A nutrition expert explains how seltzer and sparkling water measure up against still.
woman drinking tap water
Credit: Getty: elenaleonova

If you find yourself drinking several glasses of sparkling water every day, you might be concerned that's not as hydrating or healthy as other options. Of course, when compared to blended fruit mixes and sugary sodas, it's safe to say that plain seltzer and most forms of sparkling water are better for your health-but how does sparkling H20 stack up against regular still water? The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends drinking plain, unsweetened sparkling water rather than soda and other high-calorie drinks, and says that the choice could reduce obesity risks in American adults. With that said, their advice is unclear on whether sparkling water is as good a choice as regular water.

Nutrition expert Brierley Horton, MS, RD, says that sparkling water does keep you as hydrated as other kinds of water. Previous research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that thirst can be as effectively quenched by sparkling water as by regular water, coffee, and tea, and other drinks. Horton says the key is to choose a variety of seltzer or sparkling mineral water that doesn't contain added sugars or carbohydrates to avoid excess calories.

Just because seltzer and sparkling water can keep you hydrated doesn't mean that you should forego plain still water, though: "When you drink carbonated water, you'll notice that [it] can make you feel like you're more hydrated than you actually are," Horton says, referencing a 2012 study on carbonation's effects on satiety. "Both may hydrate you, but a smaller amount of carbonated water might quench your thirst before you've actually had the chance to properly hydrate. For example, I'll drink an entire 12-ounce can of sparkling water and feel very satisfied, but I'll chug the same amount of flat water and not feel as quenched." This may be because some people feel overly full and bloated when they drink carbonated beverages, causing them to drink less overall, she says. "If you happen to be a person who doesn't get enough calories, or if you're not that hungry at mealtime, don't pair carbonated waters with your meal, as there's a chance you could be eating less than what you actually need," Horton recommends.

Horton also points out that carbonated water is a bladder irritant: experts at the Johns Hopkins Women's Center for Pelvic Health say carbonation is a potential issue for those dealing with sensitive bladders, overactive bladders, or spasms and other related issues. Overall, Horton's advice is not to feel guilty about a sparkling water habit but she notes that eliminating flat water entirely is not a good idea.


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