Stay Hydrated This Summer

Stay Hydrated This Summer

As the summer sun blazes across the country, residents and visitors alike are reminded of the critical importance of staying hydrated. With temperatures soaring and humidity levels high, the risk of dehydration becomes a significant health concern. Proper hydration is not just a matter of comfort but a vital necessity to maintain health and well-being during the hot summer months.

The hot climate presents a challenging environment where dehydration can quickly set in, especially for those who spend a lot of time outdoors. Whether spending time at the beach, enjoying a theme park, or simply running errands, the intense heat can lead to rapid fluid loss through sweat. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in, and in Florida’s summer heat, this can happen faster than one might expect. 

Dehydration can have serious health implications. Mild dehydration can cause symptoms such as dry mouth, headache, and fatigue. More severe cases can lead to dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, and even heat stroke—a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Children, the elderly, and individuals with chronic illnesses are particularly vulnerable to the effects of dehydration. 

The body relies on water to perform critical functions, including regulating temperature, maintaining joint lubrication, and facilitating digestion. During hot weather, the body works harder to cool itself through sweating, increasing the need for water. Failing to replenish this lost fluid can disrupt these essential processes, leading to a range of health issues. 

Need some tips for staying hydrated? Here are few simple ones. 

man drinking from water bottle

The heat and humidity of summertime increase the need for proper hydration, especially when outside. (Adobe Stock photo)

The most straightforward way to stay hydrated is by drinking water throughout the day. Carry a water bottle with you and make a habit of sipping regularly, even if the feeling of thirst is not strong. Thirst is a late indicator of dehydration, so proactive drinking is crucial. 

Incorporate water-rich foods into your diet. Fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cucumbers, oranges, and strawberries have high water content and can help keep you hydrated. They are also healthy choices that are rich in nutrients that can support overall health. 

Both alcohol and caffeinated drinks can contribute to dehydration. While it is okay to enjoy these in moderation, be sure to offset them with extra water intake. 

Urine color is an easy way to gauge overall hydration level. Light yellow or clear urine generally indicates proper hydration, while darker urine suggests that more fluids are needed for proper hydration. 

Whenever possible, seek shade or air-conditioned environments during the hottest parts of the day. Wearing light, breathable clothing and a hat can also help reduce the risk of overheating and fluid loss. 

Public parks, beaches, and recreational areas often have water fountains and hydration stations. Local health departments and organizations frequently run awareness campaigns and provide resources to educate the public about the importance of hydration. 

Emergency services also stand ready to respond to heat-related health issues. Citizens are encouraged to look out for one another, especially vulnerable populations, ensuring that everyone has access to the necessary resources to stay hydrated. 

As summer continues to heat up, the message is clear: staying hydrated is essential for enjoying all that Florida has to offer. By taking simple but effective steps to maintain proper hydration, residents and visitors can protect their health and fully embrace the sunny, vibrant Florida summer. 

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When is Water No Longer Water? The World of #Watertok

When is Water No Longer Water? The World of #Watertok

In a world where health-conscious choices are becoming increasingly popular, Watertok emerges, for some, as a refreshing trend, offering a new perspective on hydration. Watertok is a growing community on TikTok where people share “water recipes,” a fusion of water and additions such as sugar-free syrups and flavored powders. These concoctions have gained traction as alternatives to the sugary beverages that dominate our market. At its core, Watertok encourages individuals to explore the vast possibilities of homemade flavored water and the importance of proper hydration

Water is essential for our well-being, and many struggle to meet their daily intake requirements. Watertok addresses this challenge by transforming ordinary water into something more palatable for those who dislike plain water. One benefit of Watertok lies in its simplicity – water infused with various fruits, herbs, and spices. This mixture not only enhances the flavor but may also add an additional nutritional boost to the otherwise plain liquid. 

One of the key advantages of Watertok is its versatility. Whether it is a burst of citrusy freshness from lemons and oranges or a soothing hint of mint and cucumber, the possibilities are endless. This innovative approach to hydration encourages individuals to tailor their water to their taste preferences while reaping the benefits of added nutrients. 

Homemade flavored water allows people to break free from the monotony of plain water, making hydration an enjoyable experience. This is particularly beneficial for those who find it challenging to consume an adequate amount of water daily. The subtle sweetness of fruits or the aromatic infusion of herbs can entice even the most reluctant water drinkers. 


