How Healthy Are the Most Trendy Types of Water?

Maple, Alkaline, Coconut Water—Are They Healthy Water Drinks?

If you've ditched sodas for healthy water drinks, you've got plenty of options. Visit any market or food show, like those organized by the Specialty Food Association, and you'll see at least five different types of water stocking the shelves. There are even "healthy" bottled waters made with unique ingredients that are sold in specialized shops and online. Each boasts a different benefit. So which one do you choose?

Before you fall for the marketing claims and fork out the cash for a trendy product, take a few minutes to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each type of water. Use this rundown to make the best choice for you.

Tap Water

Filling up a glass with drinking water from kitchen tap
istockphoto

The claim: Water that comes out of your faucet (tap water) is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and tested frequently. It is required to be clean and safe. In most cities, tap water must be disinfected, pathogen-free, and tested for dangerous viruses.

Benefits: Tap water is cheap and readily available at home and on the go in public drinking fountains. Tap water is also better for the environment as no plastic bottles are used to package or sell the product. Lastly, you can add natural flavors to tap water to suit your tastes.

Drawbacks: In some areas, tap water has a distinct taste or odor that is unpleasant. Some tap water may even have an odd color. There are also concerns that tap water in some areas may contain small amounts of harmful chemicals. If you are concerned, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends that you test your tap water to make sure it is safe. You can also visit the EPA's website to get information about water in your area. If necessary, purchase an inexpensive water filter to make your water cleaner.

Cost: Free, unless you buy a filter.

Comment: Unless you have a big budget for bottled water, tap water may be your best choice to stay hydrated throughout the day. Contact your local water district if you have concerns about the safety of your water. Then buy a water filtration system within your budget if one is needed.

Bottled Water

The claim: Consumers often believe that bottled water is cleaner than tap water and many say that bottled water tastes better. According to the International Bottled Water Association, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards for bottled water require that it must be as clean as tap water. Bottled water may be filtered, distilled or purified.

Benefits: Bottled water is easy to grab on the go or get at a fast food restaurant as an alternative to soda. If you live in an area where tap water is unpleasant, large containers of bottled water may help you to maintain proper hydration throughout the day.

Drawbacks: According to the NDRC, people are spending 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they would for tap water. In addition, the federal government does not require that bottled water be safer than tap water, so it is hard to know if the extra money is worth it. And lastly, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, most bottled waters contain fluoride at levels that are less than optimal for good oral health.

Cost: Approximately $1.25-$1.50 per 16-ounce bottle. The cost is much less if you buy in bulk or if you buy large gallon-size containers.

Comment: There has been quite a bit of controversy about whether or not bottled water is better for you than tap water. The answer for you will depend on the brand of water that you buy and the water that comes out of the faucets in your area.  Keep in mind, however, that in some cases, bottled water is tap water, with or without further purification. The FDA recommends that you check the label to find out for sure. Tap water in a bottle will say that it is "from a municipal source" on the label.

Sparkling Water

The claim: Sparkling water is a broad category that can include any bottled, canned, or unbottled water with carbonation. You can buy popular brands of plain or flavored sparkling water at the market, or you can make it at home with a home carbonation system by brands like SodaStream.

Benefits: If you don't like plain water, you may be able to increase your daily hydration levels by drinking water with carbonation. For many consumers, the bubbles make water more palatable. You can also add natural fruit or herbs to give the water flavor without adding calories.

Drawbacks: Drinking any carbonated beverage may cause bloating or gas in some people. For that reason, health experts advise those with sensitive stomachs to be cautious when consuming these drinks. Also, dental experts have expressed concern that sparkling water may encourage tooth decay because the process of adding fizz to water creates carbonic acid. But scientific research has shown that drinking modest amounts of plain sparkling water (like the kind you make at home) doesn't present a significant risk. 

Cost: Varies. Store-bought sparkling water can cost approximately $1.50 per bottle. A home carbonation system at SodaStream ranges in price from about $60 to over $179. Carbonation cylinders cost about $15 and need to be replaced periodically.

Comment: Drinking plain sparkling water is not very different than drinking plain bottled or tap water. It helps to boost your hydration levels. But keep in mind that many flavored varieties add calories to your daily total and drinking sparkling mineral water can add sodium to your diet.

