In case your head doesn't hurt from being beaten over it with this information, here it is again: Water's pretty good for you. It stokes your metabolism so you burn more calories all day. It helps you stay energized, keeps you regular, and can improve your skin. If you replace just one caloric beverage with water each day, you can lose more than 20 pounds in a year--without doing anything else.
But here's the thing: Water can also be...well, boring.
Consider that problem solved: Before you swap a tall glass for a 20-ounce bottle of something sugary (or even a stuffed-with-chemicals "diet" option), try these quick fixes to add taste--and extra nutrients--to the stuff from the tap.
Day spas and high-end salons have taken to filling their pitchers with slices you'd usually see resting on eyelids: piles of bright green cucumber . And with good reason. The resulting flavor is refreshing, and refreshingly different. And it may help you in the bedroom: The scent of cucumber has been found to increase vaginal blood flow in women by up to 13 percent, increasing libido.
Grab a bottle of sparkling water for the bubbly feeling of a soft drink without the calories. If it's too bland, add a twist of lime or a splash of sugar-free fruit juice, says David Jack, director of Teamworks Fitness in Acton, MA . "I love this with cranberry or pomegranate juice," Jack says. "You can add a few dashes of each of those, and maybe a bit of lemon, lime, or orange rind." Try different combinations to keep things interesting, or to find your signature seltzer refresher.
Choose any of the innumerable varieties of teas and herbal drinks, not only to stay hydrated, but also to reap piles of benefit for your body. Black tea contains catechins, flavonoids that can improve cardiovascular health and may help prevent cancer. Green tea lowers your risk of heart disease, reduces your risk of lung cancer, and can help your body burn fat more easily--the polyphenols in the tea appear to work with caffeine to increase calorie burn.
And take advantage of herbal teas' many properties. Sage tea can help with excessive perspiration. Chamomile can help control blood pressure, and ease digestion and gas. Ginger tea can soothe your stomach and ease arthritis pain.
Learn more about the health benefits of tea.
Warm up in winter with a vegetable or chicken broth, or a light soup, says Jack. "Broth is a great hydrator, and you're getting all those nutrients--vitamins from the vegetables, and protein from the chicken, if you add it," he says.
You don't have to brew herbs to enjoy their flavor. Add powdered or freshly sliced ginger, bruised mint leaves, or lemongrass to amp up your H2O . Or go floral. Lavender and rose hips are loaded with vitamin C and may help ease arthritis pain.
You've tried lemon and lime. Time to diversify: Add antioxidants found in sliced berries, suggests Devon Metz, founder of Fit Health Into Life in Boulder, CO. Or try what's on sale or in season: cherries, mango, pineapple, oranges, watermelon--anything to add flavor, vitamins, and antioxidants. Can't get fresh fruit? Just as with seltzer, try a splash--a quarter cup or less--of fruit juice for flavor with few calories.
Freeze some fruit juice into ice cubes to add flavor that releases slowly in your water. Or drop some fresh berries or sliced grapes into your ice cube trays, or use frozen berries as if they were cubes. Changing just the texture of your cubes can create a new experience, if not taste, says Jack. So trade cubed for crushed, or vice versa.
If you're on a diet, fill up with a tall glass of water in place of more food. Or "eat more fruit," says Alan Aragon, MS, a nutritionist in Westlake Village, CA. "Fruits are 80 to 90% water, and you're getting a bunch of good nutrition that people tend to miss in their diets--potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C." Vegetables will do the trick too. Aragon suggests a salad of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, and other water-rich greens.
If downing water all day is what bores you, try treating it as a meal--or, better yet, three meals, says Aragon. "Have three square water meals per day. Drink water to comfortable fullness three times daily," he says. On colder days, it might be less; on warmer days, more. But comfortable fullness should be enough to stay hydrated. "And this will lower the amount of calories you eat for roughly an hour afterward."
If you're working out, says Aragon, sip slowly throughout your sweat session. If you go to the water fountain briefly between each exercise, you'll drink plenty for the day. Or bring your own bottle of water to the gym.
Simply change the way you drink water--out of a glass instead of a bottle, for example--says Jack. Or drink it at a different temperature. "If you change the temperature, you can change the experience, and that can be enough," Jack says. Plus, "cold water takes longer to drink." If you want to down it faster--to get your water-intake over with--drink it at room temperature instead of icy cold.