Staying hydrated is an often-overlooked aspect of health. While many people recognize they could benefit from drinking more water, it can be a difficult goal to achieve.
Vegans might particularly benefit from proper hydration.
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What Does Hydration Mean?
When talking about hydration or staying hydrated, people generally mean having enough fluid (water) in the body.
Water is essential for life and is a very important aspect of good health. Every cell in the body requires adequate amounts of fluid to function properly.
The body constantly loses fluid through sweat, urine, feces and by breathing. People must replace this fluid to maintain proper bodily functions.
Water or beverage intake is often the focus when talking about hydration, but water is present in many foods too. Focusing on total fluid intake from foods and beverages can be helpful because it all counts towards keeping you hydrated.
What Water Does in the Body
Water has many essential roles in the body. Health benefits of staying properly hydrated include: 1, 3
- Body temperature regulation: Sweat maintains internal temperatures and cools the body.
- Maintenance of physical performance: Dehydration can cause negative impacts on physical performance including reduced endurance, increased fatigue, increased perceived effort and reduced motivation.
- Cognitive performance: Adequate hydration is essential for proper brain function. Mild dehydration can lead to problems with concentration, alertness and short-term memory, although this effect is highly variable among people. More severe dehydration can lead to delirium.
- Gastrointestinal function: Dehydration could lead to concerns with constipation, although research shows that additional fluid intake often doesn’t help constipation in people who are properly hydrated.
- Kidney function: Water enables kidneys to filter waste out of the body (produce urine). Higher fluid intake is often associated with lower risk of kidney stones.
- Mood: Dehydration can lead to changes in perceived mood including fatigue, confusion, anger and vigor.
- Blood pressure: Blood pressure depends on volume of blood, among many other factors. While blood volume is tightly regulated, drinking water can help maintain blood pressure.
- Headaches: Dehydration may trigger migraines and some observational research suggests dehydration may lead to development of a headache (but this is not conclusive).
- Skin health: People need adequate hydration to maintain healthy skin. However, people who are adequately hydrated likely won’t see an improvement if increasing fluid intake.
Research suggests adequate hydration could lower risk for kidney or bladder stones, exercise related asthma and high blood sugar levels in people with diabetes 1.
There’s also evidence to suggest hydration could lower risk for fatal heart disease, stroke, urinary tract infections and dental diseases 1.
One research study associated higher fluid intakes with decreased risk of mortality 2. Association doesn’t mean causation and there are likely many factors involved in this association 2.
Why Hydration is Essential for Vegans
Moving towards a vegan diet can benefit many areas of health. However, some people note “side effects” during this transition. A common concern is changes to digestion and bowel movements.
Sometimes this is for the better, but other times, people run into issues. One explanation for unpleasant digestive changes is increased fiber intake that typically happens when someone starts eating more plant-based foods.
Whenever people increase fiber intake, fluid intake needs to increase too. This is because of soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is one type of fiber that holds onto water in the digestive tract. This can be great to help with bowel movement regularity, but constipation, bloating or excess gas could result if there isn’t enough water available.
Vegans can enjoy the same health benefits of proper hydration as anyone else, but ensuring proper hydration is especially important for those with digestive concerns or when eating a higher fiber diet.
Additionally, some people experience diarrhea with dietary changes. Diarrhea causes the body to lose more fluid than usual and extra fluid intake is important.
Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns or symptoms lasting more than a couple days (or symptoms that are severe/ impacting your daily life).
How Much Water Should Vegans Drink?
Research on fluid intake requirements is often based on less-than-ideal methods. The body tightly regulates water balance, so deciding if someone is hydrated or not can be tricky.
The Institute of Medicine estimates adequate daily fluid intake to be 2.7 liters per day for women and 3.7 liters per day for men 1.
The European Food Safety Authority found adequate fluid intake to be 2 liters per day for women and 2.5 liters per day for men 4.
Fluid needs vary based on age, body size and activity level so intake recommendations really need to be individualized to each person.
These recommendations are for total fluid intake which includes foods and beverages. Water content in foods goes towards this total, but water intake from foods is hard to measure.
Recommended drinking volumes are often set around 1.5-1.7 liters per day. It would be assumed the remaining fluid is taken in from foods 4.
Another common guideline some people use is to match fluid intake with calorie intake 1, 4. For example, if someone eats about 2000 calories per day, this translates into needing 2000 milliliters (2 liters) of water per day.
Fluid needs increase with exercise, sweating and in hot and/or humid weather.
Athletes should consult a dietitian to determine appropriate hydration during exercise as it varies based on many training factors (duration, intensity, weather).