Beyond its flavor-enhancing qualities, Watertok brings a nutritional dimension to hydration. Fruits like berries and citrus provide a rich source of vitamins, antioxidants, and essential minerals. Herbs such as mint and basil not only add a refreshing taste but also contribute unique health benefits. For example, mint is known for its digestive properties, while basil is a source of anti-inflammatory compounds. 

The homemade nature of Watertok also aligns with the growing trend of sustainability and eco-conscious living. By using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, individuals can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a healthier planet. It is a small step that carries significant implications for both personal well-being and environmental sustainability. 

However, Watertok is not without its pitfalls. Critics have made the argument that the addition of flavored powders and syrups in the amounts suggested can be unhealthy due to the copious amounts of artificial sweeteners and colors they contain. They claim those in the Watertok community are misleading their followers with their health claims. While water serves as the beverage’s base, can it still be called water if so many things have been added to it? After all, water is the base of coffee, tea, and soda, but they are not called water. Where is the line drawn? 

The debate continues. 

Watertok is not just a beverage trend; it is touted as a lifestyle choice that promotes hydration and nutrition. Embracing the art of homemade flavored water allows individuals to take control of their hydration needs, making it a personalized and enjoyable experience. But as with most nutrition trends, it is important to get all the facts before jumping right into trying it. 

UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution. 

Nutrition and Your Immune System

Nutrition and Your Immune System

Your health Is directly related to how well your body responds to fight bacteria and viruses that can lead to inflammation, infection, and illness. This line of defense against intruders is known as the immune system. You can support your immune system and keep it strong with regular handwashing, proper nutrition, physical health, and mental well-being.

A healthy lifestyle, including a diet rich in nutritious foods, is important to your well-being and ability to maintain your immune system. Nutrient deficiencies can impair immune function and decrease the body’s resistance to infections. Nutrients work together to build a healthy immune system to defend against sickness.

Nutrition Strategies to Boost Your Immune System

  • Don’t over-consume calories, saturated fats, or excess sugar and salt.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
  • Read nutrition labels.
  • Consider taking a daily multivitamin.

All nutrients are important, but several are particularly important to supporting your immune health, including antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Phytonutrients and Antioxidants

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds in plants that protect plants from fungus, germs, and insects and are responsible for the color, taste, and smell of plant foods.

In the body, many phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals act as antioxidants, which help to protect cells from damage. Phytochemicals have health properties that are:

  • Cardio-protective
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-cancer

Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, repairs damaged cells, and helps defend against foreign invaders. Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, and bell peppers.

Vitamin A is known to promote healthy growth and distribution of cells, and support skin and eye health. Sources include orange vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, and sweet potatoes), leafy greens (spinach, kale, and broccoli), fish, dairy products, and eggs.

Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage, support a healthy heart, and may help to prevent some types of cancer. Good sources of Vitamin E include many plant oils like sunflower oil and almond oil and healthy fats found in avocado and almonds.

Vitamin D is known to promote anti-inflammatory cells and help regulate cells involved in the immune response and healing. Vitamin D is also needed for the body to absorb calcium. Sources include sunlight (your body makes vitamin D from sunlight!), fortified foods (usually dairy and soy products), and fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel).

Zinc is a trace element shown to improve brain function and strengthen the immune system by promoting wound healing and decreasing inflammation. Zinc is found in lean meats, seafood, legumes, and nuts.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important in controlling inflammation. The body cannot make these fatty acids so they must be consumed in the diet. Plant sources include chia seeds, edamame, avocado, and oats, while animal sources include salmon and tuna.

What About Supplements?

If a well-balanced diet Is not regularly accessible, you may consider taking a multivitamin. Talk with your healthcare provider to decide if a daily multivitamin or other dietary supplements are right for you. Always be sure to read labels carefully for the serving size, ingredients, and “USP Verified” seal to ensure the supplement contains the actual ingredients listed and is made according to FDA guidelines. Choose a multivitamin that is all-inclusive to meet the daily RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance). Adhere to the serving size to meet the RDA for daily multivitamins or individual vitamin supplements, unless instructed otherwise by a doctor. Dangers of supplement interactions or overdose include upset stomach, headache, and blocking other nutrients from being absorbed by the body. For more information about dietary supplements, visit the U.S. Food & Drug Administration or the National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements.

