Nutrition Sparkling Water: Health Friend or Foe?

sparkling water

If you are trying to kick a soda habit or just looking for a healthier alternative when you are enjoying the last days of summer, there is a good chance you may have picked up a sparkling beverage like the ones pictured here.

sparkling waterThe listed ingredients are “only carbonated water, naturally essenced”. But is this truly a safe alternative or are we trading one bad habit for another?

The pros

Sparkling water is sugar-free, calorie-free, many are sodium free, and they can be hydrating.

The cons

It may erode tooth enamel, may zap calcium from the bones, and may contribute to digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

So, is sparkling water a harmless habit or deceptive drink?

If the only addition is carbonation, you are in the clear. While soda is linked to calcium depletion, the carbonation is not the culprit. A study of more than 2500 people found that soda was linked to low bone mineral density in women, but other carbonated beverages did not show such an association.

The rumors regarding tooth enamel erosion are also not supported. As long as the ingredient list does not contain added citric acid or sugar, your drink is not likely to cause tooth decay. Tooth erosion is more likely to come from beverages that are sugar-sweetened and carbonated, which also tend to be highly acidic.

As for IBS, carbonated water will not cause someone to develop the condition. However, some individuals may experience some less-than-pleasant stomach symptoms if they ingest a lot of sparkling water – namely, excessive burping, flatulence, and bloating from consuming extra carbonation. If you have IBS and are sensitive to carbonation, you might want to avoid these beverages.

A word of caution:

Not all sparkling waters are created equal. Some of these drinks contain added ingredients, flavors, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and added sodium that may actually be harmful. Be sure to read your nutrition labels before you buy! Stick with sparkling waters that contain very few ingredients–preferably just carbonated water!

Know the Difference!

  • Club soda contains sodium, seltzer does not.
  • Tonic water has added sweeteners.
  • Flavored sparkling water may contain citric acid, plus sweeteners and caffeine.
Pro-tip: If you are looking to add flavor, try adding mint leaves, cucumber, lemon or lime slices, or fruit.


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