The days are getting colder and greyer, and we start loading up on cups of tea and coffee to keep us warm and energized throughout the day.
But while we tend to increase our intake of hot drinks in winter, most of us let the number of glasses of water we drink slip. So, do hot drinks count towards our recommended daily water intake? And how can we avoid dehydration this winter?
Read more: Vitamin D Supplements: When and Why You Should Take Them
How much water should I drink?
The NHS Eatwell Guide suggests what we should generally be consuming to achieve a healthy, balanced diet – and water is a big part of this.
It outlines that we should drink six to eight cups or glasses of liquid every day, with water being the best way to quench your thirst without calories or sugars.
Although it seems obvious that drinking enough water is important, you may not be aware of how many bodily functions it helps with. This includes preventing wounds or ulcers and maintaining good skin, removing waste products and toxins through the kidneys, preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs), helping brain function and concentration and blood pressure and heart health, maintaining muscle- and joint movement, which allows medicines to work well and prevent falls from dizziness.
These benefits are vital throughout the year. And while water can also help prevent dehydration that causes heat exhaustion and heat stroke, preventing dehydration is still important in colder temperatures.
While he also recommends the Eatwell Guide, Dr Tim Bond of the Tea Advisory Panel says: “This is a general guideline and does not break this down specifically by season, physical activity level etc. We need to keep that in mind – while we know hot weather in summer can affect hydration status – central heating in winter can also create potentially dehydrating conditions.”
You can also consider how much exercise you do daily.
“The more physically active we are, the more fluids we need to consume,” adds Bond. “Just a 2% reduction in hydration status can affect both physical and mental performance. By the time we feel thirsty, we are already dehydrated, so it is important to consume fluids regularly throughout the day.”
Read more: Seasonal superfoods to boost your immune system this fall
Do tea and coffee count towards my daily water intake?
Good news, both tea and coffee to do count towards your daily six-eight glasses of fluid per day, such as low-fat milk and sugar-free drinks (as long as you don’t add something too counter-intuitive.)
“In principle, this is good. As with types of food, we should look to drink a number of different drinks for the benefits they bring,” confirms Bond.
While water is the most ‘healthy’, plain tea, fruit tea and coffee without added sugar can also be healthy, according to the NHS.
And some alternatives to water can even have multiple benefits. For example, Bond points out that while water hydrates, research shows that tea offers the same hydrating properties as water, while offering other health benefits, such as reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Read more: Science-backed benefits of coffee from longer life to a reduced risk of heart disease
“According to research we have undertaken at the tea advisory panel, 40% of the UK population’s daily fluid intake is tea and research from several studies shows that while tea hydrates from the first sip the other powerful health benefits that tea provides, as reduced The risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes appears to be optimized with three to five cups of tea per day which help us to meet our six to eight servings recommended by the NHS,” he says.
Of course, the caffeine in tea and coffee is a stimulant, which can make you more alert or sleepy for periods of time, affecting some more than others, and also depending on how much you consume. Pregnant women should limit the amount of caffeinated drinks they have, while they are not suitable for infants and young children.
Although it is good to drink tea and coffee as part of a balanced diet, it is important to remember that they can make the body produce urine faster for some, which may not be wise if you have urinary incontinence. If you drink hot drinks to stay hydrated, you should also stay sugar and syrup free, to avoid damaging your teeth and adding unnecessary calories to your diet.
Read more: 20 things you didn’t know about drinking tea
How can I stay hydrated in the winter?
So, it’s really as simple as making sure you down your six-eight glasses or cups of fluids per day, which includes tea and coffee, depending on your beverage of choice.
Just make sure you use lower-fat milk, with the healthier choice being semi-skimmed, 1%, low-fat, or alternative milk with no added sugars, and your hot drinks are sugar-free as advised. Or, as another drink to help keep you warm, you can have hot water with a slice of lemon for added flavor.
If you’re wondering how much of each you can have within the recommended amount, Bond claims, for example, that research has shown that six to eight servings of tea are as hydrating as water, “but people may want to vary their sources.” fluid intake based on personal preference.”
And practically speaking, for example, drinking eight cups of coffee a day won’t be great for you for obvious reasons, so it’s wise to still include plain water in your daily intake.
See: Five ways to increase your water intake