Alan Frischer, MD, MPH
I am astounded at the variety of sparkling water on the store shelves. Are they a healthful alternative to sodas and other drinks?
Healthier lifestyle trends are on the increase across all age groups, and people are gradually shifting to more healthful and innovative drinks, including sparkling water. The global sparkling water market was estimated at almost $30 billion in 2020, and is expected to continue to grow rapidly.
Sparkling water is a refreshing alternative to soda. Is it truly any healthier? It depends. Soda and juice include considerable amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners. However, some sparkling waters contain minerals like salt, or sugars, or artificial sweeteners.
To make water bubbly, it is infused with carbon dioxide gas under pressure. Different forms of sparkling water include seltzer (just water with the carbon dioxide), club soda (with the added minerals potassium bicarbonate and potassium sulfate, giving it a slightly salty taste), and sparkling mineral water (such as Perrier and San Pellegrino, which come from a mineral spring and contain naturally occurring minerals, such as salts or sulphur compounds). Tonic water is a carbonated water that contains quinine, which is bitter, along with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweetener. So, if you are watching your sodium, be aware that many carbonated waters contain salt. Others are high in sugar, which poses a risk for tooth decay, diabetes, and weight gain.
Sparkling water is as hydrating as still water, and staying well hydrated has so many benefits, including better kidney function and weight loss. Many people find that adequate hydration is difficult for them to achieve, and that alternatives to still water are helpful. Symptoms of dehydration can include thirst, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, headache, dry mouth and dry cough, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, constipation, chills, and dark and infrequent urine.
It was believed that consuming carbonated water could harm the bones, due to its slightly acidic content. Studies have not shown this to be the case. What has been shown is that sodas, which are high in phosphorus, do indeed lower bone density.
Perhaps you are fed up with spending money on small bottles of sparkling water (and other drinks), and creating yet more plastic waste? A variety of products, like Soda Stream, make it easy, inexpensive, environmentally conscious, and fast to make carbonated beverages at home, in reusable bottles.
As I am writing this, I am drinking Hint sparkling water. It has no sweeteners, minerals or sodium added. I see on the label that the only additional ingredient is “other natural flavors.” I encourage you to try a good pure sparkling water. It is enjoyable, calorie free, and a great substitute for soda. But don’t forget to read the label, and avoid sugar, salt, or other chemicals.