One reporter wrote that three of the seven planets recently discovered outside our solar system are just what “planet-hunting astronomers” have been searching for. That’s because there’s a real possibility these three have water… and therefore could support life.
Water. It’s that important. No, really, it’s that important.
Consider this the next time you stand at your kitchen sink and take a swig of the clear liquid from your faucet. No living thing can subsist without water. Humans, animals, plants — me, my horse, and my herb garden — all require water to sustain us, say scientists.
More than half our body weight (50 to 60 percent in most adults) is water. Lose just 2 percent and bad things begin to happen. Water losses greater than 10 percent become medical emergencies.
Water does more than just quench our thirst, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It keeps our body temperature normal. It lubricates and cushions our joints when we exercise. It protects sensitive tissues like spinal cords and growing babies. And it flushes unwanted waste from our bodies.
Major organs rely on water to function at their peak. Your brain and muscles are 75 percent water, for example. Get low on fluid and you won’t think or move very well. Severe dehydration can cause major body systems to shut down.
To maintain adequate hydration, say experts, we should ideally take in the amount of fluids that we lose each day. For most people, that’s somewhere between 2 to 4 liters (a liter is a little over a quart).
Our total water needs can be met with plain water, water in food (a tomato, for instance, is 95 percent water) and water contained in beverages. We can even count coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages towards our daily fluid goals, according to the latest guidelines by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Sciences.
Don’t count on alcohol to meet your daily water needs, however. There are better hydrating choices out there.
Can we get too much water? Yes, especially if we are slugging down high amounts without added food or other sources of electrolytes that keep water balanced within our cells. A marathon runner, for example, who does not replenish sodium, potassium and other electrolytes along with water, is in for real trouble.
Water is one of the earth’s most effective solvents. It leaches minerals from rocks; it turns boulders to sand. And it’s absolutely necessary for the proper breakdown and digestion of nutrients from our food.
Water regulates how efficiently our bodies can produce energy and may even help control the action of our genes, according to researchers who developed our current dietary recommendations.
This liquid nutrient is truly essential for life.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.