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All Waters Are Not Created Equal

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sparkling water being poured into three glasses

As the hot summer months approach, it is important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water—but what kind of water is the best choice? Let’s take a look at the varieties of water available to help make your hydration selection easier.

Tap water
Tap water is from the public water system and is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The U.S. public water system is considered one of the safest in the world due to regular required testing.

Purified water
This type of water can come from any source and is purified through various methods such as reverse osmosis or carbon filtration. Bottled water is often tap water that has been filtered or purified. With this in mind, running your tap water through a filtration system at home can prove to be a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternative to buying bottled water.

Distilled water
Distilled water is a specific type of purified water in which all other remaining particles have been removed. It is often the preferred water of choice for appliances as it prevents mineral buildup. However, since distilled water does not contain any minerals, it is not the optimal choice for drinking.

Spring water
In order for water to be labeled spring water, it must meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) definition of being derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface.

Mineral water
Similar to spring water, mineral water comes from a protected underground source that rises to the surface. According to the FDA, mineral water must contain at least 250 parts-per-million total dissolved solids such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sulfur and sodium. The varying amounts of minerals create a wide range of flavor profiles and some are even fizzy from its naturally occurring gases.

Alkaline water
Alkaline water is one of the newer trends in bottled water. The water is treated to have a higher pH level than typical tap or bottled waters. Normal drinking water usually has a neutral pH of 7; the pH of alkaline waters is typically raised to a level of 8 or 9. Some products claim their alkaline water helps balance and regulate the body’s pH levels but the research to support such claims is very limited. It is important to remember that our kidneys naturally keep our body pH levels stable and balanced. Additional health claims for alkaline water include slowing the aging process, improving metabolism and preventing chronic diseases. However, once again none of these claims has been supported by scientific evidence.

Electrolyte water
All waters, with the exception of distilled, contain some electrolytes, but electrolyte water products have minerals such as sodium, potassium and magnesium added to them. The amount of electrolytes added can vary by brand and create different taste profiles. Sport drinks are the most common example of electrolyte water beverages, though they usually contain added sugar in addition to minerals.

Sparkling water
Sparkling water has recently gained popularity as being a healthier alternative to soda. This type of water is created by adding carbon dioxide and includes products such as club soda, tonic water and flavored seltzers. Sparkling water is usually unsweetened, but some do have artificial sweeteners so it is always best to check the label. Some sparkling waters have phosphoric acid (phosphate) added to enhance the flavor. There has been some concern whether sparkling water has an adverse effect on bone or dental health; however, there is no solid scientific evidence to prove this.

Flavored water
This type of water is usually sweetened with either sugar or artificial sweeteners as well as natural or artificial flavorings. Checking the ingredient list will help you identify how the water is sweetened and flavored. If water is sweetened with sugar it will contain some calories. Beware of excessive added sugar, which can significantly impact the calorie count. Never assume flavored water is zero-calorie or sugar-free. Flavor can also be added naturally to the water of your choice by infusing fruit, vegetables or herbs into tap or bottled water.

So which water should you drink? From a dietitian’s perspective, the less sugar the better. However, a big part of that answer is also based on your taste preference, product availability at your local grocery store and how much you are willing to spend. As long as the water is clean and safe, the main focus is to ensure you’re drinking at least ½ oz. of water per pound of body weight for optimal mental focus and physical health.

To schedule a one-on-one consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Mary Montgomery, MS, RDN, LD, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.