I’m a hydration expert. These are the five foods leaving you parched (and a few will definitely surprise you)

  • Foods like salty snacks, sugary drinks, and lunch meat can lead to dehydration
  • Dehydration can lead to several lasting health consequences
  • READ MORE: Heatwave tips: How to keep cool and stay safe in the hot weather

Staying hydrated has never been more important – as record-high temperatures spread across the United States.

However, common foods and drinks – some of which you may not expect – can deplete your body of water.

Salty snacks, sugary drinks, and even lunch meat have been shown to draw water from cells in the body, leaving you thirsty and dehydrated. 

‘Staying hydrated during the summer months is crucial to maintaining good health and avoiding dehydration’, said Nick Hird, hydration expert and co-founder of ViDrate.

‘Certain foods, despite being delicious and popular in the summertime, may contribute to dehydration if consumed in excessive amounts’. 

Salty snacks, sugary drinks, processed meats, spicy foods, and alcohol can all dehydrate you

And nearly half of Americans don’t get enough water as is. 

A 2023 poll found that 47 percent of adults drink far less than the recommended minimum amount of three 16-ounce glasses per day.

Those who drank four to seven glasses a day, meanwhile, were more likely to report being at least ‘somewhat healthy’.

A study published earlier this year by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that adults who stay well-hydrated are less likely to develop chronic health problems like heart and lung disease. 

They’re also more likely to live longer. 

‘Enjoying these foods in moderation should not cause significant dehydration, but it’s essential to balance them with a sufficient intake of water and hydrating foods, such as fruits and vegetables’, Mr Hird said. 

Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and peaches, for example, are at least 90 percent water.  

They’re also packed with vital nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and antioxidants. 

‘Always pay attention to your body’s signals and drink water regularly, especially when the weather is hot and humid,’ Mr Hird said. 

Here are the foods most likely to dehydrate you this summer: 

Processed Meats

Preservatives in processed meats, including deli meats like turkey and chicken, have been shown to lead to dehydration

Deli meats like turkey and roast beef ‘can trigger thirst and contribute to dehydration’, Mr Hird said. 

In addition to often being high in sodium and sugar, they’re also filled with preservatives, such as sodium nitrate. 

Sodium nitrate is a preservative used to keep the meat fresh and stop bacteria from growing. 

While this preservative is generally harmless on its own, some studies have linked having too much of it to certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer. 

This preservative can also cause dehydration, similar to salt.  

Consider picking lean, low-sodium meats like chicken or grass-fed beef over processed meats at your next barbeque. 

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods may make you sweat more, which leads to dehydration

Adding extra spice to your food may enhance the flavor, but it also might make you thirsty. 

‘Spicy dishes, while delicious, can stimulate your taste buds and make you sweat’, Mr Hird said. 

These foods produce extra saliva, causing you to become thirsty. 

Sweating is the body’s way of keeping itself cool, but it also leads to fluid loss, which causes dehydration. If you’re already sweating in the summer heat, these foods will exacerbate the issue. Mr Hird said to balance these foods out with water to avoid losing too much fluid.

Salty Snacks

When you eat too much sodium, it collects in the bloodstream, causing the salinity, or dissolved salt content in water, to be thrown off

‘Foods like [chips], salted nuts and pretzels are very tasty, but they are also high in sodium’, Mr Hird said. 

While the health drawbacks of salt have been well documented, from high cholesterol to diabetes to heart disease, eating too much of it can also dehydrate you. 

‘Consuming too much salt can lead to increased thirst and water retention, causing you to lose more water through urination’, Mr Hird added.

A 2022 study in the journal Nutrients, for example, found that young adults between ages 18 and 23 who had a higher salt intake were more likely to be dehydrated. 

This is because when you eat too much sodium, it collects in the bloodstream, causing the salinity, or dissolved salt content in water, to be thrown off.

In order to return these levels to normal, blood pulls water from cells, dehydrating them. 

Consider taking some carrots and hummus to the beach instead of a bag of potato chips. 

Sugary Drinks

Sugar acts as a diuretic, removing water from cells. This can make you thirsty and eventually cause dehydration

Sugar is a diuretic, or a substance that removes water. 

Similar to sodium, when there’s too much sugar in the bloodstream, the blood has to pull water from surrounding cells. 

The diuretic effect causes increased urination, leaving you dehydrated. 

Dehydration can also increase blood sugar, which could have negative consequences, especially for diabetics.

In addition to dehydration and increased urination, high blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, can cause headaches, blurred vision, fatigue, weight loss, and slow-healing cuts or sores, according to the Cleveland Clinic. 

Therefore sodas, fruit juices, and energy drinks all can cause dehydration. 

A 2017 study in the journal Nutrition Research found that diabetics who had low water intake for three days had an impaired blood glucose response.

Additionally, a study in PLOS One suggested that drinking chilled carbonated beverages like soda creates the false impression that it’s hydrating when it’s actually robbing the body of water.  


As alcohol travels through the bloodstream, it takes water from cells, causing dehydration

Like sugary drinks, alcoholic drinks have diuretic effects, which means you’ll have to make more bathroom trips, causing you to lose more fluid. 

These drinks remove water from the blood running through the kidneys and bladder. If you have a few too many, it can lead to dehydration. 

And if you go out for drinks on an empty stomach, the liquid and alcohol contents will pass through the stomach and into the bloodstream faster, so you’ll become dehydrated more quickly. 

Water is also flushed out of your system faster than alcohol is processed, so if you don’t drink water with it, you’ll feel more drunk.  

‘Beer, wine, and cocktails should be complemented with water to maintain proper hydration’, Mr Hird said. 

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