Additional Resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/enhance-immunity/index.html

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/healthful-habits/how-to-keep-your-immune-system-healthy

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

What Does That Mean?

What Does That Mean?

Food marketing has made shopping for “healthy” foods complicated. Let’s dig in to see what some common “marketing” terms are and what they mean.

Let’s start with the term “natural.” There is no formal definition for what this term means regarding food marketing. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers “natural” to mean that nothing artificial has been added to the food. Often, consumers see the term “natural” on food products and interpret that to mean the product is healthy or organic. However, the term “natural” does not determine the health or nutritional benefit of the food product. A “natural” food may be healthy, but it may not be. The nutrition facts label with the ingredients list is where the consumer should read and decide whether the food product is nutritionally beneficial.

Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Cat Wofford

Now, let’s talk about the term “processed.” Processed means that the food has been altered in some way. It could simply be that the food has been washed, cut, and cooked. Take potatoes, for instance. A whole potato that has been washed and baked is considered minimally processed, and a whole potato that has been washed, cut into “fries”, and baked is also minimally processed. Both of these examples can be healthy options. Now, let’s take that further and think about store-bought potato chips. They are heavily processed. To turn whole potatoes into potato chips at a factory a lot more steps must happen than in the previous examples. The steps in the process of taking whole potatoes and turning them into chips take away nutritional benefits, while adding things such as unhealthy oils, salts, and other ingredients.

Another example of processed foods that can be healthy is canned green beans. Green beans are picked, washed, and canned typically all in the same day. The canning process does not usually decrease the nutritional benefits, especially for unsalted and low-sodium options.  The point is, some foods that are “processed” are still nutritionally beneficial while others are not.  Processed foods like cereal with added sugars, pre-packaged cakes, cookies, and chips are all foods that have unhealthy ingredients added in and those types of processed foods should be limited.

Another term food marketers will use is “unprocessed.” These are foods that are in their most natural state. For example, fresh strawberries are often picked and eaten right in the field, which is as unprocessed as it gets. It is important to incorporate unprocessed foods in the diet like fresh fruits, but it is also okay to consume minimally processed fruits and vegetables such as cooked or canned varieties.

Lastly, we will discuss the term “organic.” Organic does not define the nutritional benefits of a product. Organic means grown without the use of most conventional pesticides. For companies to be permitted to use the term organic on their products their farms are inspected and approved by a governmental inspector who will then determine if the criteria have been met for them to add “organic” on the labels. A product that has the term “100% organic” means the entire product is organic. A product with just the term “organic” on the label means that at least 95% of the ingredients are grown with organic ingredients. The term “made with organic ingredients” means that 70% of the ingredients in the product are certified organic.

Food marketers try to use terms such as these above to get the consumer to pay more for a product or to purchase their product over a competitor’s. It is ultimately up to you, the consumer, to decide what is healthy and nutritionally beneficial for you and what your budget will allow. Don’t be fooled by marketing terms to think that the product you are buying has more nutritional benefits than others just because the product is marketed in such way. To make an informed choice on what is nutritionally healthy, you must read the nutrition facts label and the ingredients list.  From there, you can determine what is the best choice for you and your overall health no matter what marketing terms are on the product.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

Safe & Effective DIY Pest Control

Safe & Effective DIY Pest Control

Do you reach for the can of bug spray at the first sight of a pest? Many people do, but did you know there are other less toxic methods for controlling ants, cockroaches, and other vermin in and around your home? Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is an approach that uses a variety of strategies to discourage the development of pest populations and to reduce pesticide use. These strategies are not difficult or expensive and promote a cleaner, healthier environment.

