It wasn’t so long ago that the common dialogue around sparkling water was that it was bad for you. Yes, it was probably better than all the sugary sodas out there, but it might also weaken your bones and rot your teeth. If you needed to pack a little punch with your good old fashioned H2O, why not just drop a lemon in there?
These days, sparkling water—or club soda, or seltzer water, or whatever you want to call it—has a much better reputation. In fact, even in its flavored form, it’s probably pretty good for us. Research shows sparkling water is as hydrating as regular water, but the best option for carbonated water is sparkling mineral water. So if your summer beverage of choice is a can of sparkling water, you’re in pretty good shape, right?
Maybe. But then again, there’s been some drama around the beloved sparkling water brand La Croix. Thanks, at least partially, to a lawsuit that investigated the brand’s use of artificial ingredients, La Croix’s sales fell at least 9.4% in 2019, according to Business Insider. So, should we be more suspicious of sparkling water when it comes to hydration and our overall health goals? We spoke with nutritionists Tamar Samuels and Karina Heinrich to clear things up. Scroll ahead to see what they have to say about sparkling water.
What Is Sparkling Water?
In order to understand what sparkling water is, we have to first understand what it isn't. Samuels says although names like "seltzer," "club soda," and "sparkling water" are often used interchangeably for carbonated water, they aren’t actually synonymous. “Seltzer and club soda are man-made carbonated beverages that are artificially infused with carbon dioxide,” she explains. “Club soda typically has more CO2 than seltzer and also contains other additives like sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, potassium sulfate, and disodium phosphate. Club soda also has a higher concentration of sodium, which is a concern for people with high blood pressure.”
Meet the Expert
Tamar Samuels, RD, is a certified dietitian nutritionist and the founder of All Great Nutrition.
“The best option for carbonated water is sparkling mineral water,” she adds. “According to the FDA, natural mineral water is defined as ‘Water containing not less than 250 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved solids (TDS), coming from a source at one or more boreholes or springs, originating from a geologically and physically protected underground water source.'"
Is Sparkling Water Bad?
Ask nutritionists what they think about sparkling water, and their opinions vary. Heinrich, for example, believes the optimal way to hydrate is to skip the bubbles. “I always encourage my clients to drink real, non-carbonated water. Like everything else, I prefer foods and drinks in their purest forms,” she says.
Meet the Expert
Karina Heinrich is a certified integrative nutritionist and the founder of The Karina Method.
Samuels, on the other hand, is team sparkling water—but she encourages her clients to be very particular when deciding which sparkling water to drink and recommends sticking with sparkling mineral water. The only drawback? It isn't exactly the most economical option (in other words, sparkling mineral water doesn't come cheap). If you’re making your sparkling water at home—SodaStream is a popular household item these days. The system offers a great way to fulfill your sparkling water craving for an affordable price—Samuels says the actual water used is also important to consider.
“Both club soda and seltzer water may be made with water that has other additives and/or chemicals from pollution, waste, or chemical water processing. So when you can control the type of water used in your sparkling beverage, that’s always a good thing.” Her advice? Stick with filtered water to limit the additives.
Samuels also adds that mineral water might even be better for you than still water, because it contains health-benefiting minerals that support muscle function and recovery, balance the fluids in our bodies, and support the nervous system. Some mineral waters also contain bicarbonate, which helps to balance the pH in our body fluids.
Who Should Avoid Drinking Sparkling Water?
While sparkling water tends to be a good option for the average person if you’re willing to be an ingredient sleuth, Samuels adds that there are some people who should probably avoid drinking it altogether. “Carbonated water, even mineral spring water, might not be the best option for people with IBS, acid reflux, or other gastrointestinal conditions because the carbonation tends to cause gas and bloating,” she explains. “And all warnings aside, regardless of which carbonated beverage you’re drinking, they are all a much better option than soda."
The Final Takeaway
When it comes to hydration, are sparkling water and still water really created equal? Samuels says yes—and then some. “Carbonated water is made from water and, therefore, can be just as hydrating as regular water. Actually, sparkling mineral water may be particularly hydrating because of its high electrolyte content.”
In fact, you can drink sparkling water all day long if you like—just make sure you’re drinking the mineral stuff, and if you’re in a hurry, make sure to opt for the types that come in a glass bottle, as you’re less likely to come in contact with harmful BPA chemicals that may be present in aluminum cans or plastic bottles. Other than that, happy sipping!