends up to two cups of fruit daily for adults, and two to three cups of vegetables — more of each if you exercise regularly. The recommendations are similar for teens and not much less for young children.

So to knock out both health goals at once — better hydration and eating more produce — consider adding a few servings of high water content fruit and vegetables to your routine, experts suggest. Below are a dozen fruits and veggies that are at least 90% water, according to Healthline, Medical News Today, and the University of California’s Berkeley Wellness. That means a cup of any of them contains nearly a cup of water. All of them are healthful, McWhorter says, delivering fiber and different vital nutrients. (Follow the links for recipes plus selection and storage tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

Bell peppers: High in vitamin C, plus some potassium, iron and calcium.

Cabbage: High in vitamin C, good source of calcium, plus some iron.

Cantaloupe: High in vitamins A and C, good source of folate, plus some calcium and iron.

Cauliflower: High in vitamin C, good source of folate, plus some calcium and iron.

Cucumbers: Good source of vitamin C, plus some vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin K.

Celery: Good source of vitamins A and C, plus some calcium, iron, and vitamin K.

Iceberg Lettuce: Modest amount of vitamins A and C, plus some calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamin K (leaf lettuce is also a good source of folate).

Spinach: High in iron, folate, and vitamins A and C, good source of magnesium, plus some calcium, iron potassium, and vitamin K.

Strawberries: High in folate and vitamin C and antioxidants, plus some potassium, iron, and manganese.

Tomatoes: High in vitamins A and C, good source of potassium, plus some iron, folate, vitamin K, and the antioxidant lycopene.

Watermelon: High in vitamins A and C and antioxidants, plus some potassium, zinc, copper, and B vitamins.

Zucchini: High in vitamin C, plus some calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and vitamins A and K.

Worth noting: Broccoli, carrots, grapefruit, kale, oranges, and peaches aren’t on the list above, but are all above 80% water and good choices, too.

“Go with what you like. Just try to eat a variety.”

While choosing produce high in water content is great for your fluid intake, McWhorter encourages people to eat any fruits or vegetables they like. “They’re all really good for us,” he says, and they all are better than dry, packaged, heavily processed foods and snacks.

McWhorter, who is also director of culinary nutrition at the University of Texas School of Public Health, points out that the nutritional profiles of vegetables change with cooking. Cooking tomatoes, for example, reduces the vitamin C while releasing more lycopene, an antioxidant thought to help ward off cancer. He suggests eating veggies both raw and cooked, but don’t let the options overwhelm you. And don’t get caught up worrying about so-called superfoods or the latest fad diets.

“Go with what you like,” he says. “Just try to eat a variety.”

Explainer of things, independent health and science journalist, author, former editor-in-chief of LiveScience and Space dot com.

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