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It May Taste Great, but Is Carbonated Water Really Good for You?

Seltzer water, club soda, tonic water, flavored sparkling water and others are all forms of carbonated water. Which is the best when attempting to make a healthy selection and are there any consequences when drinking carbonated water?

Although, often considered the “healthier choice” when compared with soda, is carbonated water safe for you? The negative health impacts of both regular and diet soda are well-known and include concerns over weight gain, changes in perceived tastes, and increased risk of diseases. But when it comes to soda alternatives, is carbonated water much better? Often sold as soda water, sparkling water, seltzer or even tonic water, these choices continue to be followed by claims of bone loss, tooth decay, weight gain, and other consequential side effects. So is carbonated water healthy or not?

Types of Carbonated Water

  • Club Soda: carbonated water with sodium
  • Seltzer: carbonated water without sodium
  • Tonic Water: contains calories from sugar or sweeteners
  • Flavored Sparkling Water: often contains additives including sweeteners, caffeine, citric acid, calories, vitamins, and minerals
  • Soda Stream: unless you add to it, this is a strictly carbonated water choice

Calcium Loss in Bones

Although there is evidence that cola-based sodas are linked with lower bone mineral density, carbonated water does not appear to have the same effects. It might be that the phosphoric acid, a major component in most sodas, is to blame for the bone density loss. Phosphorus is an important mineral in bone health but if you are having more than can be balanced in your body, it could lead to bone loss. The caffeine that is also found in many diet and regular sodas is known to interfere with the absorption of calcium.

Plain carbonated water lacks caffeine and phosphorus- so calcium loss is not a factor!

Tooth Decay from Carbonated Water?

First, read the label of the carbonated beverage you are drinking- if it contains sugar, citric acid or phosphoric acid it may be harmful to your teeth. Sugars and acids found in many carbonated beverages can cause erosion of the enamel on your teeth, leading to potential tooth decay. However, simply carbonating water, through adding pressurized carbon dioxide gas to plain water, does not cause tooth decay.

Carbonated water and weight gain

Carbonated water can come in many forms, from fruit juice seltzer to flavored club soda and “exercise-enhancers”. If the form you are drinking contains added sweeteners, any excess calories that your body does not use could be stored and lead to weight gain. But basic plain carbonated water should not contain anything except water and will not result in weight gain. Some people include carbonated water in their weight management plans because it can lead to feelings of fullness/ bloating.

Healthy Choices!

Always check the ingredient list and keep a look out for additives, like sweeteners, to avoid negative consequences for your teeth, bones, and weight. Try mixing in freshly squeezed fruits (limes, lemons, oranges), vegetables (cucumber, ginger, mint), herbs, tea, or other zests to plain carbonated water to change up the flavor!

Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.

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