Sparkling water has become a go-to for people who want something a bit more . . . extra than plain water. Also known as carbonated water or club soda, sparkling water is essentially water combined with carbon dioxide gas that has been dissolved under pressure. This infusion process creates tiny bubbles that give the water its distinctive, fizzy sensation.
Sparkling water can be found naturally in certain mineral springs, but it is also commercially produced by brands like LaCroix, Nixie, and Spindrift. If you find yourself drinking several sparkling waters a week (or even per day), you might be wondering: is sparkling water good or bad for you?
In general, “if you don’t enjoy drinking plain water, sparkling water can be a healthy alternative,” says Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, registered dietitian and owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition — but there’s more to know. Here’s what dietitians have to say about whether or not sparkling water is healthy.
The Upsides of Sparkling Water
Sparkling water has some pretty “sparkly” features, which make it easy to understand why so many people are rarely seen sans a can of bubbly in their hand.
For one, sparkling water can help you stay hydrated. “Having a carbonated water beverage can be equally as hydrating as drinking a regular glass of water,” Mitri says. Some data suggests that around 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, so including any hydrating liquid in your diet is a good thing, as it can help you hit your fluid intake goal for the day. (ICYDK, the Institute of Medicine suggests adults drink a total of 9-13 cups of fluid every day, depending on gender.)
Research shows sparkling water may also help increase your sense of fullness, potentially supporting weight-management goals, Mitri says. This may be due to how the bubbles take up more space in the stomach, but it’s not entirely clear. She added that sparkling water may also help improve digestive health, including aiding with constipation and supporting gallbladder function.
And for those who are hooked on soda instead of water (trust us, we get it), sparking water may help break that habit; it offers that fun effervescence you know and love, often without any added sugar or artificial sweeteners — though it depends on the brand.
The Downsides of Sparkling Water
There aren’t many downsides to drinking sparking water, but that doesn’t mean leaning on this popular drink is risk-free.
“Some people report excess gas and bloating after drinking any carbonated beverage, including sparkling water,” Mitri says. Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, dietitian and diabetes educator, echoes this concern, saying that “most people tolerate sparkling water well, although drinking it too quickly or too often can cause burping, bloating, and gas.” Because of this, she recommends that people who are prone to gas, have acid reflx or heartburn, or folks who’ve had bariatric surgery avoid drinking sparkling water.
Drinking too much sparkling water may not be doing your pearly whites any favors, either. Data shows that carbonated water negatively affects tooth enamel. If you’re worried about your dental health, be sure to rinse your teeth with regular water after you sip your bubbles or chat with your dentist.
Not all sparkling water drinks are created equal, and some options can be high in added sugar or salt, Thomason says. She recommends checking the nutrition label to ensure the option you choose is free from added sugar and relatively low in sodium. Ideally, it provides less than 5 grams of sugar per serving and less than 75 mg of sodium, though the latter can vary based on your own nutritional needs.
Some sparkling waters contain artificial flavors or sweeteners, and the jury is still out about whether or not those are risky or OK, health-wise. Some data suggests that certain artificial sweeteners may be linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, obesity, and imbalances in the gut microbiome; however, other data suggests that there may be some benefits to leaning on these ingredients when they replace table sugar, like better blood-sugar control and weight management.
One concern with artificially flavored drinks is that, if you become accustomed to them, you may start to expect that level of flavor from everything you drink and eat. But we can’t say this for sure; more data is needed to know if sticking to these kinds of drinks will truly result in that sort of flavor dependence. For those who don’t drink enough fluids every day, right now, it appears that sticking to sparkling water is better than no water at all.
So, Is Sparkling Water Good For You?
Like many things, sparking water can be good for you, as long as you keep a few caveats in mind. Pounding copious amounts of sparkling water all day every day may not be the best choice, but including it in an overall healthy and balanced diet is acceptable for many people. Mitri recommends choosing sparkling water with minimal added sugar and that’s free from caffeine, especially if you’re leaning on this beverage as a hydrating option, as caffeine can act as a diuretic. A sparkling water that is free from anything artificial (colors, flavors, or sweeteners) can be a particularly healthy choice, too.
Once you land on the sparkling water that is best for you, go ahead and enjoy the fun-to-drink bubbles as a mid-day hydration boost, an ingredient in a spritzer, or as a mocktail ingredient in a fancy glass. Your body will thank you for it.