Is seltzer water as healthy as plain water?

I drink a lot of unsweetened seltzer water. Does it have the same health benefits as drinking plain water?

There is still water and then there is what my 4 year old calls “spicy water”, better known as seltzer water or sparkling water. Crunchy, sparkling and effervescent, sparkling water has become a daily ritual for many and a growing segment of the beverage industry, with annual sales now exceeding $ 4 billion in the USA.

For those in the mood, sparkling water offers a sensory experience that plain water can’t: there’s the satisfying snap when you pull the tab on the can. The crackling sound when you unscrew the bottle cap to serve yourself a drink. The tingling sensation when the drink hits your tongue, sometimes with a hint of “natural” flavor.

Still water is great for hydration, “but you’d be surprised how many people don’t like the taste and don’t want to drink it,” said Anne Linge, registered dietitian-nutritionist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Adding carbonation can make it more acceptable. “

More acceptable, perhaps, but also just as healthy?

Nutritionists agree that sparkling water (a category that includes seltzer water, which is artificially carbonated and naturally sparkling water) is just as hydrating as regular water, but tap water has the added benefit of fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.

“If you use fluoridated water for brushing your teeth, cooking and part of your hydration, you can also include soda water in your diet,” Ms. Linge said.

But keep in mind that carbonated water is more acidic in our mouths than plain water.

Sparkling water contains carbon dioxide, which is converted to carbonic acid when it mixes with saliva, lowering the pH of your mouth. The pH scale indicates whether a solution is more acidic (lower pH) or alkaline (higher pH). Drinks with a lower pH can be erosive to the teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities; however, unsweetened carbonated water is not as erosive as soda or fruit juice, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Some brands of sparkling water contain ingredients like citric acid for flavor, which can increase the level of acidity. Adding your own lemon or lime slices would have a similar effect. And because the list of ingredients often says “natural flavor”, It’s hard to know exactly what was added.

Even so, “it would take a lot of consumption throughout the day to have adverse effects similar to those we see with fruit juices or sodas,” said Dr. Brittany Seymour, associate professor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

The bottom line: Because sparkling water always has the potential to be erosive, think of it as a once-a-day treat rather than your primary source of water, Dr Seymour said.

“If you want to have two or three sparkling waters a day, maybe pair them with a meal,” she added.

When you eat, your mouth produces extra saliva, which can help neutralize acids on the surface of your teeth.

If you prefer to drink it on its own, without food – Dr. Seymour typically drinks unsweetened seltzer water while making dinner – use a straw to help the water bypass your teeth. In general, try not to sip it for more than an hour. Drinking sparkling water for a long time prolongs the time that your teeth are exposed to acidity.

If you like sparkling water and like to drink it several times a day, without a meal, consider brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste afterwards to prevent tooth decay. Just make sure you wait at least 30 minutes after your last drink, Dr Seymour said.

Why? The acidity of sparkling water softens your tooth enamel. Taking a break gives your enamel a chance to remineralize and return to its normal hardened state, which is the perfect surface for brushing as it tolerates abrasives better, she added.

If you have kids who also like to indulge in sparkling water, “I would say that in general it’s okay,” said Dr. Seymour. But, she added, “I wouldn’t do it every day with my daughter.” Ideally, parents should encourage their children to drink plain, fluoridated water to protect themselves from cavities, she said, and reserve the sparkling water for special occasions.

Carbonated drinks can also contribute to gas and bloating, but the degree varies from person to person.

“When you swallow carbonation it has to come out somewhere, so you either throw it out or it’s gone through gas,” said Courtney Schuchmann, a registered dietitian at the University of Chicago Medicine and a specialist in gastrointestinal health. “If you are someone who already has gas and bloating problems, this can cause more symptoms for you.”

Carbonation can also make acid reflux worse and have a “filling effect,” which can decrease your appetite by creating distension in your belly, she added.

Whatever type of water you prefer, try to drink about half of your body weight in ounces each day, most of which is still water, Ms. Schuchmann said. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink around 75 ounces of water to stay hydrated.

Something else to keep in mind: a lot of people assume that club soda and seltzer water are interchangeable, but club soda usually contains sodium.

“For someone who is monitoring their blood pressure, this is something to consider,” Ms. Schuchmann said. “It depends on how the rest of your diet looks and how much sodium is coming from other sources.”

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