I was listening to a podcast recently on nutrition for the brain. Dr Lisa Mosconi, a neuroscientist and nutritionist, was being interviewed. When she was asked the most important nutrient for the brain her answer was, perhaps surprisingly, water. Not Omega-3 or iron or magnesium – all important brain nutrients – but water.
Water is underestimated, says Dr Mosconi. It makes up 80 per cent of your brain’s content, and every single chemical reaction that takes place in the brain needs water.
“Dehydration is one of the first reasons that your brain suffers,” explains Dr Mosconi. “There is evidence that people who are even just mildly dehydrated have slow reaction times, poor attention, and poor focus. They have more difficulty just doing simple tasks as compared to people who just drink a glass of water. So I drink a lot of water.”
There you have it. The number one reason to encourage your children to drink water – it’s good for their brains. Here are a few more:
- Water can help their energy levels and reduce fatigue. Fatigue leads to irritability and poor eating.
- Water is the main way children regulate their body temperature, so is particularly important if they are very active and losing water through sweating, or living in a hot climate.
- Water is a natural headache remedy. Headaches are commonly caused by dehydration, so ensuring you and your children stay hydrated can help keep headaches at bay.
- Water can prevent constipation. When you don’t get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration — and the result is constipation. Combine water with sufficient fibre, and it will act like a broom to keep your bowel functioning properly.
How much is enough?
This all depends on your child’s diet, how active they are and the temperature.
Hot summer days call for more water, while cool winter days mean your child can get away with less. However, heated indoor environments can be very dehydrating. As a general rule, children up to age 8 should have a minimum of 4 to 5 cups of water a day, while children older than 8 should increase this to at least 6 to 8. And food provides water too, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables.
How to encourage children to drink more water
- Add flavour to water with a slice of lemon or lime. Be wary of ‘flavoured waters’ on the market as they often have sugar added.
- Buy a fun drink bottle for school, and encourage your child to keep it handy.
- Freeze fresh fruit and use them as ice cubes in glasses of water.
- Buy fun shaped ice cube trays and make ice cubes of dilute cordial to add to water.
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