Carbonated water is a strange commodity really: essentially this is your regular run-of-the-mill water but only with added gas. It tastes like mineral water too, except that it dances on the tongue and makes a bit more noise.
But is it actually good for you? Does adding carbon make you more likely to get gas? Or does it add calories?
Is carbonated water good for you because it involves a different type of water? Or is it just a neutral option that comes entirely down to personal taste?
Let’s find out…
Before we attempt to answer the question ‘is carbonated water good for you’, let’s start by asking just what it is exactly.
Well, as the name would suggest, carbonated water is simply water that has been infused with carbon dioxide gas while subjected to pressure. The result is a bubbling drink that is also sometimes referred to as sparkling water, soda water, seltza water, fizzy water or club soda.
Very often, carbonated water will have a little bit of salt added to it, which is one reason that it might taste slightly different from still mineral water from the same brand. Many sparkling water brands will also add additional nutrients (vitamins and minerals) to their water in order to fortify it and to add additional health benefits. At the same time, this also mimics natural mineral waters.
In the case of tonic water, quinine is added, often with a sugar or a high fructose corn syrup.
In some cases, sparkling water will be billed as natural. While the carbonated effect is never natural (this is still added later), these brands (such as Perrier and San Pellegrino) have no added salt or other minerals and instead have them natural as a result of the conditions they were found.
To know if carbonated water is good for you, we need to consider what the process of carbonating actually does to it.
One thing to note then is that carbonated water is acidic. This is because carbon dioxide and water will react chemically in order to produce carbonic acid. This is a weak type of acid that stimulates certain nerve receptors in the mouth and is what gives sparkling water it’s ‘sharp’ taste. Remember how I described it as ‘dancing on the tongue’? That effect is really the tingling caused by the acid!
Now if you’ve been reading too many phony health blogs, you may now be worried that drinking carbonated water will upset your body’s natural ‘pH level’. There are plenty of diets out there based on the notion that we need to seek out certain pH values in our diet in order to keep the body neutral. But as it happens, there is absolutely no evidence suggesting this is true or even desirable. The body has countless systems in place to keep the blood at a desirable pH level – for example the kidneys and lungs will remove any excess carbon dioxide before it would have any chance to impact the blood!
For this same reason, concerns that the acid content of sparkling water might negatively impact bone health are also unfounded.
Another concern that some people have is that the acid in carbonated water might damage their teeth. After all, acid can corrode the enamel on teeth when it comes from other sources – so why not carbonated water?
Note however that carbonated water is only weakly acidic at 3-4pH and that we eat plenty of things that are more acidic. For example, studies show that it is actually 100x less damaging than a sugary drink. So, while still water might be marginally better for your teeth, the reality is that you really don’t need to worry at all. It’s the sugar that is far more damaging to enamel!
What’s more positive meanwhile, is that carbonated water may have some unique positive effects on digestion. Strangely enough, sparkling water appears to help you swallow more effectively! This is something to do with stimulation of the nerves that control swallowing.
Also interesting is that carbonated water might help you to feel slightly fuller for longer. That’s because it seems to encourage food to stay in the stomach for longer, thereby sending more signals relating to satiety to the brain. Sparkling water also appears to be effective at combating constipation and even indigestion. Some preliminary research seems to suggest potential benefits for heart health too.
So, is carbonated water good for you? It would seem so!
But while carbonated water has a few tricks up its sleeve, really the take-home from this should be to try and drink more water full stop.
Did you know that the vast majority of the Western population is chronically dehydrated? This has numerous severe and negative consequences for our health; impairing brain function, causing headaches, leading to weight gain, upsetting our digestion, causing constipation and more. Water is crucial for balancing body fluids, for helping us to flush out toxins and infections and even for providing us with energy and helping us to move our muscles.
Drink more water and you will find that you perform far better than you do when you’re dehydrated and that your mood, energy levels and overall health will benefit too. Not only that but a cold glass of water will even help you to burn calories!
What’s more, is that drinking more water and more carbonated water will hopefully encourage you to stay away from the sweet soda drinks. We’ve already seen that these cause way more damage to the teeth and that’s just the start of it. These drinks can spike blood sugar and insulin leading to hunger and eventually even poor insulin sensitivity (even the ‘sugar free’ options!). They’re also very high in calories: with many fizzy drinks containing more sugar than a cream egg!
One of the very best ways to transform your diet is to cut out the soda drinks and start drinking more water – carbonated or otherwise!