If drinking seltzer is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I can attribute a lot of my productivity to seltzer, if I’m being honest. It’s gotten me through many long nights of work, a few cleanses, and reliably adds a zing to the day. It’s what I turn to when I need a little something extra and it delivers every time. The flurry of effervescent bubbles followed by a quick, satisfying after bite is far more appealing than drinking yet another glass of its flat counterpart, especially when that first sip tickles your nose from the inside. Ahhh.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. U.S. sparkling water sales have increased 42 percent in the last five years, and are increasingly taking market share from soft drinks. As soda drinkers shift away from sugary and even artificially sweetened beverages, little else is left, and let’s be real—drinking real water and nothing else sounds like it would be near impossible.
A beverage that provides as much guilt-free enjoyment as sparkling water surely must have some downside. There are just a handful of studies examining sparkling water specifically, so I spoke to a couple of mbg’s experts to get their take.
How hydrating is seltzer, really?
Dr. Taz Bhatia, integrative health expert, and Dr. Will Cole, functional medicine expert, weighed in. They both agreed that it’s just as hydrating as regular water—the only difference is that carbon dioxide is added to the water for the effervescent effect. The research studies here are few and far between, but I’m convinced that seltzer isn’t as hydrating as regular water.
So, why do I feel less hydrated than when drinking regular water?
Dr. Cole suggested it may be because you will be consuming less water overall, as the carbonation makes it difficult to drink more. Similarly, Dr. Bhatia said that the sodium and gas may leave you wanting more water. Makes sense.
Do bubbles make you bloated?
Both doctors agreed that sparkling water will make you feel bloated, so avoid it if you’re already feeling gassy. In fact, a small Japanese study from 2012 confirms that sparkling water increased satiety temporarily in people who drank it after fasting and before eating anything.
That said, it’s also been shown to help relieve constipation.
Does sparkling water hurt your teeth?
Last year’s Atlantic article sent seltzer lovers into a fizzy tizzy. The real answer is more complicated. Yes and no. "The process of carbonation creates carbonic acid, which over time can wear at the enamel on your teeth. Plain seltzer or sparkling water has a pretty neutral pH in compared to plain water," said Dr. Cole. That’s the good news.
The bad news? When you add flavors that increase seltzer’s pH, especially anything citrus, you run the risk of wearing through your enamel. But with some vigilance, even the lemon seltzer lovers among us will be safe. "As long as you don't drink these in excess or always in place of plain water the effects on your teeth will be very minimal," said Dr. Cole. Phew.
It’s worth noting that many other drinks are more acidic than plain seltzer water, including plain orange juice, and that the longer you hold or swish seltzer around in your mouth, the more eroding it will be.
Are the different types (club soda, seltzer, sparkling mineral water) any different in terms of health?
Yes, ever so slightly. Plain seltzer is simply water with added carbonation. Sparkling mineral water either has added minerals and carbonation or starts with a mineralized base, which is then carbonated. And finally, club soda has extra minerals added to it: usually potassium sulfate or sodium bicarbonate.
Dr. Cole and Dr. Bhatia agreed that these are all equally hydrating with slight variation among brands and sodium levels.
What is the best brand or type to drink? And in what vessel?
Dr. Bhatia advises picking the brand with the least additives, including sugar and artificial sweeteners. Dr. Cole agrees and adds that the source of the water is just as important as the vessel. If you must have a flavored sparkling beverage, opt for natural fruit essences. He prefers sparkling mineral waters like San Pellegrino, "because it contains naturally occurring minerals that are beneficial for your health."
It’s best to drink carbonated water from glass, as it contains the fewest endocrine disrupters.
Bonus: What can you do with sparkling water that's gone flat?
Water plants? According to Christopher Satch, plant scientist at The Sill, it's okay to water plants with seltzer once in a while. He said, "Interestingly, the carbon dioxide reacts with the water to form carbonic acid, which is chemically a semi-weak acid. Although many plants like slightly acidic soil, the strength of the carbonic acid combined with the small volume of soil in relation to the volume of carbonic acid that would likely be used would acidify the soil a little too much. Another factor, the carbonic acid's stability, makes it less acidic—carbonic acid reverts to carbon dioxide and water when the pressure is released (when you open the bottle), and this causes the bubbling that can be seen. However, the amount used would still be a little too much. Once in a while, or if in a pinch, I don't see too much of a detriment, but all the time would be too much to use seltzer to water plants."
All in all, we see this as good news for sparkling water lovers. The take-aways? Read your labels, swallow quickly or use a straw, consider the source of the water, and drink out of glass bottles.