Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Review
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Sparkling water can be a great choice for a beverage. It provides a refreshing alternative to sugary beverages, as it is typically low-calorie or calorie-free and it does not contain added sugars. It is an easy swap to reduce one’s intake of sugary drinks or soda. A typical can of soda has 44 grams of sugar which is equal to 11 teaspoons of sugar! American Heart Association Guidelines are to limit added sugars to 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for most women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men for an entire day. Additionally, the mouthfeel of a carbonated drink can be more interesting than plain water at times.
A question that I am frequently asked is - Does sparkling water count toward my regular water intake? The answer is - Yes! There was actually a study (1) that showed similar hydration benefits in persons of normal hydration status. My personal suggestion for someone involved in an athletic activity where you are sweating, though, is to drink non-carbonated water to hydrate. It is going to be your best pick because the fullness from carbonation could prevent you from drinking enough fluid. You could certainly still also add a squeeze of fruit juice like orange, lemon or lime for added flavor!
What are some of the top things to look for in sparkling water?
How is it flavored?
"Natural flavors" is a term used in food and beverage labeling to indicate that the product contains flavors derived from natural sources such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, or other plant or animal-based materials. These flavors are obtained through physical, enzymatic, or microbial processes and are not chemically synthesized. The Food and Drug Administration does not have a definition for what “natural” is so this does not guarantee that these flavors are organic or non-GMO derived. Products that have natural fruit juice will always be my best pick.
Please look at the actual ingredient list on the label of the beverage. You do not want artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose in your sparkling water. The label may say “sugar free” or “no sugar added” but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have artificial sweetener in it.
Some studies have raised concerns about potential negative health effects of artificial sweeteners such as an association with increased appetite, changes in gut microbiota, and metabolic responses. (2). As a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES), I have discouraged artificial sweeteners for over a decade based off of unfolding research.
Is the water they use for making the carbonated water properly filtered?
Unfortunately, water sources around the country can have unwanted chemicals of concern present including PFAS chemicals (non-stick forever chemicals). Consumer Reports has previously reported elevated PFAS levels in some carbonated waters (3).
The attention has caused many companies to pay more attention to filtration (4). Look for filtered by reverse osmosis as an optimal way to remove most chemicals of concern. This information should be available on the products website.
How is the water packaged?
Making your own sparkling seltzer water at home is always a great idea to reduce packaging with a soda machine. If you are buying sparkling seltzer water, then I would skip the plastic bottles and buy in a can with a BPA/BPS free liner.
It is important to note that sparkling waters are more acidic than plain water so keep that in mind in regard to your dental health and protecting your teeth. They are certainly much less acidic and better for you than drinking carbonated, sugar sweetened drinks! A simple way to lessen the impact on your teeth is to drink with a reusable straw and make sure you drink plain water as well during the day to balance the pH in your mouth.
Most major bottling companies have their own brand of sparkling water. Some of the best known are Bubly (Pepsico), AHA (Coca-cola), LaCroix (National Beverage Corp.) and many others. My favorite pick as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is Spindrift. Spindrift checks all the boxes. They have also always given 1% of their sales to environmental organizations as members of 1% for the Planet - a network of businesses committed to supporting a healthy natural environment. Those types of actions and commitments speak loudly as far as the type of company they are.
Unsweetened, no added sugar, Gluten-free, non-GMO, Kosher, never from concentrate
Lightly Carbonated, slightly pulpy, and with a fuller flavor than regular sparkling water, carbonated water, and seltzer water
Made with real squeezed fruit from family farms.
Current flavors: lemon, lime, pineapple, mango orange, half tea & half lemon, blood orange tangerine, grapefruit, raspberry lime, peach strawberry, mint green tea, mango black tea, nojito
You can find it at most major grocery retailers. Watch the sales! It is not uncommon for stores to run it “But One Get One Free”. EBT is also accepted.
Stay hydrated and enjoy!
Jana Davis MS,RDN, CDCES is a functional registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice.
(1) Maughan RJ, Watson P, Cordery PA, Walsh NP, Oliver SJ, Dolci A, Rodriguez-Sanchez N, Galloway SD. A randomized trial to assess the potential of different beverages to affect hydration status: development of a beverage hydration index. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):717-23. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.114769. Epub 2015 Dec 23. PMID: 26702122.
(2) Suez J, Cohen Y, Valdés-Mas R, Mor U, Dori-Bachash M, Federici S, Zmora N, Leshem A, Heinemann M, Linevsky R, Zur M, Ben-Zeev Brik R, Bukimer A, Eliyahu-Miller S, Metz A, Fischbein R, Sharov O, Malitsky S, Itkin M, Stettner N, Harmelin A, Shapiro H, Stein-Thoeringer CK, Segal E, Elinav E. Personalized microbiome-driven effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on human glucose tolerance. Cell. 2022 Sep 1;185(18):3307-3328.e19. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.07.016. Epub 2022 Aug 19. PMID: 35987213.