LSU AgCenter Nutritionist Examines Water Salt And Potassium Requirements

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  7/2/2005 1:34:09 AM

News You Can Use For July 2005

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide science-based advice to promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases through diet and physical activity. LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames takes a close look at the recommendations for water, sodium and potassium.

Water. Drinking to satisfy normal daily thirst is sufficient to maintain hydration. Purposeful drinking is necessary, however, for people who are exposed to heat stress or who perform sustained vigorous activity. In very hot weather, very active individuals often have daily total water needs of six liters or more, according to several studies.

To avoid dehydration, Reames says to consume fluids regularly during the activity, and drink several glasses of water or other fluids after the physical activity is completed. Fluid needs can be met by the water contained in beverages and the moisture in foods, as well as from plain drinking water.

Many foods, especially fruit and vegetables, contain large amounts of water. Fruits and vegetables contain about 90 percent water by weight, and meat, fish and poultry contain about 60 percent to 70 percent water by weight. Fruit juices and milk are excellent beverage choices for meals and snacks.

According to the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Report, caffeinated beverages can be used to meet hydration needs. The report states that the diuretic effect of caffeine appears to be transient, and there is no convincing evidence that caffeine leads to total body water deficits.

The report set general recommendations for total water intake based on national data, which showed that women who appeared adequately hydrated consume an average of 91 ounces (11 cups or 2.7 liters) or total water each day and men average 125 ounces (16 cups or 3.7 liters) daily.

Sodium. The Dietary Guidelines recommends less than 2,300 mg sodium (about 1 teaspoon of table salt) daily for most people. Individuals with hypertension, blacks and middle-aged and older adults should consume no more than 1,500 grams of sodium each day.

Elevated blood pressure is associated with sodium intake. On average, blood pressure rises progressively as salt intake increases. In the United States, more than 95 percent of men and 75 percent of women middle age or older regularly consume salt in excess of 2,300 mg.

Salt and many processed foods contain high amounts of sodium. Most naturally occurring foods are low in sodium. Read food labels to find out how much sodium food contains. To reduce the amount of sodium in your meals and snacks, season foods with lemon, onions, garlic and salt-free or low-salt seasonings.

Potassium. Adults should consume 4.7 grams of potassium per day. Potassium is needed to counteract the effects of salt and reduce the risk of kidney stones and bone loss. On average, men consume only 2.8 grams to 3.3 grams of potassium per day, and women 2.2 to 2.4 grams per day.

Reames says fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of potassium. Milk, whole grains, dried beans and meat are also good sources.

For additional information about the Dietary Guidelines, contact the parish LSU AgCenter Extension agent. For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu

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