Water is the elixir of life. This simple drink provides our body with essential hydration while flushing out unwanted toxins. Regular consumption of water is vital for all body functions and overall well-being. Even our skin and hair require a consistent water intake to retain their shine and glow. Many of us start the day with a glass of water and this is widely considered to be a good practice. However, to meet the daily requirement, we have to keep drinking water at intervals. And a question that often comes up is: when is the right time to drink water - before, during or after meals? The answer is not very straightforward. Here's what experts have to say:
Should You Drink Water Before Meals?
Some of us have the habit of drinking water just before our lunch or dinner. Maybe we are thirsty or maybe we think that doing so will clear our palate/system. However, this practice could affect digestion as well as nutrient absorption. According to nutritionist Dr Anju Sood, "There is a certain fluid-solid proportion in our gastric system. If you consume water before the meals, you are not only disturbing the fluid component by diluting what you eat, you are also fastening the digestion process as the food now enters the large intestine much sooner than it should." Rather than drinking a whole glass of water immediately before a meal, leave a 20-30 minute gap in between.
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Is It Okay To Drink Water During Meals?
Now, it is quite common for many people to have water alongside their meals. Most restaurants also ensure that water glasses are kept filled during a meal. However, according to some experts, drinking too much water with meals should be avoided. Water can dilute essential enzymes that are required for the proper digestion of food. Dr Anju says, "Some people who drink water alongside meals have also shown a tendency to have an expanded colon." However, this mainly applies to drinking lots of water during a meal. There is no harm in sipping a little.
Avoid aerated beverages that may worsen bloating and indigestion. Drink water plain or infused with a little lemon, mint and/or ginger. This should be at room temperature or slightly warm - but never chilled. Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Health Coach, Shilpa Arora states that chilled or cold water "dampens one's energy and weakens the kidneys. Never drink cold water with meals as this will solidify all the oily stuff that you have consumed. Very soon, this will turn into fat and sludge in the body, creating imbalance."
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Should You Drink Water After Meals?
Does this mean we should drink water after eating all our food? Most experts advise against doing so. Water can hinder the digestion process that is underway. This can also affect your insulin levels as the glucose from undigested food is converted into fat, which can then affect blood sugar levels. According to nutritionist Shilpa Arora, "Our body produces enzymes and gastric juices, pancreatic and other chemical juices that digest food. Drinking water closer to meals would dilute these digestive enzymes and juices leading to indigestion and improper utilisation of nutrients." You can perhaps take a sip or two of water after you're done. But don't gulp down the entire glass.
Certain cultures have the habit of drinking warm water after meals. As mentioned earlier, the water you sip on must not be too cold. In small quantities, drinking warm water after meals may be good for your gut. This is traditionally based on Ayurvedic teachings. You can read more about it here.
Another question people often wonder about is drinking water after eating fruits. There are many misconceptions about this topic. Click here to know what experts suggest.
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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.
About Toshita SahniToshita is fuelled by wordplay, wanderlust, wonderment and Alliteration. When she is not blissfully contemplating her next meal, she enjoys reading novels and roaming around the city.