Stories from Food and Nutrition

The Low-Sugar Food That Will Keep You Super Hydrated This Summer

Isadora Baum

Isadora BaumJune 29, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images / bymuratdeniz

When it comes to hydrating foods, watermelon is probably the first one you think of. It makes sense—water is in the name, after all, and it’s 92 percent water (and 100 percent delicious, but that’s besides the point). Other hydrating foods that come to mind probably include cucumbers and celery. But there is a super underrated vegetable that is a total champ when it comes to boosting hydration—something that can be really handy this summer when the temperature is high and you need to cool off.

What is it? Bell peppers! Not only are they delicious and versatile, but like watermelon, bell peppers are also 92 percent water—making them particularly hydrating. They also contain a third of the sugar per serving that watermelon does (two grams per 100 grams of green bell pepper, compared to six grams of sugar per 100 grams of watermelon). While the sugar in watermelon is naturally-occurring (and lower per serving than other fruits like mangos), it still counts towards your total sugar intake for the day. So if you’re trying to watch your sugar intake, you might get more bang for your buck with bell pepper than watermelon.

Are there any other bell pepper benefits I should know?

“Peppers have more vitamin C than oranges, and also contain potassium, folate, vitamin A and E and are rich in various antioxidants,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RD. “And since bell peppers are low in calories and high in nutrients, they’re considered nutrient dense,” she says. Here’s a quick rundown of all the nutritional benefits to a serving of bell pepper:

  1. It’s good for immune support: Remember how Michalczyk said bell peppers have more vitamin C than oranges? She wasn’t playing. One cup of sliced raw green bell pepper has 74 milligrams of vitamin C; meanwhile, one medium orange has about 70 milligrams of vitamin C. Both foods are great ways to hit your daily recommended intake of 75 milligrams, which is important to support your immune system and promote natural production of collagen (great for gut health as well as skin and bone health).
  2. Bell pepper is rich in electrolytes: Specifically, bell pepper is packed in potassium (161 milligrams per cup of sliced green pepper), which helps aid in muscle recovery as well as hydration, says Michalczyk. Potassium also helps balance sodium levels in the body, crucial for maintaining a healthy blood pressure and fluid levels. So consider it a great post-workout snack paired with some hummus or guacamole for added healthy fats and protein.
  3. It’s good for your skin: Along with the vitamin C, bell pepper is rich in vitamins A and E, both of which support skin and eye health. 
  4. It’s super hydrating: As mentioned above, bell peppers are 92 percent water. Considering that 20 percent of your water intake comes from food, this food is a great way to boost your hydration, especially during the hot and sweaty summer months.

How to get the most out of your bell pepper

Peppers are super versatile, so have some fun whipping up tasty meals and snacks or meal prepping with them for the week. “Stuff them, [or] chop them up and dip them in guacamole,” Michalczyk says. Try her stuffed peppers with turkey and zoodles recipe, or these low-carb teriyaki flavored stuffed peppers. You can also just riff on existing recipes and play with the filling combos that work best for you—whether that’s adding couscous and tomatoes for a Mediterranean flair or black beans, corn, and taco seasoning for more of a Tex-Mex vibe.

You can chop up bell peppers add them to eggs for breakfast, like a frittata or egg cups for snacks on the go, she says. Or add chopped bell peppers to your next stir-fry—along with a protein and more veggies. “You can also make a sandwich out of them or even use them as a bowl for salads,” she says. Of course, if you’re not feeling up to cooking (and who could blame you when it’s hot out?), just eating them as crudité with other sliced raw vegetables and your favorite dip is great, too.

PSA: Hydrating foods do not replace drinking water

Definitely enjoy bell peppers and get some extra hydration through food, but don’t let it replace the need to drink up regularly. (Because going without water, no matter what an Instagram influencer tells you, is a very bad idea.)

“While water-rich veggies are a great addition to the diet anytime and especially in summer, they’re not a replacement for hydrating enough with water throughout the day,” Michalczyk says, especially since, again, food only accounts for 20 percent of our hydration. “You should aim for at least 64 ounces of water a day, and more if you’re active and hanging out in the heat,” she says.

A tip? Add fruit and mint to flavor your water in a natural, fun way—it helps make plain water less bland and it’ll encourage you to drink more often. Think beyond basic cucumber slices and go for strawberries or jalapeños. You can also try mint and pineapple chunks for a tasty concoction that’s refreshing and easy to make, she suggests.

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