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough fluid to function normally. This is caused either by losing excess fluid or by not taking in enough fluid.
There are many signs and symptoms of dehydration, many of which may be related to other medical or health conditions.
If you have any concerns about your health or present signs and symptoms listed below, please seek medical attention.
Some signs and symptoms of dehydration include: 4, 5
- Urine that’s darker than normal
- Little to no urine
- Thirst (especially extreme thirst)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased heart rate and/or palpitations
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Dry skin and lips
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth
- Dizziness or light-headedness
Certain people are more prone to dehydration including: 1, 4, 5
- Anyone outside on hot and/or humid days (or inside without air conditioning)
- People who are pregnant/ breastfeeding
It’s better to prevent dehydration by staying hydrated (than trying to reverse dehydration after it’s occurred).
Certain medications and/or medical conditions can also increase risks of dehydration. Speak with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about dehydration.
How to Stay Hydrated as a Vegan
The key to avoiding dehydration is staying adequately hydrated by taking in enough fluid. Fluids come from beverages and foods.
Drinking enough water through the day is the easiest and cheapest way to stay hydrated.
Remember the recommendations above are for total fluid intake from food and beverages. Adequate intake from beverages alone is around 1.5-1.7 liters per day 4.
There are situations where electrolyte drinks are appropriate or even necessary, but for an average person on an average day, water should be adequate.
On hot or humid days, or with increased activity (sports, physically demanding work) extra water intake and/or electrolytes may be helpful.
What Can Vegans Drink?
Many beverages are vegan, but some are not. Here’s a brief list of hydrating beverages, besides plain water, that vegans can drink:
- Coconut water
- Plant-based milks
- Sparkling water
- Flavored waters
- Electrolyte or sports drinks
Not all flavored waters or sports drink are vegan, so it’s best to either check for a vegan label or research whether the specific brand is vegan-friendly.
There are plenty of other vegan beverage options, but this list is focused on ones that are good for hydration.
People often question if caffeinated beverages are good for hydration. Beverages with caffeine, like coffee or tea, do generally count toward fluid intake 6, 7.
Tips for Drinking More Water
If you struggle to drink enough water throughout the day, here are some tips:
- Always keep a full water bottle with you and refill it through the day
- Have a glass/bottle of water on your bedside table to drink first thing in the morning
- Flavor water by adding fresh fruits, vegetables and/or herbs; you can eat those fruits and vegetables after drinking the water to minimize food waste
- Consider setting reminders on your phone or schedule water breaks into your day
- Drink a glass of water before or during all meals
There are even water bottles that encourage drinking adequate water through the day. If you think these would help you, and you have the budget for one, it may be helpful to try.
And remember, other beverages besides water count towards your fluid intake!
High Water Content Foods
Fluid intake can also add up through the day from eating foods.
Fresh fruits and vegetables provide water in varying amounts. Sauces, soups, frozen foods (like ice cream), and plant-based milks/ yogurt also provide fluids.
Some fruits high in water content include:
- Honeydew melon
- Star fruit
Likewise, some vegetables high in water content include:
- Bell peppers
- Squash (cooked)
- Broccoli (cooked)
- Brussels sprouts
As you can see, there’s plenty of fruits and vegetables with high water content 8. Adding these to your diet not only provides extra hydration, but also offers other nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Here are some tasty recipes with high water content foods you can try:
- Kale salad with oranges
- Strawberry chia jam
- Minestrone soup
- Roasted red pepper and tomato soup
- Greek salad
- Tian with zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes
And some delicious mocktails that are lower in sugar for a refreshing drink option:
- Lemon mojito mocktails
- Blackberry mocktails
- Raspberry mint mocktails
- Blueberry mocktails
- Strawberry lime mocktails
- Classic mojito mocktails
Summary: Hydration on a Vegan Diet
Hydration may be of particular importance on a vegan diet due to the higher fiber content of plant-based foods. Higher fiber intakes benefit from increased fluid intake.
Staying hydrated is an important aspect of health with many reported health benefits.
Vegans can achieve proper hydration by drinking fluids throughout the day and consuming foods with high water content (most vegetables and fruits).
Always speak with a doctor before changing your diet or taking new supplements. Please read our full website disclaimer.
- Water, hydration and health
- Association between water intake and mortality risk-evidence from a national prospective study
- Narrative review of hydration and selected health outcomes in the general population
- Scientific opinion on dietary reference values for water (EFSA)
- Adult dehydration
- Caffeine and diuresis during rest and exercise: A meta-analysis
- Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: A review
- Canadian nutrient file
This reference list is not intended to be comprehensive.
About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.
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