Tiny bubbles are big business for the bottled water industry. Whether your brand is Perrier, Pellegrino, LaCroix or Gerolsteiner, sparkling water has suddenly become the “in” thing as a health-conscious alternative to soft drinks and sodas. Between 2009 and 2014, the volume of carbonated water sold in the US has increased nearly 60 percent. Hey — if they like it in Europe, maybe it’s worth a shot, right?
Many fans of the hip bubbly beverage simply enjoy its effervescent mouthfeel, but are they in fact making a healthier decision by drinking sparkling water as compared to soft drinks? There is, after all, no shortage of myths surrounding sparkling water: it will ruin your teeth, it’s no different from drinking a Coke, etc. What do the experts have to say about all this?
Soda Truth Comes Out
The news is mostly good. As with many things, there are a few details to be watchful of, but if soda water is the worst of your vices, you should probably pat yourself on the back.
For starters, carbonation doesn’t add measurable calories to water, so choosing a soda water instead of a soda is definitely a good way to avoid packing on pounds from flavored drinks. The carbonic acid used to give the drink its bubbly qualities might bother your stomach if you drink it all day, though. If drinking lots of sparkling water causes bloating or discomfort, try backing off in between meals.
Flavored variants of your favorite sparkling water do contain some calories in most cases (Unless your drink of choice is LaCroix, the flavored sparkling water with zero calories). So, if you’ve been making your own flavored sodas at home using a SodaStream or similar device, the trick is to not overdo it. Usually, even flavored sparkling water is less calorie-dense than cola, but it’s important to think about how much of the stuff you drink.
Keep That Colgate Smile
But what about the most prevalent of soda water myths? It’s the belief that your teeth will rot from exposure to the high levels of acidity required to make your water sparkle.
There is some truth to this theory — however, you’re still far better off drinking sparkling water than soft drinks. Compared to still water, which has a completely neutral PH of 7, sparkling water is slightly acidic. It typically measures in around a PH of 5.5. This is less damaging to teeth than cola drinks and the like, but it can cause degradation over time. Doctors compare the drink to orange juice in terms of its effects on your teeth. Tip: Use a straw and sip your worries away.
Oh, and if you’ve been told that sparkling water will strip your bones of precious calcium, it won’t. There is no evidence to support this idea, which might have come from a study about soft drinks being connected to low bone density in women.
The End of Soft Drinks?
It’s not likely we’ll see the complete disappearance of sweetened traditional soft drinks from store shelves and burger stands, but market researchers do draw some interesting conclusions looking at the trends that have led to water overtaking soda as the #1 bottled beverage in the nation.
Primarily, they cite a shift in culture as a younger generation who were raised to avoid sugary drinks overtakes their parents as consumers. Better-educated younger buyers are spending less on soft drinks and instead selecting a bubbly toast to good health.