Water used to be simple. Vital and natural, like the air we breathe. Our choices were from the tap or a bottle, bubbles or not. As something that always just was, water seems an unlikely product to have become a hot trend. Yet it has exploded into a multi billion-dollar industry over the past three decades.
Obviously, water is good for us — after all, we can’t survive without it. But in recent years, we’ve seen a wave of water products marketed as enhanced or more beneficial than the (merely life supporting) water we’ve always consumed. And certainly, a lot of that is in response to pollution and reports of tainted water supplies. There’s no denying that clean water is best. But what about all the other claims? Is water healthier if it has added vitamins and minerals? Does sparkling water ruin teeth? Can water make me run faster? And is coconut water really water?
Some of the more exotic designer waters come from Norway, France, Fiji, and below the surface of the ocean in Hawaii. Designerin the truest sense of the word, some come packaged in artist-inspired bottles, adorned with crystals and corked champagne-style in limited-edition bottles. There is even water bottled in 23 karat gold, priced in the tens of thousands of dollars. That makes even the five dollar every-day designer waters seem quite reasonable. But what does an artistic element really mean in terms of water and our bodies?
Most of us aren’t looking for bling in our water or in its packaging. We need water to live – about 60% of our body is water. If we examine bottled water for health benefits, well, extra health benefits, then we need to think about what is being added to bottled water. Does it create water that multi-tasks? A popular choice right now is water with added vitamins and minerals. They come in every flavor and color.
The good news is that, unless your water has been distilled, it already contains minerals from its journey through the earth where it was sourced. Those natural minerals, and minerals added when bottling, are often what give bottled waters their signature flavors. While the amounts in a bottle of water are small, they are beneficial.
So do you also benefit from adding vitamins? Actually, there isn’t much evidence to support it. The vitamins added to bottled waters are rarely vitamins that people actually need. And most of us get what we need from our diets. Many drinks don’t contain enough to be beneficial anyway, while others have up to three times the recommended amount. But most important to note is that the biggest problem with vitamin waters, is that they tend to be very high in sugar. One popular brand contains nearly as much sugar and nearly as many calories as a typical soda pop. While vitamins in water sound like a great idea, you’re better off getting yours from their natural food sources.
Ok, sparkling water is bubbly because it’s water that is infused with carbon dioxide gas. Mix water with carbon dioxide gas and you get a slightly acidic beverage. And that’s why some think it damages tooth enamel and lowers bone mineral density. But that hasn’t stopped sparkling water from becoming insanely popular recently with new brands constantly vying for market share. In fact, studies have shown it is only slightly more damaging to teeth than water and has no effect on bone mineral density. With no sugar or artificial sweeteners, and no calories, sparkling water is a good choice if you need the extra sparkle to enjoy water.
Some newer designer waters in the fitness arena are hydrogen infused, alkaline, and extra oxygenated water, all supposed to increase energy, and bring other performance benefits. There is no doubt that all will hydrate you, but evidence of other benefits seems inconclusive so far. Electrolytes in water, on the other hand, have a proven history of helping to prevent dehydration and replenish what your body loses through sweat. An electrolyte-enhanced water might be a good choice if you’re likely to sweat a lot or overheat.
Sorry, not technically “water”. But it certainly is good. Some athletes recommend coconut water instead of sports drinks when working out. It has natural sugar for energy, and electrolytes. Also more potassium and fewer calories than sports drinks. And it’s all natural. So, while coconut water isn’t actually water, any more than nut milk is actually milk, it is a very good, natural alternative to sports drinks.