During this holiday season, and into the New Year, drinking more water or replacing high calorie holiday drinks with water can save calories and even reduce weight. Most of us know that we need to drink water every day and that it is good for us, however during this time of parties, extra food around the house or office, and more stress, water in your diet is more important than ever. “Water is crucial to health and every system in the body relies on water to function normally,” says Allison Mignery, a dietitian with the Mecklenburg County Health Department. “Drinking enough water helps to reduce the risk of kidney stones, prevent constipation, relieve headaches, and maintains healthy skin. And since sixty percent of a person’s body weight comes from water, it needs to be constantly replenished,” she continued. So how much water do people really need? The old rule of thumb had been to drink eight 8-ounce cups of water every day. However, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report in 2004, new guidelines recommend the vast majority of healthy people can adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide. Exceptions to this rule include anyone with a medical condition requiring fluid control such as athletes, people taking part in prolonged physical activities, or whose living conditions are extreme. The IOM report did not specify exact requirements for water, but concludes total water content should be coming from all beverages and foods. Being physically active increases the amount of water you should drink daily, including before, during, and after exercise. Generally, for every pound lost during exercise (sweating, exertion) you need to drink an additional two cups of water. People lose water naturally through sweating, breathing, and urination, and if it is not replaced, dehydration can occur. Signs of dehydration include: excessive thirst, dry mouth, tiredness, lightheaded, headaches, muscle weakness, and dulled critical thinking abilities. This holiday season go ahead and go to that party or enjoy your favorite cookie, but remember to drink plenty of water as well. Making drinking water a regular part of your daily routine will improve your health and just might help keep those holiday pounds from haunting your New Year. Go to www.meckhealth.org for a list of ways to incorporate water into your day as well as a list of the top 10 high calorie holiday drinks to avoid.