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You’ve tried all the tricks: bought a stylish reusable water bottle; thrown enough strawberries in your H2O to make a fruit salad; limited how much caffeine you drink. Yet despite all your best efforts, you just can’t seem to consistently drink the "recommended" eight glasses a day. Well, good news: The key to healthy hydration might not even be water, according to recent research.

The answer lies in gel water. Gel water, also known as structured water, isn’t quite a liquid, gas, or ice. In fact, it’s H3O2, not H2O. It’s the kind of hydration that’s in water-heavy foods such as melons and cucumbers, or when you soak chia seeds and they turn into a jello-like substance. In fact, H3O2 makes up the majority of water in our bodies. Sydney Ziverts, a health and nutrition investigator at Consumer Safety, said water is absorbed slower when it comes from fruit and veggies. “This means the water from food will stay in our bodies for a longer time, which is an extremely effective form of hydration,” she said.

Anthropologist and health coach Gina Bria studied how people living in desert locations kept themselves adequately hydrated with limited water supplies. In a recent interview, Bria shared how she was looking for alternative ways to help her ailing mother, who suffered from chronic dehydration. She found that desert cultures prioritized finding foods such as cacti and seeds from the salvia hispanica, aka, chia seeds. These plants, she said, contain gel water that allows people living in these areas to stay hydrated without an abundance of drinking water.

After seeing promising results from giving her mother chia seeds in her orange juice, Bria brought her findings to Dr. Gerald Pollack, a bioengineering professor at the University of Washington who was already studying the phenomenon known as "the fourth phase of water." Dr. Pollack’s research indicates that gel water is better at hydrating than regular water because its absorptive properties help retain more water in the body. Pollack’s research is the preeminent scholarship on gel water, which until now has been mostly ignored by medicine and science.

In one of Pollack's much-viewed TedTalks, he shares how we can harness the valuable energy of gel water. First, don’t give up drinking regular H2O—Pollack says "raw water" helps create structured (gel) water in our bodies. But you should also supplement regular drinking water with more direct sources of gel water. Ingesting turmeric, coconut water, and green juices is very effective, he says. The gel water that Bria noticed appears to be the same type of water found in fresh produce, Ziverts said. So she advises eating water-rich vegetables such as iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. Watermelon and cucumbers are both over 90 percent water, making them a good addition to your diet, too. Stephanie Dunne, a registered dietitian and integrative functional nutrition certified practitioner, said daily hydration can come from many sources. “Anything that is liquid contributes to our total water intake, including milk (whether dairy, almond, or soy), bone broth, and tea," she said.

Gel water may be a good resource, but drinking H2O should still be a daily priority. "At the same time," Dunne says, "people should consider all of the possible sources of intake, as . . . being hydrated is critical to all of the processes in the body.” So, drink up and eat up!

Photo Credit: Ethan Sykes