Best Water to Stay Hydrated
Each summer, hydration is a buzzword that you cannot escape. All health diets, public service announcements, online health magazines advocate for more water consumption, but few deal with the type of water you should be drinking. So, what is the best water to drink when there are so many variants to choose from – bottled, carbonated, tap, filtered or even more exotic options like coconut water?
In our quest to find the best water to drink, we are going to analyse the different options available to consumers and the pros and cons of each. We will start with the most obvious choice many of us make – bottled water.
Crowned as the best-selling soft drink in the world, bottled water is a convenient choice for everyone. Bottled water is everywhere, it can be sparkling, semi-sparkling, flat or flavoured. It comes in many sizes and servings, and has the great advantage of portability. But just because it’s convenient, is it also the best water to drink?
Bottled water’s best selling points are its freshness (we’re all too familiar with the pristine mountain springs and idyllic nature sceneries depicted on water packaging) and healthiness; however, advertising used to promote bottled water may not always reflect the truth.
As far as freshness is concerned, bottled water cannot be considered fresh by its very nature. Bottled water is, after all, water stored in a plastic recipient – that may or may not be BPA-free or even harmless – and it is stored on the shelves of supermarkets for weeks or even months on end.
While there is also a risk of chemicals leeching into the water from the plastic bottle water is stored in, if storage conditions are not optimal (e.g. exposure to sun, stored in a hot environment, etc.), the risk of bacteria and other chemicals being present in bottled water is also a possibility, especially that the bottled water industry may not always be held to the high safety standards applicable for tap water. Moreover, bottled water recalls due to E. coli or other pathogenic bacteria are not unheard of either.
Sometimes, contrary to the pristine springs featured on the packaging, bottled water may be just glorified tap water, that is, filtered water at 500-1000 times the cost of filtered water you could get from the tap.
Another problem with bottled water is the fact that it’s a huge burden on the environment and its packaging comes with a hefty carbon footprint.
In the light of the above, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of bottled water.
- Convenient, always at your fingertips;
- Available in many flavours;
- Available in many sizes;
- Consumers prefer it for its taste.
- Not always as fresh or healthy as marketed;
- High carbon footprint;
- Plastic may leech if water is not stored in proper conditions;
- Generates high volumes of plastic waste, danger to the environment.
Conclusion: Bottled water is neither the healthiest, nor the cheapest way to get hydrated, although it is one of the most convenient ways to get some liquid into your system. Therefore, bottled water is not the best water to drink.
Depending on which country you live in, tap water can be a reliable or an unreliable source of drinking water. In the United Kingdom, tap water is submitted to millions of tests all year long to ensure that the municipal water that reaches the house of consumers is fit for consumption.
Therefore, water is tested against a multitude of parameters to ensure that there are no pathogenic bacteria, chemical contaminants or other contaminants that can be a source of danger to public health.
One criticism that tap water often gets is its off taste, which is most often due to the chemical disinfectants needed to sanitise water. Chlorine and chloramine are the most commonly used chemical disinfectants that can confer tap water a peculiar taste and odour.
Beyond taste and odour problems, long-term exposure to chemical disinfectants is not without its risks, and it is especially dangerous to people suffering from skin diseases such as eczemas and psoriasis.
In regions with fluoridation, exposure to this toxic chemical, despite the fact that its purported benefits to dental health are yet to be backed by solid scientific evidence, is also a potential health risk.
Another issue that is specific to the United Kingdom is hard water, which although not unhealthy per se, can wreak havoc in kitchen equipment because of lime-scale deposits.
However, despite all these critiques tap water receives, water providers do make sure that chemical disinfectants are at safe levels and that the water that reaches your home is fit for drinking, cooking and other household purposes. Tap water is also extremely convenient and very economical. Through filtration, all the potential problems listed above (bad taste and odour, chemical contaminants) can be eliminated.
Before we get to our next source of hydration, let’s see the pros and cons of tap water:
- Convenient (turn on the tap, and voila! unlimited source of drinking water);
- Strict regulations and rigorous testing ensures its safety;
- Eco-friendly option.
- Taste and odour issues;
- Potential health issues because of chemical disinfectants.
Conclusion: While tap water is not without its issues, there aren’t any issues that couldn’t be solved by filtration. So, while on its own tap water may not be the best water to drink, it’s certainly the least likely to harm the environment.
Filtered water is obtained by submitting a water source – tap water, spring water, etc. – through a process called filtration. When filtered, water passes through a filter bed – reverse osmosis, carbon, ceramics, etc. – which traps contaminants and allows water molecules and healthy minerals to pass through.
Filters can be installed at a single point of use (e.g. kitchen) or they can be installed before water’s point of entry in your home, in which case your home’s entire water supply gets filtered.
Filtration is an inexpensive, environmentally friendly process that uses a natural filter media to get rid of bad tastes and odours, pathogenic bacteria, chemical contaminants, suspended solids, fluoride, and other harmful substances that may get into your tap water while in transit to your home (e.g. rust, heavy metals, sand, etc.). The advantage of filtration compared to chemical disinfection is that through filtration nothing is added to your tap water.
Filtration is an environmentally friendly and more affordable alternative compared to bottled water. Besides the initial investment costs (the price of the filter itself, and depending on its type, the price of installation), the costs of periodic filter replacement, and the costs of the tap water being consumed, there are no other costs associated with the production of filtered water. Compared to bottled water, filtered water is a more affordable option.
Beyond chemical contaminants, some water filters can also tackle hard water issues as well, which is a further advantage of water filters.
Water filters also allow you to be in control of the type of water you want to have in your home – you can choose the level of filtration you need, and you can customize the type of water you get at your kitchen tap, bath or shower.
