As the weather heats up and we all begin looking for delicious (and healthy) ways to stay hydrated, a couple persistent questions come up: Is sparkling water actually hydrating, and is it as good for us as plain water?
Downing glasses of sparkling water can feel a little bit like cheating, because its effervescence is so similar to that of sugary soda. And with $1.8 billion sold in 2017 (thanks in large part to America’s current obsession with La Croix), it looks like lots of us enjoy the bubbly stuff.
The CDC recommends drinking sparkling water as a healthy alternative to soda and other high-calorie beverages, but is it really hydrating us just as well as a plain glass of still water?
While there are many brands, flavors and choices on the market, for the purpose of this article, we’re talking about unflavored sparkling water, or seltzer, which is simply water that has had pressurized carbon dioxide dissolved into it. The carbon dioxide is what creates that effervescence, or the bubbles, making sparkling water seemingly so much more fun than plain tap water.
A number of myths have been floating around the internet on the subject of sparkling water and its negative side effects. Now to dispel a few.
Myth 1: Sparkling water destroys tooth enamel.
Good news for sparkling water fans! The pH level of sparkling water (at a pH of 5) is not low enough to erode tooth enamel, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association. But while plain sparkling water’s carbonation doesn’t hurt tooth enamel, be careful about other fizzy drinks’ acids (think colas), which can wreak havoc on your oral health.
Check out the label on your sparkling water: It’s best to choose waters without added flavorings, sugars and citric acids if you’re concerned about your dental health, as these were found to have the most erosive potential for teeth.
Myth 2: Sparkling water leeches calcium from bones, potentially causing osteoporosis.
While studies have demonstrated that soda consumption is linked to decreased bone mineral density, particularly in women, this has to do with cola consumption specifically, rather than carbonated beverages. Rather, in another study in which researchers had one group of participants drink 1 liter of carbonated water a day and another group drink 1 liter of still a day for 8 weeks, no difference was detected between the two groups in terms of bone density loss.
Myth 3: Sparkling water is not as hydrating as water.
More good news: Sparkling water is just as hydrating as plain water.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared still, sparkling and other popular drinks (cola, juices, beer, coffee, tea and milk), finding that there was no difference between them in terms of hydration.
This may not jibe with what you’ve heard about coffee and tea having a dehydrating effect on our bodies, but studies have shown that habitual coffee and tea drinkers don’t get dehydrated by those beverages when consumed in moderation. In fact, coffee drinkers consuming a regular 3 to 6 cups a day weren’t found to have any changes to total body water. Essentially, regular caffeine consumption in the form of coffee and tea is hydrating as the body has become accustomed to the caffeine, which would otherwise act as a diuretic or a dehydrating factor. Irregular caffeine consumption in the form of tea and coffee, however, is dehydrating.
Back to sparkling water, though: The USDA does recommend sparkling water as a good alternative to sugary drinks as a good way to reduce your risk for obesity.
The only time you might want to choose still over sparkling is when you’re working out: The carbonation in sparkling water can cause a build-up of gas and lead to bloating and discomfort.
So if you need to hydrate this summer, go ahead and guzzle down the fizzy stuff. It’s hydrating, healthy and doesn’t hurt your teeth or bones.