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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle

When Water is Not Just Water

Water makes up about 50-70% of our body weight, aids in digestion, is needed to carry nutrients and oxygen around our bodies, helps remove wastes, cushions and protects organs, tissues, and bones, and regulates body temperature.

Bonus, water is:

  • calorie free (no sugar, no carbohydrates, no fat, no protein)
  • low in sodium (most water sources have small amounts of sodium naturally present)
  • a great hydrator

Water is definitely good for you!

But, is water "good" for you when water is not just water?

  • Alkaline Water is water with a pH above 7. Some products claim it helps balance body pH and counteract acidity (pH below 7) of some foods and drinks. Current research does not support these claims. Products may also be labeled as ionized water.
  • Artesian Water is from a tapped aquifer (layers of porous rock, sand, and earth that contain water). When tapped, pressure in the aquifer pushes water to the surface to be collected.
  • Coconut Water is the thin liquid of young, green coconuts (not to be confused with coconut milk) that contains about 45 calories per cup. It is a source of potassium and contains small amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
  • Coffee and Tea are water-based drinks brewed or steeped in coffee beans or tea leaves. Whether hot or cold, plain coffee and tea are calorie-free, and research shows they have some health benefits. If you buy pre-bottled drinks, they most likely include sweeteners or cream, which add calories, fat, sugar, and carbohydrates.
  • Designer Waters include waters with added flavorings, sweeteners (calorie-containing sweeteners and artificial sweeteners), vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, electrolytes, amino acids (such as theanine), hormones (such as melatonin), plants and herbs (such as ginseng and chamomile), and/or caffeine. These drinks may be pre-mixed or consumers mix in their own as liquid drops or powders. Drinks may contain calories.

Products may claim to decrease stress, aid in weight loss, promote more energy, help in better sleep, etc. With ingredients like added vitamins or minerals, consumers do not often get benefits unless they have a vitamin or mineral deficiency. In some drinks, the amounts of ingredients may not be enough to produce an effect. In some drinks, ingredient effects or safety have not been widely studied.  Be a savvy consumer!

  • Mineral Water is water with no fewer than 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids from a tapped source or a protected underground water source. Minerals and elements in the water cannot be added later, unlike sparkling water.
  • Purified Water is water that goes through some process (deionization, reverse osmosis, distillation, etc.), often to remove elements. Products may also be labeled "distilled" or "deionized."
  • Sparkling Water is spring water containing carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 may be added back since the amount of CO2 must be the same as the original source. Products may also be labeled as carbonated waters (soda water, seltzer, club soda, and tonic water).
  • Spring Water is from underground formations where water flows to the surface and is collected at the spring. A tap to the underground formation may also be used to collect water. Products may be tap water with added minerals to improve taste.

Bottom Line

1. Plain water is a great beverage choice.

  • Try one of the other waters described for variety.

2. If you do not like the taste of plain water, consider these tips:

  • Drink plain water with ice. Some people like very cold water or the feeling of ice cubes in their water.
  • Run your water through a filter. Maybe the taste of your local water source is not to your liking. A filter may help with that.
  • Mix in pieces of fruit or herbs. What you might be wanting a sweeter taste.

3. Go for calorie-free options.

  • If you drink flavored bottled waters or mix in the flavoring liquid drops or powders, go for calorie-free options. Do not drink your calories!
  • Check nutrition labels. Even if the label says a serving is only 50 calories, how many servings are in the entire bottle? And how many a day do you drink?  (Hint: Usually at least 2 servings.)

Reference: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Is Coconut Water a Good Choice for a Sports Drink?, N/D
Reference: Clemson Cooperative Extension, Know the Facts About Bottled Water, Janis Hunter & Katherine Cason, 2012.
Reference: Food and Drug Administration, Bottled Water Everywhere: Keeping it Safe, 2013.
Reference: United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27
Reference: University of Kentucky Extension, Bottled Water Basics: Questions and Answers for Consumers, 1998.

Not a fan of drinking plain water? Add in flavor with fruits and herbs, like the Spa Water recipe below.

Spa Water (serves 8, serving size 1 cup)

Water gets some calorie-free flavor in this recipe. For a variation, try other foods (such as melon, lemon, or lime) and herbs (such as basil or lavender.)

1 pitcher of cool water (about 8 cups)
1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1. Fill pitcher with water.
2. Wash cucumber and mint. Stir into water pitcher.
3. Keep in refrigerator.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 0 calories

WEB HIGHLIGHT: Bust some myths about water from University of Florida Extension.


Your fluid needs vary based on your age, gender, health status (sickness, vomiting, diarrhea), hydration status (starting over- or under-hydrated), water losses (sweat, high heat), and other factors.

  • The old adage to drink "8 cups of water a day" is too general. For a guide to water intake, see the link from the WEB HIGHLIGHT.
  • An easy test of current hydration is your urine color. This infographic from the Cleveland Clinic breaks down your hydration status.

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