Water, water, everywhere!
The water aisle at the grocery store has grown bigger and bigger. Now you have to make choices between natural spring water, volcanic water, sparkling mineral water, alkaline water, flavored water, ‘smart’ water, or just your basic reverse osmosis purified water. It’s mind boggling, really. Who would have thought it would be so hard to just get a healthy drink of water! Not to mention the prices—some of these bottles of water can cost a fortune! But, are they worth it?
Sure, there’s good ‘ole tap water, but depending on where you live, may not be all that healthy, (unless you have well water) and is often full of harmful chemicals like fluoride and chlorine, as well as toxic leftover medications, glyphosate, and potential pathogens. But what about bottled water?
Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of bottled water choices that appear on your grocery store shelves, so that next time you are faced with that wall of water choices, you will know just what to reach for.
“Alkaline” water has to do with its pH level. The pH level tells you how acidic or alkaline something is from 0-14, with the lower numbers being more acidic and the higher numbers alkaline.
Alkaline water is thought to neutralize the body. The pH of the human body lies in a tight range between 7.35-7.45, and any minor alterations from this range can cause severe health issues.
It is considered that disease states begin when the human body becomes too acidic, so drinking alkaline water helps to push the body back into the alkaline range.
Whether alkaline water is good for you or not has to do with how it’s made. When water is naturally alkaline, it picks up minerals from coming in contact with rocks which makes it alkaline. So you get minerals and alkalinity, naturally.
Alkaline water seems to be the big new ‘thing’. Alkaline water means that it’s pH is higher and more alkaline. Our body’s own pH generally falls around 7.4. It’s thought that diet and lifestyle factors can make our bodies more acidic, which then makes one more susceptible to disease. The selling factor of this water is if you drink alkaline water, your body will become less acidic and therefore healthier.
Natural vs Artificially Created Alkaline Water
Natural alkaline water comes from springs or wells where there is a lot of minerals. The minerals in the water are what make it more alkaline. This water can be quite healthy and contain magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium, making it not only thirst-quenching but full of electrolytes and minerals.
Artificially created alkaline water comes from a chemical process called electrolysis, which raises the pH in the water with an ionizer. When the acidic and alkaline water molecules are separated, the acidic water is removed and what remains is alkaline. Ionized alkaline water can have pH values as high as 9.5 or higher.
Bottom line: Alkaline water is good for you, but don’t believe all the health claims–they are not scientifically proven. Natural alkaline water comes from minerals which is a healthier version to drink. Use caution with artificially-made alkaline water; it usually has less beneficial minerals in it, and may also contain contaminants, depending on the source and whether the water is purified prior to the alkalization process. Drinking too much artificial alkaline water can actually minerals out of the body and be detrimental to your health.
Examples: Naturally alkaline water includes Icelandic Glacial Spring water and Rocky Mountain Spring water. Artificially ionized alkaline water includes Glaceau Alkaline Smartwater, Essentia ionized water, Talkingrain Essentials, and Alkaline 88.
Mineral water naturally contains minerals and is often a type of natural spring water. When rainwater filters down deep through rocks, it not only is purified, but it picks up minerals which are good your health. Mineral water, which contains magnesium and calcium can help lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease, and benefit bone health.
There is a wide range of quality when it comes to mineral water, based on the source. Mineral water can also come from different types of rock like bedrock, or volcanic rock—and it makes a great difference in the quality, taste and purity of the water. Some mineral waters have a higher mineral content than others, depending on where they come from.
Mineral water is usually high in essential minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and sodium. This makes mineral water an ideal source to replenish not only fluids, but vital electrolytes in the body. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that to be classified as ‘mineral water’, it must have at least 250 parts per million (ppm) of dissolved solids from its source. This includes minerals and trace elements. It is not permissible to add minerals during bottling. Gerolsteiner, a well-known mineral water has over 2,500 ppm minerals including calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, potassium, sodium, chloride, and “other minerals”.
Some mineral water has natural carbonation which is fine, if you like the extra fizziness. Carbonation comes from the CO2 in the water. For many, it’s just a matter of personal taste. Sparkling mineral water can also have the carbonation added during bottling. Mineral waters like Perrier, Pellegrino or Gerolsteiner waters are naturally carbonated.
While sparkling water may be slightly more acidic due to the reaction of carbon dioxide and H2O, it is not enough to be significant. Carbon dioxide and water react to produce carbonic acid, a weak acid that’s known to stimulate a burning, prickly sensation that can be enjoyable to some people.
Note, however, that drinking carbonated water does not actually make your body more acidic. It’s really just a matter of taste preference, “still or sparkling?” as waiters often ask.
Bottom Line: Mineral water can one of the healthiest types of water to drink. It replaces essential minerals and electrolytes and is often alkaline as well. Always check the water source on the back of the label.
Examples: Gerolsteiner, Topo Chico, Perrier, Pellegrino and Calistoga.
‘Spring’ water can be a fairly generic term and there is a huge amount of diversity for spring water, its purity and where it comes from. Spring water is water that is filtered through rocks and comes up to the surface.
Like mineral water, spring water also generally comes from an underground source and is usually bottled at the source. It contains minerals, electrolytes and other essential dissolved solids. Spring water comes to the surface, while artesian well water is similar to spring water, but it must be accessed underground by a well.
