Drinking water is critical because it is involved in nearly every activity in your body, including protecting your organs and tissues, carrying nutrients to your cells and regulating your body temperature. During the hot summer months, it is important to make sure you are giving your body enough water to keep it functioning at its best, according to the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center at Colorado State University.

Benefits of being well-hydrated include better energy and endurance, improved digestion and less constipation, reduced risk of kidney stones and bladder infections, improved healing time and fewer headaches.

Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water. How much water is enough? Aim for 8 cups (64 ounces) of water per day as a starting point. Many people need more than 64 ounces/day since fluid needs vary person to person. During hot weather, you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level.

Your level of thirst is not always the best indicator of your hydration status. One of the easiest ways to know if you are meeting your fluid needs is by assessing the color of your urine. Pale yellow urine indicates you are well-hydrated. Honey-colored urine indicates you are dehydrated. Dehydration can be very dangerous. Other signs of dehydration include dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps, decreased urine output, dry skin or extreme thirst.

There are many types of drinks to choose from to meet your fluid needs but some options are better than others. Drink more water, fruit-flavored water, unsweetened tea and reduced fat milk. And limit alcohol, soda, energy drinks, sweetened teas and coffee and fruit juice with added sugar.

Include more hydrating foods in your day. Some examples of hydrating foods with a water content of 90 percent or greater are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, watermelon, spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe and celery.

Other ideas to increase your fluid intake include:

• Drink a glass of water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal.

• Drink water before, during and after exercise.

• Drink water if you're feeling hungry. Thirst is often confused with hunger.

• Add fruit, a splash of juice or extracts to water to enhance the taste like berries, pineapple, orange slices or mint, lavender, or rosemary.

• Drink from a cup that has a favorite design or message.

• Set a reminder or alarm on your phone to remind you to reach for water.

• Place a reminder at your desk or on your fridge.

• Keep a reusable water bottle or mug in your common places like your bedroom, desk, travel bag, or breakroom.

• Drink a full glass of water if you need to take a pill instead of just a few sips.

• Download an app on your phone that helps you track your daily water intake (Plant Nanny, My Water Balance, Daily Water Tracker and many others available on an app store).

Linda Robbins, CDN, is assistant director and nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Herkimer County.