The latest science shows that the water found in plants is super hydrating and helps you power up.
Photo: Ted Cavanaugh
What your body really needs to function optimally, it turns out, might be gel water, a little-known substance that scientists are just starting to learn about. Also called structured water, this liquid is found in and around plant and animal cells, including our own, says Dana Cohen, M.D., the coauthor of Quench, a book about gel water. “Because most of the water in your cells is in this form, we believe the bodies absorb it quite efficiently,” says Dr. Cohen. That means gel water, which you can get from plants such as aloe, melons, greens, and chia seeds, offers an extremely effective way to stay hydrated, energized, and healthy. (Read this before drinking aloe water.)
In fact, adding gel water to plain water during exercise or anytime your body is parched may be the best way to hydrate, says Stacy Sims, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and a nutrition scientist at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and the author of Roar. “Plain water has a low osmolality—a measure of the concentration of particles like glucose and sodium it contains—which means it doesn’t get into the body effectively through the small intestines, where 95 percent of water absorption takes place,” explains Sims. Plant and other sources of water, on the other hand, often contain some glucose or sodium, so your body can easily soak them up. (Related: How to Stay Hydrated When Training for an Endurance Race)
Gel water also gives you “helper nutrients,” says Howard Murad, M.D., the author of The Water Secret and the founder of Murad Skincare. “When you eat a cucumber, you’re getting not just water but also phytonutrients and roughage. In gel form, the water is released more gradually into your body, plus you get the other benefits of those nutrients.” Here are three easy ways to increase your intake of this super-hydrator—boosting your health and energy while you drink.
Drink a Green Smoothie Every Day
Start your mornings with a healthy shake made with greens, chia seeds, lemon, berries, cucumber, an apple or a pear, and a little ginger, says Dr. Cohen. “Chia soaked in water is extremely high in gel water and is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help move water into the cells,” she says. Cucumbers and pears are also loaded with gel water, plus fibrous tissue, which helps your body absorb the water.
Add a Pinch of Salt
Stir 1/16 teaspoon of table salt into every eight ounces of regular water you drink. This boosts the osmolality just enough to make your small intestines absorb it, says Sims. Sprinkle salt on your salad or fruit plate too. “The best thing for you on a hot summer day is some lightly salted cold melon or tomato,” she says. “These foods have a high water content and a bit of glucose. That plus the salt will help your body take in the fluid.”
Exercise a Little More
It sounds counterintuitive, but the right moves can actually optimize your hydration levels, says Gina Bria, the head of the Hydration Foundation and the coauthor of Quench. Research has shown that the fascia, the thin sheath of fibrous tissue around our muscles and organs, transports water molecules throughout the body, and certain activities help that process along. “Twisting movements are especially good for hydration,” says Bria. Spend a few minutes doing yoga or some stretching three or four times a day to keep the water flowing. (Try these 5 twist yoga poses.)
Strength-building exercises may also help your body hydrate. “Muscle is about 70 percent water,” says Dr. Murad. Bulking up lets your body hold on to more water to prevent dehydration.
Eat Your Water
These fruits and vegetables are at least 70 percent water, and many of them also contain nutrients, like fiber and glucose, that help absorb that water for better hydration.
- Squash (cooked)
- Broccoli (cooked)
- Potatoes (baked)