In a country where high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, and sugary beverages are abundant and affordable, losing excess weight can be a challenge. However, there may be a simple and cheap weight-loss aid we’ve been ignoring all along. Increasing your water consumption on a daily basis will not only help you shed those extra pounds, it will improve your overall health as well.

Water has long been know to aid in weight loss, but until recently there was a lack of scientific data to back that up. The Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute recently conducted studies to explore and record scientific data to prove that water is an incredibly successful weight-loss aid. In one study, 173 overweight women ages 25 to 50, were encouraged to consume more water in an effort to lose weight. Body weight and size measurements were taken at the beginning of the study, and then rerecorded at two, six, and 12 months. The data proved that independent from diet and exercise, increased water intake helped the women lose weight.

Another study conducted by the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute showed that replacing sweetened caloric beverages with water resulted in less caloric intake and in turn increased weight loss which was sustained over time. However, the replacement of sweetened caloric beverages with non-caloric, diet beverages did not have the same weight loss effects because the calories avoided with the diet drink were later consumed in the form of a larger meal portion.

Recent scientific studies haven’t necessarily uncovered new information about water and its role in weight loss. Rather, they have explored the logical reasons that make water the perfect ally for losing weight. Water is calorie-free and filling. Drinking a glass of water just before a meal will partially fill your stomach and leave less room for calorie-dense food. As a natural result, you will consume less calories and still feel happily full.

Now the secret’s out. If you want to shed those extra unwanted pounds or need an extra hand maintaining a healthy weight, increase your daily water intake. Get in the habit of drinking a glass of water with every meal and try replacing your favorite sugary beverage with ice cold water. When you feel a snack craving coming on, reach for your water bottle because often thirst is mistaken by the brain for hunger. If plain water starts to bore your taste buds, spice it up a bit by adding sliced lemon, tangerine or cucumber.

Here are some great lightweight bottles to bring with you on the go: