two glasses of carbonated water with blackberries.

Lots of carbonated water on the shelves these days; are they actually good for you, or should you stick to the plain stuff? Sparkling water is expected to be a 5.5 billion-dollar industry this year, and many new products are flavored with real juices and more. 

Water, Water Everywhere 

Here’s what is out there:

  • Sparkling water. This is tap water (or filtered water) infused with carbon dioxide for carbonation. The bubbles don’t hydrate you any better than regular water which is also referred to as flat or still water. Waters called club soda, or seltzer have bubbles with no added sugar.
  • Mineral water. The FDA says that mineral water must come from a natural, protected, underground source and contain minerals and trace elements, usually various amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sodium. It can be naturally carbonated or not. 
  • Calcium is important for bone health and overall muscle function. 
  • Magnesium helps your body regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. 
  • Sodium may not be good if you are on a low-salt diet. A can of carbonated water can have 100 or 200 milligrams of sodium. Who knew about this hidden salt?
  • Tonic water. Tonic is bittersweet, and contains quinine and sugar or high fructose corn syrup–it can contain almost as much sugar as a can of soda! Quinine has been used for decades to treat malaria. Some people on blood thinners need to avoid it, as should pregnant or breastfeeding moms, people with liver or kidney disease and those with abnormal heart rhythms. 
  • Flavored sparkling water is usually flavored with fruit oil “essence” and many brands have no calories, no sweeteners, or sodium. Others may contain sugars and artificial sweeteners or coloring.

Can Sparkling Water Help You Lose Weight?

It definitely can if you are a soda drinker. This has been my go to for years and it’s really been helpful. Replacing soda (or fruit juice and sports drinks) with sparkling water is good for your health in many ways. Check the ingredients before you buy to avoid added sugar and artificial sweeteners. Calorie-free flavored waters often contain artificial sweeteners (like aspartame or Splenda) which have been linked to the risk of metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Studies have also linked artificial sweeteners to increased appetite and cravings. This could be because the sweetness without the calories confuses our food reward pathway. 

Also, hydration is key to weight loss and overall health. If enjoying sparkling water makes you drink more throughout the day, all the better for weight control. When we are dehydrated, our body doesn’t send a clear thirst message – often we feel hungry instead. 

Do the Bubbles Cause Gas and Bloating?

For some people the fizz helps their digestion, but those with acid reflux, Gastroesophgeal Reflux Disease (GERD), might find the carbonation does not help their condition, and should switch to plain water.  

Myths About Sparkling Water

  • It can damage your teeth. The carbonation and acidity found in seltzer and sparkling water do not harm your teeth or erode your enamel according to the American Dental Association (ADA). These drinks are no worse for your teeth than regular water. The acid in sugary sodas do erode tooth enamel. 
  • It dehydrates you. No, actually, one study found that for some people carbonated water improved hydration. 
  • It lowers calcium absorption in your bones. Regular soda has been linked to lower bone mineral density, but that’s not because of the carbonation—it’s because of phosphoric acid, something not found in seltzer or sparkling water. Sparkling mineral water has calcium in it, which can improve bone health. And the carbonated mineral waters with calcium and magnesium may have bone benefits.

Adding Superfoods to the Fizz

But wait there’s more! Innovative marketers are now infusing seltzers with vitamins, adaptogens, and probiotics. Known as “boosted” sparkling waters, these promise to help us with increasing our energy, immunity, focus, and lowering stress. Drinks with added nutraceuticals, herbs, and amino acids such as ashwagandha, schisandra, and L-theanine will be coming to a store near you.

Remember, you can always add your own fruit slices, vegetables, or herbs to plain seltzer. Cucumber and mint are refreshing, also try berries, lemons, limes, oranges, or mangoes.

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