Is Flavored Water Good For You?

Two ice water glasses with lemons and yellow straws.

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Trying to increase your water intake but having a hard time drinking plain water? You're in luck. There are plenty of flavored waters on the market to help spruce up your H2O.

From carbonated waters with artificial flavorings to filtered water with natural fruit extracts, there are flavors to fit every palate. If you're not sure where to start, read on to learn which water may be the best option for you.

What is Flavored Water?

Simply put, flavored water is taking water in its purest form and adding natural or synthetic ingredients to enhance the taste.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water produced in the United States, holding manufacturers to strict standards of identity, quality, and good manufacturing practices. If any manufacturer is producing a flavored water product with "water" in the title, it too is held to the same FDA guidelines as bottled water to ensure transparency.

Flavored water encompasses a wide range of products, including sparkling water, zero- or low-calorie waters, and fortified beverages. Some products contain natural or artificial flavorings, sugar or artificial sweeteners, and added nutrients such as vitamins or caffeine. While choosing flavored water over a high-calorie, sugar-containing beverage is generally a better choice, flavored water with added artificial ingredients may not always be the best option for your health goals.

Natural Versus Synthetic Flavorings

The flavor in water can come from natural or synthetic flavorings. "Natural" usually means the ingredient listed is sourced from nature, whereas "synthetic" tends to mean something is made in a lab. Typically, "lab-made" is negatively associated with processed foods and sugary beverages. However, when it comes to flavored waters, this isn't necessarily the case.

According to registered dietitian Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, choosing natural versus synthetically-flavored water often comes down to personal preference.

"Synthetic doesn't always mean 'bad,' and terms like this should not scare people," Manaker said. "Naturally flavored waters will contain ingredients like fruit extract while synthetically flavored waters may contain a human-made ingredient like a fruit extract that helps the water taste a certain way."

That said, the term "natural" has no formal definition by the FDA. Although there has been a request for comments from the public to help establish a formal definition for use of this term in the food industry, nothing official has surfaced yet. However, the FDA does have a general policy that allows the use of the term "natural" if "nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) have been included in, or have been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food."

Sweeteners Used as Flavorings

Fruit or vegetable flavorings are a great way to add flavor but omit sugar and chemical sweeteners and added calories.

Flavored waters with artificial sweeteners (like sucralose or aspartame) or natural sweeteners (like stevia and monk fruit) are both generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA and permitted for use in food and beverage products. However, the science covering the current body of research raises questions as to the long-term effects that consuming non-nutritive sweeteners will have on metabolism and the microbiome of individuals. For instance, researchers are still evaluating the role artificial sweetener consumption has on the development of disease states such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Since there are still many grey areas as far as the long-term effects on the body of consuming artificially sweetened beverages, it's recommended to avoid flavored waters that contain these ingredients and opt for water naturally infused with fruit and fruit extracts. You may also consider incorporating a naturally sweetened beverage made from a plant-derived sugar substitute like stevia but be aware that it has a slight taste difference for many individuals who are more familiar with an artificially derived sugar substitute.

Flavored waters may also be sweetened with added sugar sources, such as cane sugar and maple syrup. While these two sugars are technically derived from natural sources, it's important to remember the latest 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend to continue to limit added sugar consumption to no more than 10% of one's daily caloric needs.

If consuming water flavored with a small amount of added sugar helps you drink more water, then feel free to do so on occasion and work your way slowly into incorporating other natural sugar sources that don't contain added sugar, such as seasonal fruits.

Which Flavored Water Is Right For You?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hydrating your body, but you do need to hydrate regularly. Even moderate dehydration can impact the way you feel and how your body functions. For instance, dehydration can lead to fainting and lightheadedness as well as more severe symptoms such as tachycardia, stroke, and/or rapid breathing.

Considering your own health goals and taste preferences can help guide you in making the water choice that works best for you. Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES agrees, noting, "Drinking more water, regardless of type, is crucial in improving energy levels, reducing the risk of constipation and bloat, and even improving the look and feel of your skin."

She shares that, "While the amount of flavoring added to water is typically too small to provide significant nutritional value, flavored water can be a benefit in situations where people will consume more water because they prefer the taste with the flavoring added."

Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES

While the amount of flavoring added to water is typically too small to provide significant nutritional value, flavored water can be a benefit in situations where people will consume more water because they prefer the taste with the flavoring added.

— Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES

Natural Flavoring Ideas

Looking to save money and flavor your own water? Consider playing around with seasonal produce and herbs to give a natural enhancement to your H2O. Simply add the following fresh combinations to your water. You can leave the fruit, veggies, and herbs whole, or muddle and chop them to increase the flavor.

  • Strawberry + Basil
  • Blueberry + Cucumber
  • Mango + Jalapeno
  • Pineapple + Cilantro
  • Peach + Basil
  • Raspberry + Lemon

A Word From Verywell

Hydration is crucial for maintaining optimal body functioning. Whether you prefer the taste of natural fruit or vegetable in your water or opt for a synthetic flavoring without added sugar, the most important takeaway is that you are drinking enough water.

Focus on providing your body with adequate fluids throughout the day, and rest easy knowing you can choose what works (and tastes) best for you.

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7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA Regulates the Safety of Bottled Water Beverages Including Flavored Water and Nutrient-Added Water Beverages. Updated September 9, 2018.

  3. United States Food and Drug Administration. Use of the Term Natural in Food Labeling. Updated on October 22, 2018. Available at https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/use-term-natural-food-labeling.

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  6. USDA. 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Updated December 2002. Available at https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf.

  7. Medline Plus. Dehydration. Updated on October 1, 2020. Available at https://medlineplus.gov/dehydration.html.