Mineral Water

The claim: According to the FDA, mineral water is bottled water that contains a required amount of minerals from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. No minerals may be added to mineral water.

Benefits: This type of water may provide small amounts of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, or potassium. These are minerals that help to lower blood pressure, improve bone density, boost muscle growth and provide other health benefits. If you don't get those minerals at mealtime, drinking mineral water may help you get what you need.

Drawbacks. Different brands of mineral water provide different levels of each mineral, so it may be hard to know if you are meeting your daily goals properly. In addition, some brands of mineral water may contain high levels of sodium. If you are watching your salt intake, mineral water may not be a smart choice for you.

Cost: Approximately $1.50-$2.00 per 16-ounce bottle

Comment: If you enjoy mineral water (sparkling or non-sparkling) then it's reasonable to continue drinking it as long as you are mindful of the sodium content. But there are other ways to get important minerals in your daily diet. Eat balanced meals and consult an RD if you want to make sure you're getting the nutrients you need.

Protein Water

The claim: Protein water is a flavored drink that contributes to your daily intake of protein. Most brands are made with whey protein isolate to provide consumers with approximately 15-20 grams of protein per bottle.

Benefits: Many exercisers use protein water rather than protein shakes or protein foods to boost their intake immediately after exercise. Protein water is easy to carry, easy to consume, can boost hydration and increase your intake of amino acids.

Drawbacks: Even though water is a calorie-free beverage, protein water does provide calories. You may consume 60-90 calories per bottle, and the drink may also be flavored with natural or artificial sweeteners.

Cost: Approximately $2.00 to $4.00 or more per 16-ounce bottle

Comment: Drinking protein may be a smart and convenient way to refuel after a workout. But it may not give you the feeling of satisfaction or fullness that eating protein often provides.

Oxygen Water

The Claim: Oxygenated water, "hyper-oxygenated" water, or super-oxygenated water is simply water that has had oxygen added to it. The theory is that you boost your oxygen levels by drinking it. Water makers claim drinking oxygenated water can help to improve athletic performance, improve recovery after exercise, boost stamina, provide increased mental clarity, and even decrease the effects of a hangover.

Benefits: Oxygenated water generally provides zero calories nor does it provide added sugars or artificial sweeteners as many sports drinks do.

Drawbacks: There is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support the claims made about oxygenated water. There have been studies, however, debunking the claims. In addition, other watchdog agencies including Science-Based Medicine and the University of California, Berkeley have published criticism of the claims.

Cost: Approximately $2.00 to $3.00 or more per bottle

Comment: While oxygen is important for daily life and certainly for optimum exercise performance, the lack of science behind the oxygen water trend doesn't support the cost of the product.

Electrolyte Water

The claim: Brands like Propel and smartwater make water that is enhanced with electrolytes (sodium and potassium) for better hydration after exercise or throughout the day. Some believe that the superior hydration will improve energy levels and can boost the quality of your workouts.

Benefits: There is agreement in the exercise community that maintaining normal fluid levels in the body (a condition called euhydration) is essential for optimum performance and good health. Replacing electrolytes by drinking an electrolyte-enhanced water may help some vigorous exercisers keep energy levels stable, especially when exercising in the heat.

Drawbacks: A special water drink may not always be necessary during or after exercise. Under normal conditions, your body is good at maintaining proper fluid levels during moderate exercise, so a specialized drink may not be required.

Cost: Approximately $1.00 - $1.50 per bottle

Comment: If you exercise under conditions that require electrolyte replacement, remember to hydrate before your sessions as well as during and after your workout to make sure you stay safe.

Maple Water

The claim: Maple water is the sap water collected from maple trees before it is processed to make syrup. The bottled water is usually pasteurized and has a light maple flavor. The product provides polyphenols, antioxidants, prebiotics, minerals, and electrolytes.

Benefits: Some scientific research has demonstrated that maple syrup can provide certain health benefits, but maple water is new to the market and has not been tested. It is unclear whether the levels of nutrients in maple water can make any real difference to your health. However, maple water is lower in calories than some other sweetened beverages, and (in most cases) contains only one natural ingredient.

