I’ve become a fan of flavored seltzer water. With flavors like lime, pomegranate, green apple, and, yes, even eggnog (at holiday time), one can never get bored. Also, thanks to seltzer, I’ve been able to wean myself off Diet Coke to some degree. But is carbonated water really all that good? And what’s the difference, anyway, between club soda, seltzer, and tonic water?
Know Your Fizzy Waters
“Drink more water.” “Drink water instead of soda or juice.” You hear these phrases a lot, especially if you have diabetes. Regular soda and other soft drinks, along with fruit juice, contain a lot of carbohydrate and calories, which equals higher blood glucose levels and can add pounds to the scale. But sometimes, plain old water is well, a little too plain. Fizzy waters like seltzer and club soda at least provide a bit more interest. What’s the difference, though?
Seltzer water. Seltzer water is regular water to which carbon dioxide gas has been added. It usually does not contain any minerals. Seltzer water comes “plain” as well as “flavored,” usually with natural extracts that don’t add any carbs or calories. Seltzer water is sometimes called sparkling water, too.
Club soda. Often used interchangeably with seltzer, club soda is also water to which carbon dioxide gas is added. However, club soda usually contains added minerals, such as potassium bicarbonate or potassium sulfate, which add a subtle flavor, as well as some sodium.
Mineral water. If your tastes run to Perrier or San Pellegrino, you’re drinking water that contains naturally-dissolved minerals and that comes from a natural underground source. Mineral waters cost more than seltzer or club soda.
Tonic water. Tonic water is carbonated water that contains quinine, and, often, a little bit of sugar (or, more likely, high fructose corn syrup), along with citric acid and sodium benzoate. Quinine adds a bitter taste, making tonic water a great pairing with gin for, you guessed it, a gin and tonic. Tonic water, by the way, was originally used to help ward off malaria and reduce fever and inflammation. Diet tonic water contains a nonnutritive sweetener, such as aspartame or saccharin.
Healthy or Not?
Whatever your choice of carbonated waters is, they provide refreshment and flavor. But many people believe that these fizzy waters aren’t healthy, and unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet about them. So let’s try to clear up any confusion.
Carbonated waters don’t hurt your teeth. One of the myths out there is that drinking fizzy water will erode tooth enamel. This probably stems from the fact that when carbon dioxide gas is pumped into water, small amounts of carbonic acid are formed. But studies have shown that this small amount of acid doesn’t hurt your teeth. In fact, fizzy waters contain calcium and other minerals (albeit, in small amounts) that can actually buffer the carbonic acid and protect tooth enamel. On the other hand both regular and diet soda contain phosphoric acid and/or citric acid, which can be harmful to dental enamel.
Carbonated water is good for digestion. Got an upset stomach? Feeling queasy? Ate too much fatty or spicy food? Rather than reach for the antacids, try drinking a glass of seltzer. Researchers have found that people with both indigestion and constipation who drank at least 1 1/2 liters of carbonated water every day for 15–30 days had a big improvement in their symptoms compared to people who drank regular tap water.
Carbonated water may lower heart disease risk. This may sound odd, but in a study where postmenopausal women were given a carbonated mineral water to drink, after two months, these women had lower LDL (“bad”) and higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol level, as well as lower fasting glucose levels, compared to women who drank regular water. The mineral water used in this study contained bicarbonate, sodium, and chloride. It’s thought that the alkaline pH of the water affected absorption and excretion of cholesterol.
A Few Last Words About Carbonated Water
Carbonated waters do not leech calcium from bones, nor do they contribute to kidney stone formation. However, there may be people who need to limit their intake of fizzy water.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you might want to go easy on all fizzy drinks as they can make you even more bloated than you already may be. People with acid reflux should be careful about carbonated beverages, as drinking them may sometimes aggravate symptoms. Also, if you need to watch your sodium intake, go for seltzer instead of club soda. Club soda contains about 60 to 80 milligrams of sodium per serving, whereas seltzer has none.
All in all, though, carbonated waters are a great way to help you meet your fluid needs without adding carbs and calories. Cheers!