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Food & diet

Water, what to choose and its benefits: everything you need to know

April 26, 2018

Water is life, the main and fundamental component of all living beings. In the bodies of adult individuals this natural element reaches percentages that are at least around 65%, and reaches percentages of 75-80% in newborns. When we do not drink enough, we may have serious deficits in physical and mental activity. Also called blue gold for its fundamental importance for both human health and that of the ecosystem, water is an element to be known in depth as much as possible.


Water in the human body

The cells are mostly composed of liquid and the chemical and metabolic reactions of our organism take place in an aqueous medium. Blood contains about 92% water and is essential for transporting metabolic products and waste to the organs of the entire body. Water helps regulate body temperature and dissipate heat through perspiration, preventing serious damage. The water also softens the walls of the colon, eliminating constipation and preventing diverticula.


Bottle or tap?

Drinking the right way has advantages that are absolutely unimaginable. According to a Censis analysis, almost 62% of Italians buy bottled water for a total of about 192 litres per person per year. This is supported by the belief that commercial water is believed to be safer and of better quality than tap water. In reality, as explained by Dr. Manuela Pastore, clinical dietitian of the Health Department of the Humanitas Clinical Institute, tap water is also subject to controls by law that ensure its quality and wholesomeness.


“The threshold set for the addition of chlorine and its by-products for water disinfection in Italy is among the lowest in Europe (100 mg/l in Europe, 30 in Italy) and does not represent any health concern – explained the specialist. In addition, tap water is subjected to regular and rigorous laboratory controls, in many cases even weekly, which make it possible to detect any variation in substances that could be harmful to health. In this case, the competent authorities would immediately prohibit the consumption of tap water. In short, the fact that tap water, before arriving on our tables and in our glasses, travels inside pipes, does not make it less pure. This is an element that flows and is constantly renewed, while the one in the bottle, especially in plastic bottles, if not properly stored, may not be healthy according to the criteria applied to the municipal aqueduct.


If, on the other hand, the worry concerns the limestone content due to kidney stones, the reassurance comes directly from the World Health Organization: lime-rich water can damage household appliances but it is not dangerous for the organism and does not cause kidney stones. Instead, being naturally low in sodium, the tap water is suitable for a hyposodic diet useful, among other indications, to counter water retention.


Bottled water, do you know how to read the label?

Conscious drinking also means being able to read the label on the bottles. Here are the properties that are important to know:


Fixed residue

The fixed residue is like DNA of water, it encloses the essence. Measured in mg/L it represents the amount of minerals that remain after evaporation of one litre of water at 180 degrees.


pH value

The pH indicates the acidity and basicity of the water depending on whether it is below or above a value of 7.0 respectively.



It is a fundamental value for the good balance of our metabolism. It should be taken in the right amounts: if there is too little or too much in the blood, it can cause serious problems. Mineral waters are considered hyposodic when the sodium is less than 20 mg/L and are recommended for hypertensive subjects.



Water is also a valuable source of calcium, the mineral most present in the human body, decisive for the formation of bone tissue, the maintenance of membranes and intracellular substances. Calcium mineral waters are also suitable for those who are intolerant to milk (known as the primary source of calcium) and despite common beliefs, it does not increase the incidence of kidney stones.

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The daily requirement of potassium can be guaranteed by diet, as it is present in foods and beverages in ionic form, i.e. easily assimilated. In cellular reactions this element is important for the conductivity of the stimulus in the nervous system. Alteration of the potassium content in the body may cause disturbance of muscular and cardiac function.



Indispensable to the human body because it becomes part of metabolic systems and interacts with many hormones and growth factors. Its deficiency can reduce muscle tone and cause cramps. A high concentration of this salt gives the water laxative properties.



It comes mostly from the dissolution of calcareous and dolomitic rocks, but also from silicate rocks, due to the action of rainwater infiltration, often rich in carbon dioxide. When the bicarbonate content exceeds 600 mg/L the label may include the words: ‘containing Bicarbonate’. Water containing bicarbonate during meals can promote digestion.




As with many foods, it is useful to know where the water comes from.


This is to guarantee purity from a chemical and environmental point of view.


Date of expiry


Mineral water, like all foods, has an expiry date indicating its maximum limit for consumption. Over time, for example, sparkling water reduces its effervescence.


The right water for every phase of life

Which micronutrients should be taken into account to choose the right water bottle for you? There is no general rule. It depends on the age, stage of life and any ongoing pathologies. The only rule that can be generalized is the one that prescribes that in summer it is necessary to be careful above all about the quantity, with the recommendation to drink a lot, tending to at least 1.5-2 litres of water per day.


“Water – said Dr. Elisabetta Macorsini, nutritionist biologist of Humanitas Medical Care and Humanitas Mater Domini, focusing on quality – is one of the basic foods of the food pyramid. On the label there are indications of three types of mineral water that can be used the most, in particular for women. For all those who practice sports, professional or amateur, the advice is to drink plenty of water rich in minerals, especially calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride. In this way, the electrolytes lost through perspiration are reintegrated.


“Calcium and magnesium are useful to counter fatigue,” the specialist stressed, “while magnesium, if it contains more than 50 mg/l, also helps against stress.


If the family is predisposed to the risk of dental caries, the advice is to help prevent it by drinking water with fluorine content greater than 1 mg/l and in general the recommendation is to choose a type of water rich in calcium for the growth of children.


The work of the kidneys and the color of urine: the correct habits

Through the kidneys our body eliminates excess water and waste through the urine. When there is an excess of water in the body, the urine is abundant and takes on a clear color, almost transparent, because it is more diluted. If, on the other hand, the urine is small and has an intense yellow color, this means that the body is poor in water and it is therefore necessary to drink more of it. The rule of thumb is simple: the more water you drink (or take through food), the more urine you get out of the water.


You should drink more than normal when you have kidney stones, in order to facilitate the expulsion of small stones present. To prevent the formation of new calculations, however, it is necessary to drink at least 2-3 litres a day separately from meals. Similar amounts are also to be drunk to prevent urinary infections and when a lot of water has been lost due to strong perspiration, vomiting or diarrhea can occur. The intake of too much water can be dangerous for those suffering from kidney failure, for those in dialysis or for those suffering from diseases related to the heart and liver in the presence of edema.


The importance of hydration for the skin

Water is, in every season, a precious ally of the skin, but it becomes useful in particular with the arrival of the cold season, when the skin tends to be drier and cracked.


“In fact, the skin needs to be hydrated from within, thanks to an adequate quantity of water and liquids taken every day, and protected from the outside with moisturizing creams and creams specific for the face – explained Dr. Alessandra Narcisi, dermatologist at the Humanitas Hospital. In addition, a crucial moment for skin protection is the cleansing of both the face, which should always be carried out with cleansing milk suitable for the type of skin, and the body. The temperature of the water in the bath or shower should never be too hot, preferring a quick shower with lukewarm water even in winter. We should also not forget the protection of the skin with bath oils for the body, as well as remember to humidify the environment, because it helps to avoid dry skin because it promotes the maintenance of homeostasis of body hydration. Finally, the diet also helps protect the skin from the cold, especially if the diet is varied, rich in fruit and vegetables, and omega 3 essential fatty acids.


An app reminds you of the importance of hydration

Drinking at least two liters of water a day can be difficult. There are several apps on the market that allow you to keep track in a very simple way how much you drink in a day, remembering to drink in case you forget easily. Once installed, this program will ask you to configure some parameters including sex, weight, height and daily lifestyle, advising the right amount of water to drink.

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