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Iceberg lettuce gets a bad rap for having few nutrients. In part that's because it has more water by weight than any other food (96 percent). But other types of lettuce — like Romaine and butter lettuce — are virtually just as hydrating, plus they offer way more vitamin A (80 percent of the daily value in just 1 cup). To help you absorb fat-soluble vitamin A, dress your salads with an olive oil-based dressing.
Crisp cucumbers are the quintessential hydrating food. With a water content of 95 percent, they’re one of the most hydrating foods out there. Cucumbers have several phytonutrients that have been linked to anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Plus, they deliver caffeic acid, a compound that may protect skin from wrinkle-causing UVB rays.
Juicy tomatoes are 94 percent water. Added to that, they bring you lycopene (an antioxidant that promotes heart health), skin-smoothing vitamin C, potassium and a host of other nutrients. Another bonus? These red orbs are low in calories (30 calories per cup).
It might be obvious that a beverage like milk is going to be hydrating (in fact, it's 91 percent water). But you might be surprised to learn that several studies have found that milk's unique combination of nutrients (not just water, but protein and sodium) makes it an excellent recovery beverage postworkout.
With water in its name, it’s no surprise that watermelon is a hydrating food (it's 92 percent water). Plus, its pretty pink hue means it's another great way to get lycopene. Since lycopene is absorbed more easily when you eat it with fat, try watermelon in a sweet-savory watermelon and haloumi cheese salad.
These juicy berries (91 percent water) rival oranges for vitamin C content (1 cup gives you over a day’s worth of vitamin C) and deliver 3 grams of fiber per cup. Use fresh strawberries to make Tyler Florence's Mango Strawberry Snow Cones for a refreshing summer dessert.
Cabbage (91 percent water) is an excellent source of both vitamin K (the vitamin that helps your blood to clot) and vitamin C. It also happens to be a cruciferous vegetable, meaning it has nutrients thought to protect against cancer. Try Ellie Krieger's Classic Coleslaw With Caraway for a slimmed-down version of the picnic classic.
By now you probably realize that the crispiest vegetables are often highest in water content. Bell peppers are no exception (they're 94 percent water). Red, yellow, orange and green peppers have different phytochemicals, but all have some nutrients in common. They're amazingly high in vitamin C (just 1 cup gives you twice as much as you need each day) and 1 cup gives you 3 grams of fiber.
Peppery radishes get their crunch from their high water content (95 percent). One radish has only 1 calorie (which is probably why they're so frequently eaten with bread and butter; the Barefoot Contessa shows you how it's done here). Like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and kale, for example), radishes are loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals that may protect against certain cancers.