Hydration and our diet

Our total daily water intake is the sum of all water content coming from all types of drinks and foods.
Replacement of the body’s water and salt losses is essential to maintain appropriate hydration and a good health status. Replacement of water can be achieved by drinking and eating. It is calculated that of the total water consumed in a typical Western diet, 20-30% comes from food and 70-80% from drinks, but this may vary greatly, depending on the diet that an individual chooses.1

Many people underestimate the water content of food and beverages, and it’s vital for us to consider both as part of our dietary fluid intake during the day.

Water content of various foods and drinks2

Variety can also contribute towards enhancing nutrient and non-nutrient intake. Many drinks provide important nutrients and non-nutrients, including vitamins, antioxidants, phenols and electrolytes. Fruit juices can contribute to the five portions of fruit and vegetables that we are recommended to consume each day. Sports drinks contain small amounts of sugar and electrolytes that can help to reduce water, mineral and energy imbalance due to physical exertion. Drinks containing small amounts of caffeine, such as tea, milky coffee and cola beverages, all contribute to our hydration because they contain a high amount of water and the level of caffeine within them is too small to cause a significant diuretic effect.3

Water content in common foods and beverages4*
Type of food Water content
Non-alcoholic beverages
Water, tea, coffee, light refreshments, sports drinks, soft drinks, lemonade, vegetable juice 85% to 100%
Milk, fruit juice 85% to 90%
Alcoholic beverages
Beer and wine 85% to 95%
Distilled 60% to 70%
Soup
Consommé, onion, meat and vegetable, vegetables, tomato, mushroom cream, Noodle with chicken, vegetable concentrate, concentrated soups, mushrooms cream (made with milk) 80% to 95%
Fruits and vegetables
Strawberry, melon, grapefruit, grape, peach, pear, orange, apple, cucumber, lettuce, celery, tomato, pumpkin, broccoli, onion, carrot 80% to 95%
Banana, potato, corn 70% to 80%
Water content in common foods and beverages4*
Type of food Water content
Dairy products
Fresh whole milk 87 to 90%
Yoghurt 75% to 85%
Ice creams 60% to 65%
Cheese 40% to 60%
Cereals
Rice (boiled) 65% to 70%
Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, noodles) 75% to 85%*
Bread, cookies 30% to 40%
Breakfast cereals (ready to eat) 2% to 5%
Meat, Fish, Eggs
Fish and seafood 65% to 80%
Eggs (scrambled, fried, poached), omelette, egg substitute 65% to 75%
Beef, chicken, lamb, pig, veal 40% to 65%
Cured meat, bacon 15% to 40%
Source: Holland B. et al (1991) McCance and Widdowson. The Composition of Foods 5th ed. The Royal Society of Chemistry Cambridge, UK.
*Note that these values are approximations only and values will depend on source of the food, cooking method, etc. For example pasta cooked “al dente” (Italian style) will have a slightly lower water content than shown here* and is between 50 and 60%. There are many good online databases that will give food composition values for a much wider range of foods.
1. EFSA, Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for water. EFSA Journal 2010; 8:1459.
2. Holland B. et al (1991) McCance and Widdowson. The Composition of Foods 5th ed. The Royal Society of Chemistry Cambridge, UK.
3. Maughan RJ, J Griffin (2003) Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 16, 411-420.