Some water filters are so efficient that they can also be used to filter water sourced from lakes, rivers, ponds or even rainwater, which makes them an excellent ally in emergency situations.
As a summary, here are the pros and cons of filtered water:
- Affordable and convenient;
- Removes a wide range of contaminants;
- Natural, chemical free water cleaning process;
- Improves taste and odour issues;
- Environmentally friendly.
- Water filters need maintenance (periodical filter replacements);
- Installation of some types of filters can be more difficult.
Conclusion: Although not as affordable as tap water alone, filtered water is significantly cheaper than bottled water. Filtered water also eliminates the problems raised with regard to tap water, but also solves the environmental issues posed by bottled water. Therefore, filtered water is a strong contender to be become the best water to drink.
Whether it’s store bought or produced by your own water dispenser, sparkling water is deemed as a less healthy option to still water. Some opponents of carbonated water argue that drinking sparkling water can leech calcium from the bones, which in turn can lead to osteoporosis, or that sparkling water can cause stomach issues or damage your teeth.
While all these concerns hold true for sugary drinks like Coke or Pepsi, studies suggest that these concerns may be unfounded when it comes to drinking regular sparkling water. While sparkling water is slightly more acidic than still water, it cannot be compared to the acidity of sugary drinks.
Sparkling water does not cause stomach problems, but it can make you more bloated. So, if you’re suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), you may have to be careful when drinking carbonated water as it can cause flare-ups.
In otherwise healthy people, studies found that consuming small amounts of sparkling water helped with digestion.
Because sparkling water may give you a false sensation of fullness caused by bloating and gas, it’s best to avoid it during workouts since it can cause you to drink less water, and run the risk of dehydration.
Therefore, the are some precautions when it comes to sparkling water, but it’s no less healthy than still water.
Pros and cons of sparkling water:
- It’s a good alternative for those who don’t like the taste of still water;
- In small amounts, it can help with digestion;
- It can help the transition from fizzy sugary drinks to regular water.
- If it’s bottled, then it comes with the same cons as bottled water;
- Can give you a sensation of fullness due to bloating.
Conclusion: Sparkling water may ease the transition process for those who want to switch from sugary fizzy drinks to regular water, but if it’s bottled, the same disadvantages apply as in the case of bottled still water (overpriced, environmentally unfriendly, etc.).
Coconut water is labelled as a “super hydrating” drink that is “packed with nutrients”, and some claim that its health benefits may surpass the health benefits of water.
Coconut water is deemed as a good alternative to sports drinks due to its high potassium content and low sodium and caloric content. But can coconut water be the best water to drink? Can it possibly be better than regular water?
Although its high potassium content comes with benefits for the heart, brain and nerves, coconut water is not the only source of potassium. Many other fruits or vegetables can supply you with the potassium your body needs.
Another problem with coconut water is that even though it’s low in calories, it still has calories that can add up nicely during an entire day.
Beyond the disadvantages associated with bottled water, commercially sold coconut waters may contain added sugars and flavours, which are downright a risk to your health. While 100% raw and organic coconut waters do exist, they can be pricey to the average budget.
- Labelled as Mother Nature’s sports drink due to its benefits over regular sports drinks;
- High in potassium and low in sodium.
- Can contain added sugars and flavourings;
- All the cons associated with bottled water.
Conclusion: Coconut can be a healthy drink to complement your main source of hydration, but it’s not recommended as a primary source of hydration.
This two-ingredient drink has taken by storm the health community, and it’s a celebrities’ favourite. Simply squeeze a fresh lemon and mix it with water, and you’ve got yourself some lemon water.
It seems that lemon water is a cure for everything – wrinkles, anxiety, weight issues, etc. Does lemon water live up to the hype? Should you be drinking it instead of regular water?
Just like coconut water, lemon water is not without its disadvantages, but first let’s see what are the purported benefits of lemon water:
- Contains Vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron – all essential to a healthy diet;
- Consumed in the morning is a good way to rehydrate compared to other morning beverages, which may act as diuretics (e.g. coffee, tea);
- Consumed without sugar, it’s a superior choice compared to orange juices or coffee.
But lemon water is not without its disadvantages:
- The acid in lemon can cause tooth enamel erosion;
- Can cause heartburn for some individuals;
- Too much lemon in your water can have a diuretic effect.
Conclusion: Lemon water can be a good option to add some variety to the water you’re consuming every day, but we don’t recommend drinking it as a substitute to regular water.
Detox water may sound like another health fad, but in fact it’s a simple (and delicious!) infusion of fresh herbs, fruits, and/or vegetables that does indeed come with many health benefits. Depending on the ingredients that you add to the infusion, detox waters or fitness waters can help with stress, indigestion, they can boost your immune system, and add essential vitamins to your diet.
Home-made detox waters don’t contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, food colourings or artificial flavours, so they are a healthy choice compared to commercially available ones, which may contain all of these.
There aren’t any disadvantages to home-made detox waters. If you’re prone to bloating from certain combinations of fruits or herbs, or vegetables and herbs, makes sure to avoid those combinations and find recipes that work best for you.
Prepared with filtered water, detox waters are a good way to add some fruits or vegetables to your diet, and avoid sugary drinks in favour of healthier liquids.
Wrap-up: Which water should you be drinking?
And now for the grand conclusion:
All waters discussed in this article have their advantages and disadvantages, but filtered water does take the lead in all categories – affordability, healthiness, convenience, and eco-friendliness. Therefore, we strongly believe that filtered water is the best water you should be drinking. Of course, it could be boring to drink plain filtered water at all times, so add a splash of lemon to your water from time to time, and come up with your own detox water fruit cocktail to jazz up your filtered water.