However, spring water requirements are not as tight as mineral water. While it can have minerals in it, it is not required to contain a certain amount. It’s only held to the same standards that apply to tap water, and there’s no official recognition needed to label your water “spring water”, nor does its composition need to be consistent every time. So that makes spring water ‘iffy’ as far as purity, toxins, dissolved minerals, etc.
Artesian well water is another type of similar water classification by the Food and Drug Administration. Underground water that doesn’t rise to the surface is considered artesian well water. It’s also fancy name for your basic well water that many households have. Again, a wide variation of the content of the water as far as minerals and dissolved solids go—and potential toxins in the water. It all depends on the source of the water.
A good, deep well that has a water source that has been filtered through layers of hard rock will be full of minerals and quite pure. So even well water at your home can have the potential of being as good or better than what you pay top dollar for in a store.
Author’s note: I live up in the Rocky Mountains near a small town in Colorado. We just recently had a well put in that is over 300ft. deep through solid granite and quartz. It is pure, delicious and full of healthy minerals from the rock and quartz.
Bottom Line: Because spring water and artesian well water can contain varying levels of minerals and electrolytes, this type of water can be good for your health and quench your thirst. Again, check the source and whether the water has been tested for any toxins.
Examples: Icelandic Glacial Spring Water, Mountain Valley, Evian, Acqua Panna, Ice Mountain, Rocky Mountain Spring Water, Poland Spring, JUST Water. Artesian water examples include Voss, Fiji, Whistler Glacial, Kopu, and Hawaiian Springs.
Purified Drinking Water
Purified drinking water can come from a variety of water sources; it is just purified through a process called ‘reverse osmosis’. Purified water can even be your basic tap water run through the RO process.
Reverse Osmosis works by using a high pressure pump to force the water across the semi-permeable RO membrane, removing approximately 95-99% of the dissolved salts, particles, colloids, organics, bacteria and other pathogens. It’s important to note, however that an RO system should not be relied upon to remove 100% of bacteria or viruses—especially since viruses are very small.
RO removes magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium as well, so unless those important electrolytes and minerals are added back in during the bottling process, drinking RO water on a regular basis can actually leach a small amount of minerals from the body. RO water is also slightly acidic. Prolonged consumption of reverse osmosis water can have adverse health effects such as increasing the risk of kidney disorders and gastrointestinal troubles.
Many bottled water companies using RO method will re-mineralize the water, adding back in magnesium, potassium, and salt.
Bottom Line: Bottled purified water is fine to drink, especially if it has added minerals and electrolytes, but keep in mind, it’s usually nothing fancy and can come from just your basic municipal tap water source.
Examples: Dasani, Aquafina, and Nestle Pure Life, Poland Spring water.
Distilled water is one of the purest forms of water. Water is boiled and turned into a steam then converted into water again. Once the water converts from a liquid into a gas, the heavier minerals and other solids are left behind. The water particles are condensed back into a pure, clean liquid state with nothing else in it.
Because there is nothing else in it, distilled water has a very flat taste and does not provide you with any healthy minerals or electrolytes. Distilled water is very pure, but since it does not contain minerals, it can actually pull small amounts from your body like your bones and teeth, if you drink it frequently. However, if you are eating a healthy diet, full of vitamins and minerals, drinking distilled water won’t really affect your health negatively.
Keep in mind, distilled water will have a tendency to leach chemicals or minerals from any container it is in, so if you are drinking distilled water from a plastic jug, it’s highly likely it has absorbed some of the chemicals from the plastic container.
Some bottled water companies distill their water and then replenish the minerals and electrolytes during the bottling process.
Depending on the tap water where you live, however, distilled water could be better for you than tap water which may contain chemicals, lead, mercury, pesticides and even tiny pathogens.
Distilled water works well for things like steam irons, your car’s cooling system, your fish tank, and certain medical devices like CPAP machines that can get clogged up with minerals from tap water and other types of water.
Bottom Line: Distilled water is not a great choice of water to drink, but may be better than some tap waters which can include contaminants like fluoride, chlorine and may contain other chemicals and toxic substances. Some distilled drinking water has some of the minerals and electrolytes put back in, making it healthier to drink than plain distilled water.
Examples: Glaceau Purfied Smartwater, Arrowhead Distilled Water, Nestle Distilled Water, Arrowhead Springs Distilled Water, Eldorado Distilled Water, Poland Springs, Ozarka
That’s a summary of the most popular water types. New ones come out every day—like probiotic water, antioxidant water, protein water, caffeinated water, and flavored waters. All of these may come from a variety of sources and purifying methods.
As in everything else that you put in your body—read the label and find out how your water is processed. It’s important to always check the source of your bottled water as well.
Consider too, the type of container it comes in. Since water is actually a solvent, water from plastic water bottles is probably leaching some of those not so healthy chemicals from the plastic—chemicals which can be xenoestrogens and disrupt your endocrine system. Choose glass if you can and if it’s practical.
And remember, it’s not necessary to pay top dollar for H20. Just because it comes from a fancy, far-away source, doesn’t make it better. Your tap water that comes out of your well may be just as good.