Week four: Drink up for better health!

fruit infused water

That’s right, for better health you need to drink, and drink a lot!  You need to drink every day!  This miracle liquid will help you feel better, look better, give you more energy and can be considered the best ingestible beauty elixir ever!  So, just what is this miracle drink?  No, it’s not Vitameatavegamin (remember the I Love Lucy episode?), it’s . . . are you ready . . . water.

Yes, plain, simple, pure water.  Okay, okay, I hear you groaning and grumbling.  Before you get too grumpy with me, let’s talk about why water is so good for your body.

  • Water helps maintain your balance of body fluids. Your body is composed of approximately 60 percent water and is the most important and most utilized nutrient.  The majority of your body systems depend on it to function properly.
  • Helps to regulate your digestive system.
  • Lubricates joints.
  • Flushes toxins from your system and lightens the workload on your kidneys and liver
  • Helps to energize muscles – muscle tissue that is not properly hydrated shrivels, resulting in muscle fatigue.
  • Helps to keep your skin looking good. Your skin contains a lot of water; not drinking enough daily can cause it to look dry and wrinkled.

These are just a few of the benefits your body gets from being properly hydrated.  However, a lot of you just don’t like to drink water.  The most frequent comments I hear include, “Yuck, I just can’t drink plain water,” “I forget to drink enough,” “I need some flavor,” etc.  Plain and pure water really is best. I don’t recommend tap water (especially city/county water), which has been treated and has a lot of chemicals and salt.  Choose filtered or bottled water, either is a cheap option.  You need approximately 64 ounces of water per day, which is ½ gallon.

If you’re still balking at the idea of drinking plain water, and that alone is going to keep you from getting your daily intake, the next best bet is infused water.  I’m not talking about those you buy from the store that are labeled “natural” and infused with “fruits” and “vitamins.”  Before you buy, take a look at the nutrition labels.  You’ll see preservatives, added vitamin and minerals, artificial flavorings and colorings, artificial sweeteners, sodium, high fructose corn syrup and other sugars.  Vitamin water, sports drinks, all of those “healthy” and “natural” bottles, leave them at the store and make your own!  I have said this before, and this will not be the last time you hear this from me.  Anything that is premixed, prepackaged and otherwise processed (hey, how about calling this the 3 P’s?  I think I’ve coined a new phrase!) as a general rule are not healthy and fresh is best.

At my church’s last Baptist Women’s Group meeting, it was my friend Michelle’s turn to serve refreshments.  For drinks, she had these really pretty glass pint jars of water infused with an assortment of fruits and herbs.  Wow, were they good, and so refreshing!  Michelle told me that she found the idea on Pinterest and to not give her the credit for the original idea.  However, she had to research the idea, purchase the ingredients, cut up the fruit and herbs and assemble the drinks for the entire group.  Michelle, I’m giving you the credit for taking the time to do the research, shopping and delivery and agreeing to give me the list of combinations for this Unity article.  Thank you!

The list below is just a guide on options to mix and match the ingredients.  A good beginning is to choose some ingredients you know and like, then expand your horizons and try some new things you’ve not tried before.  You never know which combination is going to really excite your taste buds and allow you to get in your daily water.  You can make one glass, one bottle or one gallon.  Since you’re not consuming artificial ingredients you get on store-bought infused waters, your body is getting true natural vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Also, since this is an infusion and not a juice, the sugar and calories are negligible.  As always, experiment, have fun with it and if you come up with a great combination let me know!

Directions:

  1. Choose the fruit/vegetable, add to container.
  2. Using a spoon, very lightly press the fruit/vegetable (press just enough to bruise it slightly to aid in releasing the flavor, avoid mashing which will give it a mushy texture)
  3. Choose the herb and/or spice and gently bruise it (same as with the fruit/vegetable) to release the natural oils.
  4. Add filtered water.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for two hours to allow flavors to blend with the water. Store up to one week or until flavor is no longer present.  Water can be added as needed to replenish.

Fruits

  • Citrus: Orange, lemon, lime
  • Melon: Cantaloupe, watermelon
  • Berries: Strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, cherry
  • Tropical: Pineapple, kiwi, mango, pomegranate
  • Other: Apple, grape, pear, plum, peach

Vegetables

  • Cucumber, carrots, celery

Herbs

  • Cilantro, basil, thyme, mint, lemon verbena, lavender, sage, rosemary

Spices

  • Cinnamon stick, ginger

Suggested combinations:

