H2O + CO2 = ?

Water is an essential nutrient for humans, but not all water is created equal. We have several options, some

healthier than others…So let’s take a closer look at what’s available.

The rumor on the waterfront is carbonation will hurt you, but that’s a bad rap. Carbonation is merely carbon dioxide injected via bubbles into a liquid in order to give it a fizz. Humans emit carbon dioxide from their lungs every time they exhale, so it’s not the CO2 you should worry much about.

But a carbonated soda, including the diet variety, is a different matter. Sodas are typically loaded with sugars or artificial sweeteners that stay in your body after the carbon dioxide is expelled. Everyone should know by now that too much sugar and too much artificial sweetener can wreak havoc on their bodies.

But, hey, listen up. Not all carbonized waters are created equal either. Here’s what you need to know about them, especially during the holiday season when good cheer comes in a variety of ways:

Seltzer water by itself is a healthy choice. It is a carbonated water with a refreshing taste that is safely enhanced by a squeeze of real lemon or lime. But check the labels. Some bottled seltzer water contains added, processed flavors, which might be problematic.

Club soda is carbonated water that has added sodium ingredients, including table salt, sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate. The type and amount of sodium additives differ depending on the producer. If you are watching your salt intake, it’s best to say away from club soda.

Tonic water is carbonated water with added sweeteners and, perhaps, other flavors, including quinine. There’s very little difference between drinking tonic water and a typical soda. Tonic water is not the best choice for health-minded individuals because of the added sugar and empty calories.

Mineral water comes from natural springs and contains a variety of minerals, salts, and sulfur compounds. Mineral water is bottled with added carbonation to create a bubbly beverage. Research has shown mineral water to improve both hydration and performance in athletes. It’s considered a healthy, bubbly water alternative, especially with a citrus twist.

Flavored sparkling water is a carbonated beverage and may contain added natural sugars, citric acid, sodium and caffeine. It’s important to read the label on this one to avoid additives you’re trying to avoid. It is a step up from common sodas, but only if the ingredients listed on the label work out in your favor.

Some think that drinking carbonated beverages of any kind can lead to decreased bone health, tooth decay, irritable bowel syndrome and weight gain. Is there any truth to these claims?

According to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, soda drinks reduce bone mineral density compared to other more simple carbonated beverages. It appears the phosphorus ingredient in sodas binds to bone calcium and is excreted through kidneys, causing weaker bones.

Research has debunked the myth that carbonation alone increases calcium loss in bones. The healthy choice for strong bones is to avoid phosphorous sodas and drink clean, bubbly waters instead.

Research has also related tooth decay to carbonated drinks with added sugar and citric acid. We reduce our risk of tooth decay by drinking plain, carbonated water like seltzer. The carbonation process alone is not shown to increase our risk of tooth enamel erosion. But when ingredients like sugar, acids and sodium are added to carbonated waters, it’s a different story. Such additives increase the risk of tooth decay. Note: You might want to avoid club soda for this reason because of the added sodium

Another common thought: Carbonated drinks, including bubbly waters, can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS affects close to 23 percent of the population, according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Studies show carbonated waters are not the cause of IBS but can trigger a flare up on the condition in some people. If you’re sensitive to carbonated beverages and experience stomach upset, it’s a good idea to avoid them.

The idea of carbonated water causing weight gain has also been questioned. Plain bubbly water doesn’t contribute to weight gain. But some sparkling waters include artificial acids, flavors, sodium and sweeteners. Such additives in carbonated beverages contain hidden calories and can contribute to weight gain. Avoid unwanted ingredients by reading labels carefully.

As I wrote earlier, plain carbonated water is made bubbly with pressurized carbon dioxide gas. As long as the water is free of additives, it’s just as hydrating as regular water. Also, mineral water with higher calcium and bicarbonate has shown to provide better hydration during strenuous exercise, according to research. But bubbly water can increase bloating, gas, and burping, so drinking it during exercise is a personal preference. Many individuals have increased their water intake because they enjoy the fizzy texture.

Regular Water Replacement?
According to the American Council on Exercise, plain bubbly water can be subbed out for regular water any time during the day. If drinking carbonated water is your preference, feel free to imbibe. But be sure to check the label for unwanted added ingredients. If you want or need it to taste better, add fresh lemon or limes slices. Fresh or frozen berries are good additives too. And don’t forget a sprig of mint.

Lisa Burbage

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