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The summer sun and heat can leave you feeling more thirsty than usual, but there is a fine line between being parched and being on the edge of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. It is commonly believed that most people are chronically dehydrated due to poor eating and drinking habits. Summer conditions only further exacerbate this problem. Because of this, your summer diet should reflect such a pitfall. Here are 5 common foods that you should avoid, as they dehydrate the body, and suggestions on how to stay hydrated.

Dehydration is no joking matter. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize we are dehydrated and confuse the sensation with hunger or general lethargy or sickness. The danger in this is that dehydration goes unnoticed and can get increasingly worse until action is taken against it. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and swollen tongue, weakness, dizziness, palpitations, confusion, sluggishness, inability to sweat and decreased urine output, among others. Sever hydration takes time to reverse. It’s not just a matter of drinking a glass of water; it requires eating and drinking habits that eventually balance out your body and provide sufficient water to your cells.

Drinking enough water may not be enough – your diet plays a huge role in hydration as well. In fact, some foods reverse the effects of water. Here is how to stay hydrated by avoiding these five things.

1. Salty Foods

Sodium is essential in the human diet, but most of us take in way too much, leading us to feel dehydrated. Foods high in sodium increase your body’s sodium levels, which causes cells to excrete water and send signals to the brain that they need more water. A Tufts University report revealed that men consume 95 percent more salt than recommended per day and women, 75 percent more. The National Academy of Sciences’ Food and Nutrition Board suggests sodium intake to be ½ teaspoon per day. It’s not enough to measure it out, as sodium is hidden in all kinds of store-bought food: processed goods, canned soups, pasta sauce, frozen pizza and even beverages. Condiments, such as soy sauce, ketchup and mustard are also filled with sodium, so try to minimize their use. Cured meats, cheese, popcorn and boullion cubes are other offenders. Anything that has a salty bite – like most fried foods and dense, flavorful ones, will likely have sodium levels beyond your body’s liking. Read the label and look out for sodium in all its forms – monosodium glutamate, sea salt, disodium phosphate, baking soda or sodium citrate.

2. Sugary Drinks

Like salt, sugar also draws water from your cells. Sports drinks, which are meant to quench your thirst, actually hydrate you less effectively than water because they contain so much sugar. Switch to fruits for your sweet-tooth fix, as they contain a lot of water to off-balance the effects of its natural sugars and never underestimate the value of water in quenching thirst.

3. Diuretics

A diuretic is any food that causes you to urinate more, causing you to lose more fluids in your body. Diuretic foods include asparagus, celery, artichokes and melons. Alcohol and caffeine are also diuretics. If you choose to eat these foods or drink these beverages, be sure to pair them with high water-containing foods or drink extra water that day.

4. Animal Protein

Animal protein requires moisture to break down, beckoning for the body to send water its way to help process and assimilate it. Try to reserve animal protein to one meal per day and keep the portion limited to 4 ounces. Also, enjoy animal protein aside a bounty of cooked veggies.

5. Refined Starches

Processed starches, like chips, crackers and bread are often devoid of nutrition. Instead, they act like sponges in the body, soaking up water as they move along the digestive system. Stick to fiber-rich starches, like sweet potato, avocado, millet, quinoa and other whole grains for a nutritional punch. These will aid in digestion, not hamper it. As always, enjoy your healthy starches aside a bounty of cooked vegetables.

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Photo Credit: liz west