Install door sweeps on the inside of exterior doors to keep insects out.
Photo Credit: Judy Corbus

PREVENTION

  • Check grocery bags, book bags, and lunch containers for cockroaches before bringing them in your home.
  • Cockroaches LOVE cardboard boxes and paper bags. Dispose of unnecessary boxes and bags immediately to eliminate breeding areas. Transfer items for storage to plastic totes with snap-on lids.
  •  Repair or replace torn window and door screens to keep ants, cockroaches, and mosquitoes from entering your home.
  • Apply weather stripping around exterior door frames. Cockroaches can enter through an opening the thickness of a dime so small gaps around your doors are all they need to come in. If your door frame peeks light, your home is not tight!
  • Install door sweeps on exterior doors to make it harder for ants and cockroaches to enter. Make sure the sweep brushes the floor to keep insects out.
  • Ants and cockroaches often enter a home looking for water, especially during dry spells. Seal gaps and openings around pipes with expanding spray foam to eliminate these entry points.
  • Regularly empty standing water in flowerpots, tires, outside toys, and other containers to cut down on mosquito larvae.

Sanitation

  • Wash dishes immediately after use.
  • Wipe counter tops regularly, especially after food preparation.
  • Keep small and large appliances clean and free of crumbs and other debris. Don’t forget to clean around them, too.
  • Store food in sealed packages or containers or in the refrigerator.
  • Close garbage container lids, empty garbage regularly, and keep the container and area clean.

Chemical control
Baits are most highly recommended because of their effectiveness and targeted application, while decreasing unnecessary pesticide exposure. They come in granular forms, in plastic stations, or in large syringes for gel application and in formulas targeted specifically for ants or cockroaches.

  • Apply granular formulations outside in plants and mulched areas.
  • Use bait stations around corners where you suspect cockroaches or ants are hiding or entering your home.
  • Apply gel baits in cracks and crevices around windows, doors, behind the range, and any other suspected harborage areas.
  • Pest control operators have other baits in different forms that also provide long-lasting control.

Simple, everyday habits can go a long way toward eliminating an inviting environment for pests.

For more information about pest management, check out these resources or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office:

Cockroaches and Their Management

Ants

Pantry and Stored Food Pests

Rat and Mouse Control

Urban Pests and Pest Management

Using Pesticides Safely In and Around the Southern Home

Source: Cockroaches and Their Management

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

Summer Beach Fun Includes Beach Safety

Summer Beach Fun Includes Beach Safety

view of shoreline

(Photo source: Marie Arick)

A great beach outing includes more than just grabbing the sunscreen and a towel on the way out the door. A bit of quick planning can really aid with a successful beach outing that doesn’t require too much effort.

Staying hydrated is important. Freezing bottles of water, sports drinks or fruit drink pouches is one trick to packing a smaller cooler or an insulated grocery bag. It is dual purpose. It can aid with keeping snacks (apple slices or watermelon in resealable bags) cool and when melted, a cool drink to enjoy.

Snacks are a also good idea. Fruit, animal crackers, or pretzels are easily packed and not too difficult to manage. Another tip is to bring a trash bag to keep the beaches clean and to limit your trips to the public waste receptacle.

Sunscreen is a necessity even on a cloudy day. A sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more by is recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Applying sunscreen before leaving home allows time for adequate absorption into the skin. Remember to reapply at least every 2 hours. Using an umbrella or a tent is a great way to escape the sun’s direct rays. Wearing a hat or other protective clothing can help protect from those harmful UV rays.

Have kiddos? Bringing a few toys to aid with building sandcastles keeps the creative mind going. A few simple safety rules for playing in the sand are: do not bury one another in the sand, avoid throwing sand at anyone as it could harm one’s eyes, and avoid digging deep holes. Safety is paramount and an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine by a Harvard Medical School researcher noted burying a person in the sand is dangerous as the weight of the sand may lead to suffocation. As recently as February 2024, at Lauderdale by the Sea, two children were involved in a beach hole collapse, as reported in the Miami Herald. While digging in the sand is fun, be mindful and create structures that are safe for the kids.

Finally, know your beach flags and where to locate the current beach conditions. The National Weather Service as well as the MOTE Marine Laboratory are great sites providing beach conditions, including water current risk level, UV index, and thunderstorm potential. Local beaches often have social media pages that provide specific data for that area, including the current conditions and flags. Remember, not all beaches post flags and not all beaches have lifeguards on duty.

A day at the beach is an excellent opportunity for a fun-filled day. While this may not be an inclusive list, it does cover many of the basics of a good beach day. Spending a few minutes to determine the beach outlook, gathering the day’s supplies, and following some safety rules can greatly enhance your beach day.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.