This Is the Healthiest Type of Fizzy Water, Say Doctors (and a Dentist)
Seltzer water, soda water, sparkling water, whatever you call it: is it healthy? Doctors reveal the key to watch for.
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For many Americans, cutting back on soda in favor of sparkling water has become a real trend—so much that in 2021, one market research firm called bubbly water a $30 billion industry that will expand by almost 13 percent by 2028.
If you’re a seltzer water lover, you can probably name your favorite brand right now…and in many cases, fizzy water is a way wiser pick than pop. But, if you’re really looking for the healthiest seltzer water, is there a savvy way to shop? Here, clinical experts share some key wisdom with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest for next time you’re craving an effervescent lift.
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Is seltzer water healthy?
Carbonated water is a catch-all term for any water pressurized with carbon dioxide gas. So, you may hear other terms that refer to the same basic beverage, like soda water, sparkling water, or seltzer water. But these carbonated waters are not the same as:
- Tonic water, which contains additives that give it a characteristic bitter taste (plus, often calorie-adding sweeteners or flavorings)
- Club soda, which includes added sodium but is generally calorie- and sugar-free.
What are the ingredients in a healthy seltzer water? “Carbonated water that is just carbonated water” is the best version of your favorite fizz, explains Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, Senior Dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and author of the 2022 book, Recipe for Survival.
Watch out for ingredients beyond that, such as added sugar (keeping in mind that four grams of sugar is exactly equivalent to dumping a teaspoon straight into your drink), chemicals you’d have a tough time pronouncing, and even “natural flavors.” If the maker can’t tell you exactly where the flavor came from, it’s probably not natural.
Is carbonated water healthy?
Drinking sparkling water will help you meet your daily hydration goals as much as plain water would, Hunnes says.
Still, some experts note how the carbonization process makes bubbly waters a bit more acidic than normal drinking water. In theory, this acidity could demineralize your teeth, contributing to dental cavities. But this risk is minimal, explains James E. Galati, DDS, the Incoming President of the New York State Dental Association (NYSDA): “The most recent studies suggest that even though sparkling water is slightly more acidic than ordinary water, [both types of water have] about the same effect on tooth enamel,” he says.
As for a related myth: there’s no evidence that sparkling water is going to weaken your bones, either.
The carbon dioxide in soda water could cause some bloating, gas, or heartburn, however. Yet according to research published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, these effects are temporary and carbonated beverages don’t worsen conditions like acid reflux. In general, the experts say that drinking soda water slowly, and in moderation, will help limit any potential discomfort. (Some research has even suggested that the fizz can help with digestion.)
Ditching the straw will help keep any belly bloat down, too, along with these other benefits of going strawless.
The best type of carbonated water
While there are few drawbacks to drinking soda water, Dr. Galati emphasizes the importance of reading labels. He advises to look out for sugars and other additives, as these ingredients chip away at the beverage’s status as a healthy alternative to regular water.
One workaround is to make your own carbonated water at home. First off, many do-it-yourself soda makers let you customize your carbonation levels, so you can control the water’s acidity and fizziness. Making your own also means it’s easier to avoid product additives like flavorings or dyes. And, says Hunnes, you can spruce up homemade seltzer water with a few drops of all-natural fruit juice.
Even though sparkling water is unlikely to harm your teeth, making it at home may even offer your pearly whites some extra protection. “Most tap water is fluoridated,” Hunnes explains, while store-bought bottled waters—whether sparkling or still—often don’t contain this enamel-fortifying mineral.
And unsurprisingly: after the initial investment, making your own soda water comes out much cheaper in the long-term. Hunnes says in her household, the average bottle of “homemade” soda water ends up costing her about five cents, compared to the average $5 to $6 per 12-pack of a name-brand seltzer water.
SodaStream Terra Sparkling Water Maker
SodaStream paved the way for at-home soda water appliances, and the company’s products are still among the best on the market (and some of the most affordable).
The SodaStream Terra has a low-profile design that won’t take up much counter space and, like other SodaStream models, is super intuitive to use. “Since my kids gave me my first [SodaStream] for Father’s Day years ago, I’ve completely quit buying 2-liter bottles of soda from the store, and I’ve actually reduced my intake of diet sodas by about 90 percent because I love the taste of the plain fizzy water,” writes user Dave Edminston.
DrinkMate Sparkling Water and Soda Maker
The Drinkmate from iDrink Products looks and operates similarly to the SodaStream, but it’s a good option for people who want to carbonate more than just water. While you can flavor your SodaStream water to your liking, the DrinkMate model can carbonate any drink, from juice to wine and even beer that’s gone flat. “It’s so customizable that I either add my freshly sparkling water to other beverages or just carbonate the beverage itself,” wrote reviewer Libby Abraham.
Aarke Carbonator III
At first glance, the Aarke Carbonator—a stylish carbonated water maker out of Sweden—is like the elegant cousin of its counterparts. Made of stainless steel instead of plastic, users say that the lever design is sturdier and easier to manipulate in addition to being eye-catching.
It’s also cordless, which can be handy if you already have many appliances or limited space. “Your countertop will thank you,” emphasized verified purchase reviewer Julie Boga.
You also get pretty great functionality for the price—the Aarke Carbonator is compatible with most carbon dioxide canister brands.
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- James E. Galati, DDS, the Incoming President of the New York State Dental Association (NYSDA)
- Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, Senior Dietician at UCLA Medical Center and author of the 2022 book Recipe for Survival
- JAMA Internal Medicine: “Association Between Soft Drink Consumption and Mortality in 10 European Countries.”
- Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics: “Systematic review: the effects of carbonated beverages on gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.”