Both heat exhaustion and sunstroke are associated with severe dehydration and long exposure to high temperatures. The number one way to stay hydrated, of course, is to drink plenty of fluids. We spoke to a panel of doctors and nutritionists and compiled a list of foods and drinks, including the most important one — water — that can help you avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion, and sunstroke. These foods — mostly fruits and vegetables — have high water content and are rich in electrolytes or other essential nutrients that can be lost when the body becomes overheated.
Watermelon is not only a delicious must-have component of any outdoor barbecue party; it can also be a hydrating lifesaver. This sweet fruit is comprised of 92 percent water, and according to Charmaine Jones, “the rind, seeds and nutrients prevent dehydration and keep your immune system healthy during hot summer months.”
“Foods with high water contents are best for days that you spend outside,” says Shane Allen, a certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist. So that means that an apple (or more) a day could keep heat exhaustion at bay.
When you’re spending time in the sun, it’s important to consume foods that are high in electrolytes and potassium, says Dr. Sherwood. Artichokes are rich in both. But here’s the catch: All of these foods on this list, including artichokes, are better eaten raw. When cooked, artichokes can lose some of their nutrient potency.
When it comes to hydration, coconut water is your friend. According to nutritionist Janet Little, you can dilute regular water with coconut water to add flavor and make hydration more appealing without going overboard with sugar. Plus, coconut water has the added benefit of those important electrolytes.
Not surprisingly, cucumbers are high in water content. Dr. Julia Scalise, a holistic health consultant, recommends adding cucumbers to regular water to replenish electrolytes. “Electrolytes are responsible for fluid balance, they support muscle contractions, and are important for nervous system functions,” she says.
Homemade Sports Drinks
By this point, you’re probably well aware of the importance of electrolytes. Sports drinks are a good way to restore sodium and electrolytes, but packaged sports drinks are pretty high in sugar and other unwanted additives. Why not make your own? Charmaine Jones, dietician and nutrition blogger, makes her homemade sports drink with sugar, salt, lemon juice, orange juice, and water.
We’ve pretty much eschewed “watery” lettuces like romaine and iceberg in our salads in favor of more nutrient-dense greens like kale and spinach, but when it comes to hydration, nothing can beat good old iceberg. “These lighter green leafy vegetables are so hydrating,” says Charmaine Jones. “They are comprised of 94 to 95 percent of water and are rich in Vitamin A.”
Citrus fruits are not only refreshing, they are also high in electrolytes. There’s a reason why soccer coaches give kids oranges before a game: This powerful fruit is hydrating and rich in potassium.
This might sound counterintuitive, but there are two types of heat exhaustion: salt depletion and water depletion. When we become overwhelmed by heat, our bodies are in need of hydration or sodium. So foods that are lightly salted like pretzels are actually beneficial and can help the body retain water, according to physical therapist Dr. Scott Weiss.
The most important way to stay healthy this summer is by drinking plenty of nature’s most abundant resource. How much should you drink, though? It varies, but physical therapist Dr. Scott Weiss says, “Drinking 24 ounces of water two hours before going outside in the heat, and six to eight ounces right before any physical activity, will ensure that your body is well prepared for any outdoor summer-related activity.”