What’s the difference between mineral water and regular water? It seems fairly obvious that mineral water contains minerals, but doesn’t all water? What minerals do you actually get, and are there any side effects to drinking mineral water? ?
What Is Mineral Water?
Unlike other types of water, “mineral water” actually has a specific definition that’s regulated by the FDA. Mineral water must:
- Come from a “geologically and physically protected underground water source”
- Contain at least 250 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved solids
- And the minerals have to occur naturally at the source – they can’t be added to the water later.
Mineral water can technically go through some processing. Manufacturers are allowed to add carbon dioxide to make it bubbly, and they can (and must) remove toxins like arsenic. But processing is limited.1
What Minerals Are In Mineral Water?
Just to give an overview, the minerals present in some mineral waters include:
- Magnesium: supports nervous system and muscular activities
- Calcium: good for bone, blood, and cell health
- Chlorine: can aid in digestion
- Sodium: promotes cell health
- Potassium: good for the neuromuscular system
- Phosphorus: helps with the transport of energy
- Sulphur: aids in cartilage, hair, and nail formation
- Micronutrients: like fluorine, iron, cobalt, and more2
Since all minerals must occur naturally, the actual mineral density will depend on the source. Typically, the amount of minerals in water ALONE is not enough to make a deep impact on your health and well-being.
Adding Carbon Dioxide To Mineral Water
Mineral water can be still or sparkling. Some mineral springs naturally produce sparkling water. In other cases, producers add carbon dioxide gas during bottling to make it fizzier .3
How Is Mineral Water Different Than Other Water?
Tap water comes from either surface or underground sources. It is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Most tap water contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sodium. These minerals either occur naturally or are added later.
The amount varies from region to region.4,5,6
“Water hardness” and “water softness” have to do with the amount and type of minerals in the water. Hard water has a high concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium – which can be good for your health but can also damage your pipes.
Some people install water softeners as a result. Soft water tends to have a higher concentration of sodium.7
Filtered water is what you’ll likely find at a grocery store. It is typically tap water that is run through a carbon water filter to remove chlorine. The amount of minerals it contains will depend entirely on the tap water source.
Spring water comes from an underground source. It may or may not be treated and it may or may not contain minerals. You’ll find this in the grocery store as well, often as bottled water.
Purified water is a general term for plain water that has been purified to remove contaminants. Purification techniques include distillation, deionization, and carbon filtration. Reverse osmosis water is a popular type of purified water.8
Water that passes over rocks and picks up minerals is naturally alkaline. The minerals give the water a higher pH than standard drinking water. Some people think that this alkalinity neutralizes acid in the body, which gives certain health benefits.
So, is alkaline water the same as mineral water? The main difference between mineral water and alkaline water is the source of the minerals.
In mineral water, the minerals must occur naturally at the source. Producers of alkaline water can add minerals later through a process called electrolysis.9
Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electricity like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. They’re found naturally in your body. They can also be consumed through beverages like electrolyte water. Electrolyte water is marketed toward athletes who need help retaining fluid after a long workout.10
Seltzer water, sparkling water, club soda, soda water, and carbonated water are all terms for bubbly water. The bubbles come from carbon dioxide. The carbonation can be natural – as it is with sparkling mineral water – or it can be added – as it is with seltzer water.11
These waters are generally considered to be a healthy alternative to soft drinks. Some are flavoured with artificial sweeteners. Others are enhanced with citric acid and phosphoric acid, which may have harmful effects on bones and teeth.12,13
Potential Health Benefits Of Mineral Water
When you drink mineral water, you consume essential minerals. This can be great for your health and well-being.14 Here are a few potential health benefits:
It’s A Good Source Of Magnesium
Magnesium plays essential roles in supporting healthy blood pressure, glucose levels, and nerve function. But experts say that adults in the United States are consistently getting less than the recommended amount.15
It May Nourish Your Bones
Calcium is essential for adequate bone strength and development. Most mineral waters are a great source of calcium and can help maintain strong bone health.16
What’s more, the calcium in mineral water has great bioavailability, meaning your body can easily absorb it.17
The bicarbonate and magnesium found in many mineral waters can also help promote healthy bones.18,19
It Can Support A Healthy Heart
Experts say that low levels of magnesium and calcium may contribute to an elevated heart rate.20,21
It May Promote Better Blood Circulation
Calcium, magnesium, and potassium can all help support efficient blood circulation.22-24 As blood flows, it delivers oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells and it carries away toxins.25
It Can Aid The Digestive System
Magnesium draws water into the intestines, which might soften stools. It can also relax intestinal muscles, which can make stools easier to pass.26
The Taste Of Mineral Water May Help You Drink More Water
Some people prefer the taste of natural mineral water to plain water. This may help people increase their water intake. If you drink the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day and stay hydrated, you could see benefits like:
- Increased physical performance
- Support in energy and focus
- Digestive support
- More efficient weight loss27
To be clear, these benefits are associated with water intake of any kind, including mineral water intake. But if the taste of mineral water encourages you to tote around a water bottle and drink it regularly, all the better.
Possible Side Effects And Risks Of Drinking Mineral Water
Mineral water has a ton of potential health benefits. Are there any risks?
Some Brands Are High In Sodium
Although mineral water is considered safe for most people, some brands may be too high in sodium for those who follow a low sodium diet.28
If you’re concerned, speak with your doctor. The sodium level varies widely among different types of mineral waters. Your doctor can help you pick a low sodium alternative.
There May Be Microplastics In Bottled Water
There are some concerns about microplastic content in water that is sold in plastic bottles. One recent study found that people who drink bottled water might be ingesting 90,000 more microplastic particles per year than those who drink only tap water.29
The effects of microplastics are not yet known. But it has caused concern in the scientific and environmental communities.
Carbonated Mineral Water Can Cause Hiccups
This is more of an inconvenience than a negative health effect, but you may find yourself with a case of the hiccups if you drink carbonated water. You can thank the carbonic acid content for that. In some people, it can also cause bloating or indigestion.30
It May Harm Your Tooth Enamel
Mineral water is often carbonated, so this one also applies to fizzy drinks, like sparkling water. While tap water or bottled water usually has a pH level of 6.9 to 7.5, when you add carbonation to mineral water, the pH drops to a more acidic range of 4.9 and 5.5.
Because of the acidity, carbonated drinks may erode your tooth enamel.31
Talk to your dentist if you have concerns.
More and more Americans are turning away from their faucets and toward mineral water as their primary drinking source.32 This may not be entirely necessary, as tap water is regulated and may also contain beneficial minerals. But the mineral content of tap water can be unreliable.
For people who are seeking the health benefits that come from minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, mineral water may be a great choice.
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