  • Cucumber, lime, mint or basil
  • Cucumber, watermelon, mint
  • Lemon, blueberry, mint
  • Lemon, ginger
  • Strawberry, lemon, basil
  • Carrots, apple, lemon, basil or ginger
  • Grapefruit, sage or rosemary
  • Apple, cinnamon stick
  • Cantaloupe, cilantro
  • Pear, cherries, thyme
  • Pear, lavender, ginger
  • Orange, ginger, basil

Week three: I should have known better

week three_sun

It was the first weekend in August.  Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007.  Those of you that live in the South know what our weather is like in July and August.  Hot.  Blazing hot.  Humidity and dew points soar, making it steam-bath hot and almost impossible to cool off.  This Saturday was no different.  It was 9:55 a.m. and the temperature was already 92 degrees with almost matching humidity.  The sky was brilliant and cloudless, the sun beating down and burning the top of my head and all exposed skin.  I was motionless yet covered in perspiration, almost constantly wiping my face as the sweat trickled down my hairline and onto my face.

You’re probably asking yourself why I remember this particular Saturday so vividly, since this is typical weather in the South during our dog days of summer.  I’ll tell you why.

I was in the starting lineup for a 5k run.

I had run 5k’s before, but never this particular one.  It was at a local annual festival where the race always leads off the parade, beginning the events for the day.  I had also not done my homework and mapped out the route before signing up for the race.  I was familiar with the town’s streets, having spent many days of my childhood running around the neighborhoods with my cousins.  I was in shape, easily ran the 3.1 miles, this would be a piece of cake.  Famous last words.  I did not take into consideration:

  • I was unused to running this time of day. My normal time for summer was early morning or early evening.
  • My usual daily running route was, for the most part, flat terrain.
  • I trained on trails, not pavement. There is a difference.

As the race began, I settled into my normal, easy pace.  I wasn’t there to compete and win a ribbon, but to simply enjoy the workout in a different setting than usual with others that found the same pleasure in running.  After the first half mile, unused to exercising in the heat of that time of day, I really began to feel the effects and slowed my pace.  Three-quarters of a mile into the race, the course took a turn from the main street onto the back ones.  Hilly streets.  Very, very, hilly streets.  Not just one, but one after another.  And another.  And another.

I won’t divulge all the embarrassing details, except that at one point I really, truly thought I going to get to meet God sooner than I ever imagined I would.  The extreme heat, combined with the exertion of running (by this point, staggering and gasping) up and down hills and using a different set of muscles than usual, had me thinking about calmly stepping to the side and lying down in the shade in someone’s cool grass and wait for my Maker to come for me.  A good Samaritan at one of the water stations kindly threw a large glass of water on my head when I begged her to.  I did finish, but the run that I could normally complete in 25 minutes took 42.  I have to confess, I believe the only reason I did persevere and finish is because I refused to let the 72-year-old man from the Outer Banks cross the finish line before me.

Despite the fact that I was in good shape and used to running that distance, my mistake that I was not properly prepared and knew better than to not do my homework first.  I didn’t acclimate myself to the weather for that time of day and the hilly terrain.  This includes not just the usual precautions we normally take for summer heat, such as hydration, but also proper clothing and other considerations.  As we go into the warmer months, it is especially important to be well prepared for exercise, whether indoor or outdoor, whether easy or intense.  Below are some tips that will help you to safely exercise in the summer, keep it enjoyable and get the most benefit possible out of your workout.

  • Drink plenty of water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to reach for your water.  Your body needs to be well-hydrated before exercise.  Sports drinks will replace the sodium and nutrients lost through sweating, but you only need those if you plan on or have been exercising intensely.
  • Acclimate yourself. Don’t jump right in and exercise at your normal intensity.  Give your body two weeks to adapt to the heat and increase the intensity of your workouts gradually.
  • Watch the weather forecast. Keep a close eye on the forecast and know what the temperature is going to be for the duration of your exercise.  Avoid outdoor exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Remember the three “L’s”, lightweight, loose-fitting, light colors.  Lightweight and loose helps the sweat to evaporate, which cools your body.  Light colors have reflective properties, where dark colors absorb heat.  Avoid any clothing that is tight and close-fitting.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear water-proof sunscreen and lightweight sunglasses.  If you wear a hat, make sure it’s well ventilated.

While you are exercising in hot weather, pay attention to your body – it will give you warning signals that you are in danger of becoming overheated.  If you have muscle cramps, headache, increased heart rate, nausea, vision problems, lightheadedness or begin sweating profusely, stop exercising immediately and use wet towels, ice packs or even water from a water hose on your neck, forehead or under your arms.  If you don’t feel better within 15 minutes, seek medical attention.

And last, but not least, God gave us brains and common sense, use them!  If you feel yourself becoming overheated, stop what you’re doing and take steps to get your core temperature down.  Live to exercise another day!

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