Are Carbonated Waters as Healthy as Regular Water?

Bubbly Water for Fun and Fitness

Carbonated water with lemon
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Water is an essential nutrient for the human body, according to nutrition research. We now have the option to choose from differing kinds of water, but are they healthy? Do they provide the same hydration for the body as regular water?

The rumor on the waterfront is carbonation is not healthy. Is this true? We have been informed about the adverse health effects from drinking soda, but what about other carbonated beverages and water?

It will be important to read between the bubbles to discover if all carbonated water is created equal or healthy for you.

What Is Carbonated Water?

Carbonated water undergoes a process where carbon dioxide gas is dissolved into the water under pressure. This causes the carbonation or effervescent texture in the water and a crisp pop upon opening a bottle. Fizzy bubbles provide a fun way to drink the water, but not all carbonated waters are the same. Some carbonated waters contain added ingredients like sodium, citric acid, flavors, and sugar.

Popular Carbonated Waters and Differences

If we were to look at popular carbonated waters side by side, we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The taste is the big giveaway. Regular carbonated water will have a bubbly bite without flavor, whereas fizzy water with additives will taste salty or sweet. The following are popular carbonated waters and how they differ:

  • Seltzer water is simply carbonated regular water. It’s a healthier choice and adds a little fun to your water intake. It has a refreshing taste and often used as a mixer in alcoholic beverages. Some bottled seltzer water can contain added flavors.
  • Club soda is water that has been carbonated but with added sodium ingredients like table salt, sodium bicarbonate, or potassium bicarbonate. The type and amount of sodium additive differ for each bottle or producer. Club soda is another popular mixer for adult beverages.  
  • Tonic water is carbonated water with added sweeteners and flavors. There’s really not any difference between drinking tonic water and a soda. Tonic water would not be the best choice for health-minded individuals because of the added sugar and empty calories. It’s famous, however, for making a great gin and tonic.
  • Mineral water comes from mineral springs and contains a variety of minerals, including salts and sulphur compounds. Mineral water is bottled with added carbonation to create a supplemented bubbly beverage. Research has shown mineral water to improve hydration status and exercise performance in athletes. It’s considered a healthy bubbly water alternative, and many enjoy with a citrus twist.
  • Flavored sparkling water is a carbonated beverage and may contain added natural sugars, citric acid, sodium, and even caffeine. It will be important to read the label on this one to avoid any sneaky additives you’re trying to avoid. It may be a step up from soda, but only if the ingredient label works in your favor.

    Is It a Healthy Drink?

    Some think that drinking carbonated beverages of any kind can lead to decreased bone health, tooth decay, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and weight gain. Is there any truth to these claims?

    According to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, only soda consumption reduced bone mineral density compared to other carbonated beverages. It appears the phosphorus ingredient in soda binds to calcium and is excreted through our kidneys, causing weaker bones. Research has debunked the myth that carbonation alone increases calcium loss in our bones. The healthy choice for strong bones is to avoid phosphorous soda and drink clean bubbly waters.

    Research has also related tooth decay to carbonated drinks with added sugar and citric acid. We reduce our risk of tooth decay by drinking plain carbonated water like seltzer. The carbonation process alone is not shown to increase our risk of tooth enamel erosion. When ingredients like sugar, acids, and sodium are added to carbonated waters is when the risk of tooth decay increases. Simply avoid fizzy waters with added ingredients to eliminate extra visits to the dentist.

    Another common thought: Carbonated drinks, including bubbly waters, can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS affects close to 23 percent of the population, according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Studies show carbonated waters are not the cause of IBS but can be a trigger to flare up the condition for some individuals. If you’re sensitive to carbonated beverages and experience stomach upset, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them.

    The idea of carbonated water causing weight gain has come into question. Plain bubbly water doesn’t contribute to weight gain, and it really depends on the type of sparkling water being consumed. Some fizzy waters are filled with artificial acids, flavors, sodium, and sweeteners. Studies show additives in carbonated beverages contain hidden calories and can contribute to weight gain. Avoid unwanted ingredients by reading labels carefully and keep your bubbly water healthy.

    Are They Just as Hydrating?

    Plain carbonated water is simply water made bubbly with pressurized carbon dioxide gas. As long as the water is free of additives, it’s just as hydrating as regular water. Also, mineral water with higher calcium and bicarbonate has shown to provide better hydration during strenuous exercise, according to research. Bubbly water can increase bloating, gas, and burping, so drinking during exercise is a personal preference. Many individuals have increased their water intake because they enjoy the fizzy texture.

    Can I Replace Regular Water With Carbonated?

    According to the American Council on Exercise, plain bubbly water can be subbed out for regular water any time during the day. If drinking carbonated water is your preference, investing in a machine that makes carbonated water could be an option. Otherwise, sparkling waters are fairly inexpensive but keep your eye on the label for unwanted added ingredients.

    How Can I Improve the Flavor?

    Do you struggle with drinking plain water carbonated or not? You’re not alone and many individuals prefer to drink flavored water. There are ways to enhance the flavor of your bubbly water and still keep it healthy. The American Council on Exercise recommends the following:

    • Add citrus flavor to your fizzy water by squeezing fresh lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit juice into your beverage. This will add antioxidants and natural sugars for an energy boost.
    • Make it minty. Muddle fresh mint leaves in the bottom of your glass. Pour plain seltzer water over the mixture and add ice if you desire. The essential oils released in the water provide a refreshing drink and research shows improved workouts.
    • Create a fruity favorite. Add your favorite berries, citrus or combination of fruits to a glass or water bottle. The water will become infused with the natural flavors of the fruit for an enjoyable drink. Another option is to purchase a water bottle with an infuser insert. This will enable the fruits to be placed in the insert and without worry of seeds getting in the way of drinking.

    Enjoy the Bubbles

    The goal is to drink plenty of water throughout the day for optimal health and fitness. Plain carbonated or mineral waters can be enjoyed as a healthy alternative. The important reminder is to read ingredient labels to avoid unwanted additives or calories. Otherwise, enjoy the bubbles!

    Sources:
    Lenny R. Vartanian, PhD et al., Effects of Soft Drink Consumption on Nutrition and Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, American Journal of Public Health, 2007

    Paola Brancaccio et al., Supplementation of Acqua Lete® (Bicarbonate Calcic Mineral Water) improves hydration status in athletes after short term anaerobic exercise, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2012 

    Tiffani Bachus, RDN, 4 Easy Ways to Drink More Water, Fit Life, American Council on Exercise, 2016

    Tucker KL et al., Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006

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