Water Wellness

Flavored and carbonated waters can be refreshing but watch out for additives.

by Polly Campbell

July / August 2016

Each morning Andrea Mather starts her day with an eight-ounce glass of cold spring water.

“In the morning it’s just an automatic reaction. My body craves it and I can feel how much I need it and how much my body benefits,” says Mather, 49, a co-active creativity coach from Denver, Colorado.

Mather says she feels best when she drinks about 72 ounces of water each day out of glass mason jars. She adds lemon, honey and ginger when she isn’t feeling well; in the summer she’ll throw in mint from the garden. Mather also mixes batches of iced tea like herbal chai and Moroccan mint.

Do-it-yourself flavored waters are a naturally healthy way of staying hydrated, says Janet Brill, PhD, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant in Philadelphia.
Bottled flavored and carbonated waters also entice those who wouldn’t otherwise drink enough fluid. More than 10 billion gallons of bottled water are sold each year and the average American drinks over 32 gallons of it annually, according to the International Bottled Water Association. But not every bottled water is good for you. Some are filled with sodium, sweeteners like aspartame and other chemicals, making them more like soda pop than H2O, Brill says. “There is a lot of false advertising,” she warns. “You really must read labels even for your water bottles.” She suggests you look for “zero-calorie fluids” with nothing added.

Bottled mineral water is a bubbly option. It comes straight from the spring, naturally carbonated by the earth’s salts and mineral compounds. Seltzer or sparkling water is carbonated, too. It looks like mineral water, but the bubbles come from carbon dioxide injected into spring or tap water.

Unflavored seltzer is good for those who want bubbles without sugar, sodium or added artificial flavors, Brill says, but watch out before filling up on club soda or tonic water. The first often has ingredients like sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and potassium sulfate, according to the label on Schweppes Club Soda.

Carbonated water could also cause bloating; exercise caution if you have irritable bowel syndrome.

And that tonic water you’ve been mixing in your drink? “Tonic is bitter but it has about the same amount of sugar as soda,” says Drew Landenburger, who is awaiting certification as a nutritionist in West Virginia. In addition to high-fructose corn syrup, ingredients may include citric acid, sodium benzoate and small doses of quinine, approved by the FDA to treat malaria. (Tonic water was originally used to fend off this tropical disease.)

Most of the time Brill drinks water straight from the tap. Landenburger doesn’t want the chlorine or fluoride in some municipal water supplies, but says well or spring water, which comes straight out of the earth, is usually good to drink. (Countertop water distillers can remove many impurities.)

Both Brill and Landenburger agree that if you are eating a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, and drinking other liquids, you are probably getting enough fluids.

Landenburger says one rule of thumb is to divide your body weight in half and drink that amount of water in ounces. By that measure, 150-pound person should get about 75 ounces of water daily.

Coffee, herbal tea and fruit smoothies can be a good source for some of that liquid and are often packed with other antioxidants and nutrients, Brill says. But Landenburger notes that caffeinated beverages can have diuretic effects, so drinking too much may cause you to excrete more water than you take in.

If you prefer flavored water, both experts recommend infusing your own with fruits or vegetables. “Squeeze your own lemon right into your water. It’s cheaper and healthier because you’ll get a good dose of vitamin C and you are able to control exactly what is going into your water and your body,” Brill says. Landenburger adds that mixing your water with a squeeze of lemon can also help balance the body’s pH, the levels of acidity and alkalinity in the blood.

Brill suggests adding chunks of watermelon, oranges or other fresh fruits. Landenburger likes a strawberry-and-basil infusion.

Mather says one of the smartest health decisions she’s made for her family was to have jugs of spring water delivered to her house each month; with the chemical breakdown provided by the company, she knows exactly what is in her water and where it is coming from.

“I wanted good clean water with all the minerals that came from the spring, all that life force, so we decided to get the spring water,” she says. “Now we miss it when we are out.”

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