Staying hydrated is the go-to advice you’re sure to hear throughout the summer, and for good reason. Your hydration needs rise as the weather gets warmer, and giving your body plenty of fluids can keep your energy up for outdoor workouts and avoid mistaking thirst for hunger.
“When we think of hydration, our minds typically think about how many glasses of water we’re consuming, but it’s so much more than that,” says Micah Siva, a trained chef and registered dietitian based in San Diego. “The foods we eat can play a big part, and coming into the summer months, it’s important to include high-water content foods in your daily routine.”
During the summer, there’s a wealth of flavorful, water-rich fruits and veggies you can add to your grocery cart. And, what’s even better, they also come with filling fiber and phytonutrients, plant-based chemicals that protect your body from harmful free-radicals linked to chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Ready to spruce up your summer shopping list? Here are 10 of the most hydrating foods to stock up on, plus tips from RDs on adding them to your plate.
Heirloom tomato fans, rejoice! These bodacious veggies contain about 95% water, making them a fantastic source of hydration. “They’re also high in an antioxidant called lycopene, which helps fight free-radicals and decrease inflammation in your body,” says Tamar Samuels, a registered dietitian and co-founder of Culina Health, a nutrition counseling service. Slice ‘em up for BLTs or a breakfast sandwich, add them to one-pan meals as a side, mix into festive summer salads and pastas, or celebrate their flavor with a cool cup of gazpacho.
Clocking in at 95% water, it’s likely no surprise celery is one of the most hydrating summer veggies. “Celery makes the perfect afternoon snack, as its water content will provide a boost in energy,” says Claire Virga, a registered dietitian with Rooted Wellness. You can’t go wrong with ants on a log, as healthy fats in almond or peanut butter can help fill you up (because at only 6.4 calories per stalk, celery alone is not-so-satiating!). You can also use it to add crunch to chicken or tuna salad.
Light and refreshing, cucumbers are 95% water and only contain 15 calories per cup. They’re also a good source of vitamin K, which is key for blood clotting and flavonoids, another type of health-protective phytonutrient, notes Samuels. Add sliced cucumbers to sparkling water with lime and ice for a quick-and-easy mocktail or make a classic Mediterranean salad with cucumber, feta, olives and tomatoes to keep in the fridge throughout the summer, she suggests.
Nothing beats a side of freshly-grilled or sauteed zucchini in the summertime, and this staple is more than 94% water. Another perk: Zucchini is rich in the antioxidant zeaxanthin, notes Virga. Feature zucchini as the classic cookout side, grate it into turkey burgers, meatballs or even baked goods to up the nutrition content, or spiralize it for a tasty low-carb alternative to pasta.
Another summer favorite, watermelon is the essence of a refreshing snack. “It’s 92% water and also contains vitamin C, vitamin A and magnesium, which helps keep your blood pressure normal and bones strong, and reduces the risk for certain chronic diseases,” says Virga. Pack a cooler full of sliced watermelon for a trip to the park or pool, blend it into Popsicles for the kids, try agua fresca with strawberries or get fancy with a watermelon feta salad that includes refreshing mint and cucumber.
You might be surprised to discover strawberries are 91% water. “They’re super hydrating and high in vitamin C, which you know is great for your immune system,” says Nicole Short, a registered dietitian based in New York City. Even better? They’re incredibly versatile. Add strawberries to your water, cereal, yogurt parfaits, creamy smoothies, light salads and wraps, granitas or even salsa.
A juicy addition to fruit salads, cantaloupe is 90% water. “These bright orange melons are not only delicious, but full of antioxidants like vitamin A, phytonutrients called carotenoids, and electrolytes like sodium, caldium, magnesium and potassium,” says Siva. For a unique dish that’s spicy, fresh and sweet, make a salad with arugula, basil and cantaloupe, she suggests.
Like other citrus fruits, oranges make for the ideal grab-and-go snack. They contain about 87% water and are packed with fiber and vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system and keeps your skin young by playing a role in collagen production, says Siva. Toss an orange or a couple of mandarin oranges into your bag before a hike or pick-up soccer game, or make this gorgeous beet and citrus salad for an Instagram-worthy brunch.
Made of 86% water, this tropical fruit is delightfully zingy and loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C and manganese. It’s also high in bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps break down protein molecules and support a healthy immune system and digestion, says Short. Pineapple makes for a great snack on its own, blended into a post-workout smoothie or as the sweet side of a fresh summer salsa. You could also use it to tenderize meat and add flavor to dishes like slow cooker chicken adobo or pork tenderloin with sweet potatoes.
Grapes are 81% water and also serve plenty of antioxidants. In particular, red grapes contain resveratrol, which may prevent certain cancers and heart disease, according to recent research, says Short. Keep them in the fridge or freezer for a healthy snack, mix them into a tasty fruit salad or use them to add some sweetness to your next charcuterie tray.
Originally published June 2021, updated June 2023
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