Are Carbonated Waters as Healthy as Regular Water?

Tonic water

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Water is essential for the proper functioning of the human body. Unlike our ancestors, we aren't limited to just plain water to quench our thirst. Today, we can choose from many types and tastes of water. The question is, do these different varieties provide the same hydration for the body as regular water? Are they all healthy?

We have been informed about the adverse health effects of drinking soda, but what about other carbonated beverages and carbonated water? Here's what you need to know about carbonated water and whether it's as healthy as its still counterpart.

Overview

Carbonated water is created by dissolving carbon dioxide (a gas) in water under pressure. The reaction gives the water its effervescent texture. The carbonation is what makes that crisp "pop" occur when you open the bottle.

Fizz makes carbonated water fun to drink, but some of these products contain more than just bubbles. Added ingredients like sodium, citric acid, flavors, and sugar, are common in some brands of carbonated water.

Carbonated waters typically all look the same—it's the taste that's the big giveaway. Regular carbonated water will have a bubbly bite without flavor, whereas fizzy water with additives will taste salty or sweet.

Popular Carbonated Waters

There are several types of carbonated water, and they can be used for different purposes.

Club Soda

Club soda is water that has been carbonated and contains added sodium ingredients like table salt, sodium bicarbonate, or potassium bicarbonate. The type and amount of sodium additive differ for each bottle or producer. Club soda is a popular mixer for alcoholic beverages.

Flavored Sparkling Water

Flavored sparkling water is a carbonated beverage that may contain added natural sugars, citric acid, sodium, and even caffeine. Sparkling water might be a healthier choice compared to soda, but you'll want to carefully read the label on this type of carbonated water as these products can contain sneaky additives.

Mineral Water

Mineral water comes from mineral springs and contains minerals, including salts and sulfur compounds. The water is bottled with added carbonation to create a supplemented bubbly beverage.

Research has shown that mineral water can improve athletes' hydration status and exercise performance. It’s considered a healthy bubbly water alternative. Try it with a twist of citrus for extra flavor.

Seltzer Water

Seltzer water is just regular water that has been carbonated. It’s a healthier choice than soda and can add a little fun to your water intake. Seltzer has a refreshing taste and is often used as a mixer in alcoholic beverages. Some bottled seltzer water contain added flavors.

Tonic Water

Tonic water is carbonated water with added sweeteners and flavors. There’s no much of a difference between drinking tonic water and a soda. Tonic water is not the healthiest option because it has added sugar and empty calories. It is most famous for being used to make a gin and tonic.

Is It a Healthy Drink?

Some think that drinking carbonated beverages of any kind can lead to decreased bone health, tooth decay, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and weight gain. Is there any truth to these claims?

According to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, only soda consumption reduced bone mineral density compared to other carbonated beverages. It appears the phosphorus ingredient in soda binds to calcium and is excreted through the kidneys, causing weaker bones.

Research has debunked the myth that carbonation alone increases calcium loss in our bones.

Studies have linked tooth decay to carbonated drinks with added sugar and citric acid. You can reduce your risk of tooth decay by drinking plain carbonated water (such as seltzer). The carbonation process alone has not been shown to increase the risk of tooth enamel erosion. However, when ingredients like sugar, acids, and sodium are added to carbonated waters, the risk of tooth decay increases.

Another theory is that carbonated drinks can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, IBS affects 9% to 23% of the population. Some studies have shown that carbonated waters are not the cause of IBS, but they can worsen symptoms of the condition in some people.

If you have IBS or find that carbonated waters upset your stomach, it's best to limit or avoid bubbly waters and other carbonated beverages.

There are also claims that carbonated water can lead to weight gain. While plain bubbly water hasn't been associated with weight gain, some fizzy waters are filled with artificial acids, flavors, sodium, and sweeteners. Studies have shown that the additives in carbonated beverages often contain hidden calories which can contribute to weight gain.

Are They Just as Hydrating?

Plain carbonated water is simply water that's been pressurized carbon dioxide gas. As long as the water is free of additives, it’s just as hydrating as regular water. If you like mineral water, research has shown that this type of water—with higher calcium and bicarbonate—provides better hydration during strenuous exercise.

Drinking bubbly water during exercise is a personal preference, as it can increase bloating, gas, and burping. If you enjoy the fizzy texture, carbonated water might help you increase your daily fluid intake.

According to the American Council on Exercise, plain bubbly water can be substituted for regular water any time during the day.

If drinking carbonated water is your preference, consider investing in a machine that you can use to make your own. Otherwise, sparkling waters are fairly inexpensive—just keep an eye on the label for unwanted added ingredients.

Improving the Flavor

If you struggle to drink plain water, you're not alone. Many people prefer to drink flavored water. The American Council on Exercise recommends the following tips to enhance the flavor of your bubbly water while still keeping it healthy:

  • Add citrus. Flavor your water by squeezing some fresh lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit juice into your beverage. The juice adds flavor while adding antioxidants and some natural sugars for an energy boost.
  • Make it minty. Muddle fresh mint leaves in the bottom of your glass. Pour plain seltzer water over the mixture and add ice if you desire. The essential oils released in the water will provide a refreshing drink. Research has shown that the combo can even improve your workout.
  • Find a fruity favorite. Add your favorite berries, citrus, or any combination of fruits to a glass or water bottle. When you pour in the water, it will become infused with the natural flavors of the fruit. Another option is to purchase a water bottle with an infuser insert. You can easily place the fruit in the insert without worrying the seeds will get in the way of drinking.

A Word From Verywell

The goal is to drink plenty of water throughout the day for optimal health and fitness. Plain carbonated or mineral waters can be enjoyed as a healthy alternative to other carbonated drinks, like soda. To ensure that your bubbly drink really is a healthier choice, be sure to read ingredient labels to avoid unwanted additives or calories.

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Article Sources
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