Coffee: The fluid facts

Posted on: 01 July 2010 by Mark O'haire

Stay hydrated this summer with advice from the Food Standard’s Agency whilst learning more about the benefits of drinking coffee.

Summer is a time when it is more important than ever to stay hydrated as the weather gets warmer and we tend to spend more time outdoors exercising. 

This is therefore the time to make sure you’re drinking enough and being mindful of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) advice to drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid each day to prevent dehydration which is the principal cause of daytime fatigue.  Other symptoms of dehydration include frequent headaches, tiredness, constipation, nausea, as well as poor attention and concentration.

Many people think that fluid intake has to be solely made up of water, this is not the case.  Water should be the main source of fluid in the diet but it is important to remember that it is not the only source of fluid.  In fact, coffee, tea and fruit juices all count towards your 6-8 glasses of fluid that the FSA recommends we all consume.  Not only will a couple of cups of coffee help keep you hydrated but they can also keep you alert and maintain concentration levels.

How does it work?

Whilst a couple of cups of coffee may increase the frequency of urine output, it will not increase the volume and so does not dehydrate you. Although caffeine is considered a diuretic, in the quantity contained within a cup of coffee it is no more a diuretic than plain water.

The British Nutrition Foundation and the Food Standards Agency recognise that moderate coffee consumption of 4 – 5 cups per day will contribute to your daily fluid intake.

Expert advice

“The summer months are a time when it’s particularly important to stay hydrated.  Consumers are frequently being wrongly advised to cut down on their coffee consumption on the basis that it is dehydrating.  This is not the case – in actual fact a couple of cups of coffee can actually contribute to your daily fluid intake and help you stay hydrated.” Explains registered dietician Dr Sarah Schenker.

“It’s important that we drink enough water and keep all fluid levels up. As coffee and tea are sources of fluid, blanket advice to cut out coffee can be harmful and even lead to dehydration - if it is not replaced.”

For the majority of people, 400mg of caffeine per day is considered moderate consumption – this equates to around four to five cups of coffee. This will depend on the size and strength of the serving and it’s important to remember that caffeine can be found in other foodstuffs, such as tea, cola and chocolate. For pregnant women, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends a safe upper limit of 200mg of caffeine per day from all sources – approximately two to three cups of coffee or equivalent.

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