Way Beyond Watermelon: Foods That Hydrate

Summer is fast approaching, bringing with it lots of sunshine and outdoor activities—not to mention The Whole U’s 6-week Raise the Bar summer wellness challenge. After months of indoors, we are all eager to get up and go! From perusing farmers markets, sunning at the beach, hiking mountains, dancing at outdoor concerts and festivals, we are bound to work up a sweat doing our favorite summer activities.

While lighter fare and healthier eats come hand-in-hand with summer’s bounty, there is one area where can probably all improve in: hydration. Taking advantage of the lovely weather and activities, we are often just too busy to remember to fit in the number one nutrient needed by the body—water!

Why water?

Water is a vital nutrient and is involved in most functions of the body. In fact, at any given time, the body is made up of 50 to 75% water! According to H.H. Mitchell, writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, “the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.”

Water forms the basis of blood, digestive juices, urine and perspiration, and you will find it in lean muscle, fat and bones. It maintains the health and integrity of every single cell in the body, keeps blood liquid enough to flow through blood vessels, lubricates and cushions joints, regulates body temperature, aids in elimination of the byproducts of the body’s metabolism, carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells, and more. Most adults lose between 2.5 and 3 liters of water per day, an amount that increases with warm weather conditions and prolonged exercise.

Since the body is unable to store water, we need a constant, fresh supply daily to make up for losses. Water must be replaced exogenously – meaning, through food and water intake. The amount of water we need depends on a variety of factors, such as body size, metabolism, weather, activity level, and the foods we eat.

This brings me to the topic at hand: food and hydration. Besides good, old-fashioned H2O, there are certain foods that can provide us with some necessary hydration—up to 20% of the body’s total water requirements. The digestion process itself produces water as a byproduct and can provide around 10% of the body’s water requirements. However, please be mindful that the remainder of our water requirements must come from liquids. During the hotter and more active months, it is especially important to drink enough water.

Which foods are high in water content?

Fortunately, many of the foods high in water content are naturally abundant in the summer months and are bound to show up on your picnic tables! They’re also great for jazzing up regular water for flavorful twists to help keep you hydrated naturally!

Here’s a breakdown of some high-water content foods with tips for how to serve and enjoy them!


Total Water %

               Recipe ideas



A great addition to salads; see recipe below!



Top your yogurt with strawberries and a little granola for a quick and easy breakfast!



Wrap in very thin slices of prosciutto for a sweet/savory app, perfect for an alfresco dinner



Delicious eaten as is, preferable over the skin to catch all the juices! Also excellent for grilling!

Oranges & Grapefruit


Slice into rounds and sprinkle with chopped mint for a refreshing citrus salad



Raw, in salads, or julienned for scooping dips and spreads



Cooked and chilled for cold soups, or seeded and stuffed with ricotta and lemon zest



Make ants on a log (adding peanut butter and raisins on top)

Cottage Cheese


Lighten up a spinach dip with this healthier base

Plain Yogurt


Use as a base for other water-rich fruits; also works well as a substitute base for many dips and sauces



When in season, raw with a touch of salt and pepper



Shred; toss with thinly sliced red onion, carrots, caraway, vinegar for a homemade and healthy slaw



Slice thickly, season with olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin, and grill for a vegetarian “steak” dinner

Bell Peppers


Wonderful when grilled and used in fajitas or burritos

Greek-Style Watermelon Salad


  • 3 cups cubed watermelon
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
  • Chopped parsley and mint, to takst
  • Olive oil and red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper


In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.

Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Season with salt and pepper, toss and serve.



For more ways to stay hydrated and satisfied this summer, download our tip sheet for making delicious infused water with fruit, vegetable, herb, and spice combinations suggested by UW Medicine Dietitians!

Kristine Carlson is a registered dietitian and certified nutrition support clinician who works in the Surgical, Medical and Oncology Intensive Care Units at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Outside of work she enjoys exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest, hiking, yoga, cooking, gardening and spending time with her dogs Charlie and Zachary.




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