Bubbles are fun, at any age. I remember enjoying an occasional ginger ale as a child, and the bubbles tickling my nose. They always made me giggle.
Those delightful bubbles are still around in a variety of beverages, including a growing number of sparkling waters. When it comes to our health, are these as beneficial as plain water? Do they cause any harm?
Carbon dioxide gives sparkling, or carbonated, water its fizz. This can occur naturally, as in sparkling mineral water, or can be man-made, as in club soda, soda water and seltzer water. The sensation from drinking a carbonated beverage is caused by a reaction that occurs in our mouths that changes carbon dioxide bubbles into carbonic acid. The “bite” of carbonation, which is what tickled my nose, is chemical rather than physical.
In the case of sparkling mineral water, the sparkle and the minerals come from a natural source. Vital minerals found in this type of water include magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium. Because sparkling mineral water comes from various springs, the mineral content varies by brand. These mineral waters also commonly contain bicarbonate, a component found in the human body that helps maintain the proper pH of the blood, so it doesn’t become too acidic or too basic.
Among the benefits of drinking flavorless sparkling mineral water:
- Magnesium is an essential nutrient that helps regulate blood pressure, blood glucose levels and nerve function. The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 310-320 mg for adult women and 400-420 mg for adult men. Most people in the U.S. consume less than this. Magnesium helps prevent constipation and promotes digestive health. It and calcium support bone strength.
- The sparkling effect of this non-caffeinated beverage may help calm motion sickness.
- It has zero sugar.
But mineral water is not all bubbles and giggles.
The carbonic acid that shows up in your mouth when you drink anything bubbly lowers the pH of the water and makes it acidic. Consumption of acidic beverages and foods contributes to dental erosion, but the minerals may offset some of the possible damage. Drinking through a straw, eating food with your beverage and following with a plain water rinse can help minimize any negative effects.
So what to drink?
When choosing your beverage, plain water is best. If you need flavor to help you drink your daily quota (approximately half your weight in ounces), add any combination of fresh fruit, herbs, citrus or cucumbers.
Flavorless sparkling mineral water is a fairly healthy option, especially if you’re trying to break a sugary drink habit. Choose those in glass containers over plastic. Check the label for the minerals that best suit your taste and health requirements.
Keep sparkling waters containing any form of sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and artificial flavors to a minimum. Flavored carbonated waters typically contain citric acid and are harder on tooth enamel than flavorless sparkling mineral water because of an even lower pH.
Pop, whether regular or artificially sweetened, has scientifically been shown to increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions. Artificially sweetened drinks are highly addictive and have been shown to increase obesity and diabetes and slow metabolism. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is an association between soft drink intake and reduced bone density, especially with colas. Plain sparkling water appears to have a neutral or positive effect on bone health.
In conclusion, if you’d like to occasionally add some fun bubbles to your life, go with a flavorless sparkling mineral water, and enjoy the “bite.” It may even tickle your nose.
Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at inkwellcoaching.com. Opinions expressed are the writer's.