Looking for a healthier alternative to sugary sodas or caffeine and chemical-rich energy drinks? Many people turn to sparkling water to quench their thirst. But can drinking soda with all its "guilt-free" sparkling water ever be unhealthy?
Some sparkling water beverages contain additional ingredients that you need to watch out for, especially flavored sparkling water drinks. But in its simplest form, sparkling water is pure water that has been carbonated.
What is sparkling water?
Carbonated water can occur naturally, such as mineral water from a spring. It is also created artificially by infusing water with carbon dioxide.
The carbonation process produces those familiar tiny bubbles. It also produces carbonic acid, a weak acid that does not make your body more acidic. This acid has raised questions about the health effects of carbonated water.
You may have heard some of the claims about soft drinks. One is that it can steal calcium from bones. Another is that it can erode tooth enamel. Another is that it can irritate the stomach. These concerns stem from previous studies on the health effects of carbonated soft drinks, also known as sodas or colas. These are drinks that contain chemicals and artificial or natural sugars.
Studies have indeed linked soft drinks to lower bone mineral density. But they showed that the culprit was the phosphoric acid in soft drinks, not carbonation. Studies have also indicated that poor bone health can occur when soft drinks replace calcium-rich foods, such as milk.
Another study showed that dental erosion is caused by the high acid content of many sodas and not by carbonation. However, flavored carbonated water can contribute to enamel decay. The flavoring agents make the water much more acidic, which causes enamel wear.
Benefits of drinking sparkling water
Carbonated water is just as effective at hydrating the body as spring water or purified water. Plus, it can be a nice break from tap water. Getting your daily dose of water is vital, so if sparkling water helps you drink enough, it's a positive step toward good health.
If drinking a lot of soft drinks makes you feel bloated, try balancing your intake with plain water, as advised by a specialist.
Nevertheless, when choosing sparkling water, it is recommended to check the label to avoid hidden sugars. Tonic water, soda and mineral water usually contain sodium, minerals or sweeteners. It is therefore important to read the label.
What type of sparkling water should I choose?
Below is an overview of sparkling water to help you find the right one for you:
Seltzer is plain water that has been carbonated. If you have a sodastream refill or other home carbonation system and you don't add flavorings, you are making seltzer.
- Club Soda
Like seltzer, club soda is also plain water to which carbon dioxide has been added. However, minerals, such as potassium bicarbonate, potassium sulfate, or table salt, are added to club soda to improve the flavor. These alkaline substances are added to carbonated water to neutralize its acidity and mimic the flavor of natural mineral water.
- Tonic water
Tonic water is carbonated, but unlike other carbonated options, it contains added sweeteners and flavors.
- Mineral water
Mineral water can refer to still or sparkling water from underground sources and contains natural minerals.
- Carbonated water
The term sparkling water was used to refer to the first commercially available artificially carbonated water in the 18th century. Today, some people use carbonated water to refer to seltzer or club soda.
- Flavored sparkling water
Some sparkling waters have fruit flavors. Many have added sugar or artificial sweeteners, while others have none and just an essence of flavor. Read the label to make sure you are not drinking added sweeteners. The fruit flavor can increase acidity, so these should be avoided for those with sensitive stomachs.