Whether you’re trying to quit your soda habit, cut down on liquid calories, or just hydrate more, sparkling water can be a real game-changer. With refreshing bubbles and zero-calorie ‘natural flavors’ like lemon or lime, it seems like the best of both worlds.
However, if you’ve heard rumors about the potential for tooth erosion, bloating and gas from carbonation (and sometimes other added ingredients), you might wonder: Is sparkling water just as hydrating and healthy as water, or an overrated alternative?
Here, experts take sides on the great sparkling versus still water debate, and weigh in on whether or not it’s a good idea to mainly drink fizzy water.
Hailey Crean, RD
Jonathan Finegold, MD
Rhonda Kalasho, DDS
Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD
Heather Kunen, DDS
Keith-Thomas Ayoob, RD
Ben Tzeel, RD, certified strength and conditioning specialist
IS SPARKLING WATER A HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE TO STILL WATER?
Yes, drinking sparkling water is just like drinking still water. Typically, the only difference is that it’s carbonated (Though check the label: Some do have additional ingredients.)
Compared to still water, sparkling water has a very small amount of carbon dioxide introduced to the water to give it gas bubbles. As such, hydrating with sparkling water is equivalent to plain water and it’s safe. It’s extremely rare for sparkling water to cause gastrointestinal issues. In the unlikely event it causes excessive burping or gas, then stick with regular water.
Sparkling water can be fine, but keep in mind not all fizzy drinks are created equally. Added sodium can make you thirstier, while sweeteners like aspartame can cause GI distress (if you’re drinking a lot of seltzer, that is).
When it comes to hydration, one consideration to make is the volume of sparkling water you’re able to comfortably drink might be less than the amount of still water you could drink. Due to the carbonation, you might feel fuller sooner with a smaller amount of sparkling water, which could make it harder to meet your daily hydration needs.
CAN YOU REHYDRATE WITH SPARKLING WATER DURING A WORKOUT?
Yes, it can be equally hydrating provided you enjoy the bubbles. Some people tolerate the fizz well (and drink more if their water is sparkling), while others find it makes them feel gassy (which can lead to awkward or uncomfortable mid-workout burps). It’s highly individual, though, so see what you like and how you feel.
I’d recommend saving sparkling water for when you’re outside the gym and sticking with plain water as your go-to workout drink. Beyond burps, sparkling water can sometimes also cause unwanted bloating, stomach pain, heartburn and gas. Couple these symptoms with a workout, and you’re setting yourself up for a not-so-enjoyable sweat session.
IS SPARKLING WATER BAD FOR YOUR TEETH?
Sparkling water is slightly more acidic than still water, and generally the more acidic a drink is, the more corrosive it is to the enamel. However, sparkling water isn’t dangerously corrosive. As the American Dental Association points out, numerous studies show it’s fine to drink sugar-free sparkling water and it’s a great alternative to sugary sodas, which can damage your enamel and, in turn, cause cavities.
It depends on your individual genetics and lifestyle (and how much you’re consuming), so some people may notice no difference with sparkling water, while others might need to limit their intake to preserve their dental health.
Sparkling water is generally fine for your teeth, but it’s not as beneficial as non-carbonated water with fluoride added to it, which actually helps strengthen your enamel. For optimal dental health, make sure to drink some still water, too.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While experts are split on some specifics, ultimately, whether or not you’re best off with sparkling water or still water (or a combination) depends on your personal preferences and how your body responds to carbonation.
“If having sparkling water or flavored water helps you drink more water overall, then I believe it can be a part of a healthy lifestyle,” says Kostro-Miller. “It’s also a great choice if you’re trying to drink less soda, as it can give you that bubbly sensation you’re craving without the added sugar and extra calories,” she says.
Before you stock up, make sure to read the ingredient label and avoid seltzers with additives like sodium, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Instead, add your own flavor with lemon or lime juice, fresh or frozen fruit, or mint leaves, suggests Kostro-Miller.