Is sparkling water really better than other carbonated beverages?
With spring in full swing and summer on the horizon, staying hydrated should be top of mind. After all, our bodies are 60% water. Cells, bone and tissue need water to function — especially in hotter months when we sweat more. And yet, most of us simply aren't sipping enough.
Some people don't like the taste of plain water — and many opt for caffeinated or carbonated beverages instead. That's where sparkling water comes in. This booming new industry offers up a slew of options, including popular brands like LaCroix, Bubly and more. But are they as good for you as water?
A closer look at carbonated water
Carbonated water is nothing more than water infused with bubbles. It may occur naturally or it may be infused with carbon dioxide gas under pressure.
It goes by names such as sparkling water, fizzy water, seltzer or water with gas. While the most popular carbonated water is probably club soda (which also includes minerals), a new crop of beverages is hitting grocery store shelves. Many of these alternatives include a few extras like natural flavors, but little else.
Popular choices include:
- Bubly: Caffeine-free and unsweetened, Bubly is a hit among those who want a hint of flavor when they need hydration.
- LaCroix: As far as sparkling beverages go, LaCroix is wildly popular, in large part because of its tropical flavors. In addition to carbonation, LaCroix drinks contain natural flavors and "essences."
- Perrier: Perrier has been a mainstay in the sparkling water category for decades. It's calorie-free and contains important minerals, including calcium, magnesium and potassium.
- Polar: Polar is sugar- and sodium-free and comes in a full range of flavors (last time I checked, there were 18!)
- Spindrift: Made with real squeezed juice, Spindrift has a natural taste, but without natural flavors or added sugars. The end result: A beverage that contains between 0 to 15 calories without unnecessary extras.
Being smart about sparkling water
If you don't like the taste of water and know you're not drinking enough, sparkling beverages may be a good alternative. These drinks provide the same hydration as water, and they're lower in calories and other ingredients than soda. In fact, most sparkling water brands have only two or three ingredients.
Always check the nutrition facts label and ingredient list to ensure you're getting what you want. Some sparkling beverages are like soda, with added sugar or sugar substitutes. Craving a healthier choice? Look for fizzy water that is unsweetened, contains little or no sodium and lists water as one of only a few ingredients. If you're trying to steer clear of caffeine, make sure it's not listed on the label.
If you have gastrointestinal challenges, such as acid reflux, excessive gas or irritable bowel syndrome, it may be best to stick with plain or infused water. And consider the cost compared to tap water.
Outside of those considerations, if a few bubbles in your water means you’re staying hydrated – pop the tab with confidence.
To find a registered dietitian at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.
Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN, is the director of the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Learn more about Bethany.