Drawbacks. Maple water is sugar water so it provides calories. You'll get about 30 calories when you drink a single bottle. While that is not a lot of sugar, most of us consume too much added sugar already, so the additional calories may not be necessary.

Cost: Approximately $3.00 to $5.00 per bottle

Comment: If you buy maple water, check the label to make sure it is pure sap water and not simply water that has had maple syrup added to it. Also, keep in mind that the beverage adds to your sugar intake for the day.

Coconut Water

The claim: Coconut water is the salty, sweet liquid that comes from young green coconuts. The product is often used by exercisers and athletes for rehydration. There have been other far-reaching claims about the health benefits of the product, many of which have been scaled back when scientific research failed to provide proper evidence.

Benefits: Coconut water contains high levels of potassium (600 milligrams per cup, compared to about ​420 in a banana), so it may help to boost hydration after your workout. In addition, you'll consume far fewer calories if you choose coconut water rather than a sports drink.

Drawbacks: This kind of flavored water is not free from calories. You'll consume about 50 calories and a half gram of fat with each serving. In addition, you'll get an additional 6 grams of sugar in each cup.

Cost: Approximately $1.50 to $4.00 per one-bottle serving

Comment: Many exercisers enjoy the taste of coconut water after their workout. But research has not been able to prove that it is necessarily better for you than plain bottled water.

Alkaline Water

The Claim: Alkaline water is water that has been ionized to be less acidic. Alkaline water may also be called pH balanced water because the pH levels are higher than in normal tap water. Alkaline water makers say that the product hydrates better, relieves headaches, relieves earaches, improves quality of living, and cures digestive problems.

Benefits: Some research has shown that alkaline water may hydrate better than regular bottled or tap water. But the research is limited, and the primary study was funded by an alkaline water company, presenting a conflict of interest. There is also limited research suggesting that it may help with certain digestive issues.

Drawbacks: Most experts say that more research needs to be completed before the vast health benefits assigned to alkaline water can be confirmed. Also, drinking water that is less acidic may change the acid levels in your stomach, which can cause discomfort and other problems in certain people.

Cost: You can purchase a home alkaline water ionizer, but the cost may run close to $2,000 or more. A single bottle of alkaline water generally costs about $1.50 to $2.00.

Comment: Whenever you see a health product that boasts significant medical claims, a modest dose of skepticism is usually smart. If you are unsure about whether or not you need to adjust the pH level of your water for better health, talk to your doctor before investing.

FATwater

The Claim: This bottled water produced by Bulletproof Coffee provides a small amount of "Brain Octane Oil" to boost energy and brain function. The Brain Octane Oil in FATwater comes from a proprietary coconut oil that the company says is four times more likely to raise brain-boosting ketone levels.

Benefits: Coconut oil provides medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). There has been some limited research showing that MCTs may provide certain health benefits, including weight loss, appetite control, pain relief, and possibly even improved sports performance. Dieters and athletes who follow a ketogenic diet plan may benefit from the small amount of fat in FATwater.

Drawbacks: Health experts disagree about the health benefits of coconut oil and MCTs, so there is no guarantee that you drinking this water will boost your health. Additionally, when asked, the company was unable to provide scientific evidence to support their claims. And drinking the water will (slightly) increase your fat intake for the day.

Cost: Approximately $3.00 per bottle

Comment: While it may make sense for keto dieters to drink water laced with fat, there is no strong evidence to support drinking this kind of water for most consumers.

Benefits of Proper Hydration

As you decide what kind of water is best for you, keep in mind that almost every type of water will provide some health benefit. Staying properly hydrated helps protect your organs, improves athletic performance, helps to regulate body temperature, and boosts the absorption of key vitamins and minerals. Boosting your water intake also helps to curb food cravings and improves energy.

A Word From Verywell

If you currently drink very little water each day and consume very few hydrating foods, you may feel much better after drinking an expensive brand of water. But it may not be the expensive ingredient that provides the benefit. It may be that your body feels better simply because it is getting the hydration it needs to function properly. If you're not sure about investing in any food or diet supplement, remember that you can connect with a registered dietitian to get personalized advice based on your specific health needs. 

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