The next time you feel kind of hungry and reach for a snack, stop for a moment. Are you really hungry? Is it food you want? Or are you actually thirsty? In many cases, feelings of thirst are strikingly similar to feelings of hunger. Your body can easily mix these signals up, leading you to feel hungry when you are really craving a refreshing drink. Mistaking thirst for hunger can seem like a small problem, but it can have various consequences. Many people neglect water for food, leaving them dehydrated and sluggish. Not drinking enough water can slow down your cognitive and biological functions. It can also cause you to overeat and gain weight. So it is in the interest of your wellbeing to know the difference between hunger and thirst.

Why Thirst and Hunger Gets Mixed Up.

Physically speaking, your body has similar hunger and thirst signals. When you are hungry, how do you know? True physical hunger manifests itself in stomach discomfort pain, faintness, headaches, and growling noises from your stomach. These can occasionally be a bit embarrassing! But your stomach making noises is not always a clue that you are hungry. Sometimes these noises are an indication of thirst. Your stomach may make noise when digesting food. The contraction of muscles that encourages the secretion of digestive fluids makes noises as well. But sometimes these noises occur because your stomach needs liquid to aid proper digestion. With water your stomach receives proper lubrication and the digestive process becomes easier, meaning that there is less noise. Other physical symptoms of hunger, such as headaches, are common signs of dehydration. Whenever you have a headache, you need to drink water to make sure it is not caused by dehydration.

In the brain, you have one main area that controls thirst and hunger, as well as some other important bodily functions. The hypothalamus is found just above the brain stem, and is essential in the communication between the endocrine system. Your endocrine system is composed of various organs, and by communicating with it the hypothalamus regulates many bodily functions. This includes stimulating hunger and thirst when the body needs sustenance and rehydration. When your stomach is empty hormones are released to indicate that you are hungry or thirsty. In terms of brain function, the way that hunger and thirst is communicated is very similar. This is one of the main reasons why hunger and thirst can easily be mistaken.

The best way to determine whether you are hungry or thirsty is simply to drink a glass of water. This may seem obvious, but not many people think of how simple this solution is! Whenever you feel hungry, but are not sure if it is genuine hunger, have a glass of water. Cold fresh water is best. Wait 10 minutes after having the drink and pay attention to how your body feels. If you still feel like you are hungry, then have something to eat. It is worth having a bottle of water on standby when you go out to prevent you from buying food when you just need a drink. Drinking water when you feel hungry is a good practice to keep yourself hydrated and prevent overeating.

Reasons to Stay Hydrated.

Too many people forget how essential water is to health and wellbeing. Don’t let this be you! Drinking pure and fresh water throughout the day can make a significant difference to your wellbeing. In fact, in recent years many schools and workplaces have insisted that its pupils and employees bring a bottle of water to drink from. This is thanks to research indicating that staying hydrated improved cognitive skills. Your brain is made up of a lot of water, and drinking regularly keeps it healthy. When you drink regularly you are supporting your concentration, drive, and productivity.

If you are physically active, it is even more important to drink regularly. You need to stay hydrated to keep your body going. When you exercise you sweat and perspire, losing a lot of water. You need to replenish your water stores by drinking regularly. This can help you to keep going even with strenuous exercise.

For a lot of people, mistaking thirst for hunger can cause them to overeat. If this is a regular occurrence it can lead to unnecessary weight gain. For people trying to control or lose weight, this is not ideal. If you are in this situation, you will want to do your best to stay hydrated. Staying hydrated prevents these signals from becoming mixed up. Regularly drinking water can also supress your appetite and help you to feel more energetic.

Eating to Hydrate.

Did you know that you can eat foods to stay hydrated? When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Foods have some water content, particularly fruits or vegetables. Cucumber and watermelon are two plant foods with a very high water content. Sometimes it is not enough to simply drink water. When you are eating it is a good idea to get some liquid from your food. This will help to fill your stomach quicker, and encourage satiety. It will also satisfy both hunger and thirst simultaneously. Hunger and thirst do not necessarily occur separately, and eating water rich foods can help you to stay full and hydrated at the same time. There is an added benefit that foods high in water content are often low in calories and fat, and can be part of a weight loss diet. Water rich foods can help to encourage you to stay away from water sapping foods like carbohydrates.

As mentioned, cucumber and watermelon are musts in terms of water rich foods. Having them on standby as snacks is an excellent idea, especially to take away when going to work. Cut some slices of watermelon or cucumber to pack in a lunchbox and snack on them when hunger or thirst strikes. They are low calorie and packed full of nutrients, so make a perfect healthy alternative to crisps! Other fruits to look out for include grapes and grapefruit, both of which are high in water and filling. Grapes are readily available in most food shops in snack packs. Taking grapes to the cinema is also a popular fad at the moment. This will help you to stay away from popcorn, helping you to feel a bit healthier and more virtuous! Grapefruit has been proven to be an appetite suppressant. In recent years the grapefruit diet became very popular. This diet advocated eating a grapefruit a day to supress appetite and stimulate weight loss. It received mixed reviews, but for some it was a valuable weight loss tool. Having a grapefruit for breakfast is a good way to start a day with some high water foods.

If you are looking for water rich meal options, then soup is the most obvious option. Soup has been a staple of diets across the world throughout history. With all its countless variations, you can’t go wrong with soup. Soup can be a filling meal without having to be too high in fat or calories. You can choose thick, warming Winter soups, or lighter, low fat soups. Having soup as one meal a day is a classic dieting technique that aims to promote weight loss, alongside satiety and rehydration. Many soups are rich in vegetables and highly nutritious. Having soup for one meal day can help to keep you hydrated and can prevent you from overeating.

Similar to soups, you could also try broths. A broth mixture is more like a drink, but can be savoury. This will help you to satisfy cravings and hunger. This is because they often have a strong flavour and contain a lot of salt. You may want to be careful with very salty broths or stews if you have high blood pressure. Otherwise a broth can be a convenient way of rehydrating yourself whilst satisfying a craving for savoury or salty foods. If you want to satisfy sugary cravings whilst rehydrating, look to jelly. This fun food is mostly liquid, and can be a sweet dessert that will refresh you. Look for low fat and low sugar pots of premade jelly. This can make a good snack.

In terms of drinks, it is always best to choose plain water, ideally filtered and cold. Pure water is healthy and free of calories, fat, sugar, and many other substances. If you want something a bit more interesting, opt for herbal teas, or fruit and vegetable juices. Avoid fruit juices that are very high in sugar, and drink them in moderation. Coffee and tea is not always ideal, although can be drunk in moderation to keep you alert. The caffeine content of these drinks can potentially dehydrate you and make you thirstier, so be careful! On hot days it is always a good idea to add ice to your drink to keep you cool and hydrated. In Winter, warming drinks can help you to fight off common infections like the cold or flu. Staying hydrated is important all year round. Make sure you drink when you are thirsty, and you will be supporting your wellbeing.