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Top tips for good nutrition and hydration

Eating a balanced diet which includes healthy, whole foods and staying hydrated, allows your body to feel energised and function properly in your day-to-day life. Nutrition is a three part process whereby food or drink is consumed, your body breaks down the food or drink into nutrients and the nutrients travel through your bloodstream to different parts of the body where they are used as "fuel". Discover our top tips for good nutrition and hydration:

Three facts about nutrition

1. Omega- fats are best for your heart health

Omega 3 fats are a group of unsaturated fats that we should be eating to nourish our heart.

Oily fish such as anchovies, mackerel, sardines and salmon are the best source of Omega 3 fats. It is suggested that we should aim to eat two portions (140g each) of fish per week and these can be from cans, frozen or fresh.

Plant foods such as green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flax seeds and oils like soya or pumpkin oil, all are high in omega 3.

In countries like Japan, Greenland and the Mediterranean, where people eat more oily fish, fewer people have heart disease. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega 3 fats that help protect the heart and blood vessels from disease. This is done by lowering your blood pressure, preventing blood clots, improving blood circulation, lowering triglycerides (a fat that enters our blood after a meal) and keeping your heart rhythm steady.

2. Unprocessed food is the healthiest

What is processed food? Processed food is any food that has been altered during preparation. This could be by freezing, baking, drying or drying. Processed foods include:

  • Savoury snacks such as crisps, sausage rolls and pies
  • Ready meals
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Meat products such as bacon, sausage and paté
  • Cakes and biscuits

Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to processed foods to extend their shelf life or to enhance their flavour. Eating lots of processed foods can increase your intake of sugar, salt, calories and fat without you necessarily realising it.

Having unprocessed foods in your diet is a lot healthier for you because they are foods which are in their natural state without any added ingredients. Unprocessed (whole) foods include fruits and vegetables, and meat from ethically raised animals, all washed down with naturally sourced water.

3. Supplements can’t fully replace real food

The term 'nutritionism' is the idea that foods are just the sum of their nutrients. However, real foods are packed with a huge variety of trace nutrients. Keep this in mind next time you buy a multivitamin or a supplement because you are giving your body just a small part of the total amount of nutrients found in foods. If you’re suffering from a vitamin deficiency such as vitamin D or anaemia, taking a supplement each day will help with this. Overall, it is important you don’t count on supplements to provide the nutrients you need.

Mrs Abir Hamza-Goodacre, our Nutritionist at Benenden Hospital, has put together a variety of delicious, simple vegan recipes so mealtimes are healthy and stress-free. Discover our 10 easy vegan recipes for a healthier you.

Three facts about hydration

1. In 2020 the liquid intake of patients undergoing an operation was cut to one hour at Benenden Hospital.

Fluid is retained in the stomach for just 12 minutes and if a patient is dehydrated it can result in a dry mouth and more nausea, sickness and dizziness.

Previous fasting rules stated that patients should stop eating six hours before having a general anaesthetic or spinal block and stop drinking two hours before their procedure. Now, patients are allowed clear fluids such as juices, squashes, fruit teas and non-carbonated drinks an hour before their operation but not eating for six hours still stands.

Our hospital’s Anaesthetics & Recovery Clinical Lead, Simon Brooks said: “The happy hour as we have called it is going well. Some Anaesthetists let the patients drink clear fluid up to one hour before and some let the patients drink until they come down to theatres.

“We liaise with ward staff to ensure that patients have been given the opportunity to have their drink and so far, it’s worked really well. The rules for not eating are nationally accepted and research-based and it is not expected that these rules will change significantly.”

2. Adults should drink between 2.2 and 3 litres of water a day

The recommended daily intake of water differs from individuals depending on their age, gender, activities and the temperature. Children between the ages of four and 13 require 1 to 1.6 litres of water depending on age and gender.

For adults, men need approximately three litres of water while women require 2.2 litres a day. Men tend to have higher fat levels so need more water. If you’re pregnant, it is advised to drink 2.3 litres of water a day. This includes the daily recommended three glasses of milk or a calcium-rich soy drink.

If you exercise regularly, you should drink at least 2.7 litres of water daily as physical activity can cause a rapid drop in fluid levels through sweating.

3. There are specific times of the day that are best to hydrate yourself

To maximise the effectiveness of the water you should prioritise drinking at these times:

  • Thirty minutes before eating a meal to aid your digestion and about an hour after eating to give your body time to absorb the food’s nutrients
  • After waking up as this rehydrates you after sleep
  • Before taking a bath as this can lower your blood pressure
  • To manage dehydration as you sleep, you should drink water before going to bed

Overall, good hydration has many health benefits such as kickstarting your metabolism, raising your energy levels, aiding your digestive system and improving your skin.

Nutritional therapy and dietetics at Benenden Hospital

If you’re looking for help to change your diet, our team of specialist staff - including a dietician and nutritionist – can help. Our diagnostic department offers tests, scans and examinations, helping you to feel better, fast. For more information, contact us via Livechat or call our Private Patient team on 01580 363158 to see what we can do for you.

Published on 09 March 2023