Remember the days when, if you wanted a glass of water, you poured it from the kitchen sink tap? This seems so quaint now, considering the vast number of different types of water available, including alkaline water. But is this specialty water better for your health?
Yes, says Dr. Keith Kantor, a natural health expert an author, who says alkaline water balances the body’s pH level, which can help ward off disease.
The body’s pH level refers to the acidity or alkalinity of blood. The lower the pH, the more acidic the blood. The normal blood pH is tightly regulated between 7.35 and 7.45.
“Our body keeps our pH level at between 7.35 and .45 and it does that very well. Every time our body produces an acid, a sodium bicarbonate molecule is produced to neutralize it,” says Kantor, a natural health expert and author.
“Because the American diet is very acidic, acid can build up in the body, which is why it’s beneficial to drink alkaline water,” says Kantor, the national spokesman for Optimal Harmony Water, which manufactures a type of it.
This buildup of acid can result in acidosis (an excessively acidic condition of body fluids and tissues), and this leads to inflammation, he adds.
“Alkaline water can help with a number of health problems, including acid digestion, heartburn, low energy levels and infections, nausea, and dehydration, but the biggest one is inflammation, which leads to diabetes and obesity,” he says.
But is alkaline water really healthier than tap water?
“The FDA has not studied or reviewed the science relating to alkaline water and cannot speculate or speak to a potential benefit,” says Lyndsay Meyer, spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
As a registered dietitian, Vicki Shanta Retelny says her clients often ask her about different types of water.
“I don’t think there’s enough research to say that this type of water is going to be beneficial for fending off disease,” says Retelny, author of “Total Body Diet for Dummies.”’
“If you live in an area where the tap water is hard, it could be helpful, but what most people need to be concerned with is simply whether they are drinking enough water,” she adds. (Hard water is high in dissolved calcium and magnesium.)
“There may be too much iron, sulfur or even arsenic in your tap water,” she notes.
Of course, alkaline water isn’t the only specialty water available these days. Retelny’s clients often ask her about other types of waters as well, including the debate over whether tap or bottled water is best, she says.
According to her, most tap water is generally as good as bottled.
“People spend a lot of money on bottled water but it doesn’t mean that it’s healthier than tap. Usually, it’s not really necessary,” she says.
“Some people like bottled water because they want to bring their water with them on the go, and it’s measured, so they know they are drinking enough. But tap water can be just as beneficial,” she says.
Also, although people like to believe their bottled water comes straight from the spring, it does go through a bottling process, Retelny notes.
In addition, environmentalists are concerned about the buildup of plastic water bottles, she says.
Most Americans get their tap water from a water company, which is required to publicly list its ingredients, so you can call your company to find out, she notes.
But what about specialty, or designer waters, like vitamin water. According to Retelny, they aren’t necessarily healthier either.
“Vitamin water sounds healthy, but along with the vitamins comes flavorings, colors and sugar. You need to be aware of these additions because the calories can add up,” she says.
“Also, it’s difficult to know exactly how much of vitamins are in that water, and sugar-free ones may have artificial sweeteners,” she adds.
“Ordinarily, I don’t recommend vitamin water because I think you should get your vitamins from the foods you eat,” Retelny adds.
This goes for sports drinks as well, she says.
“Drinks with added potassium and sodium are there to benefit people who are sweating because they are participating in sports, she says.
“They can be beneficial for athletes, but most people don’t need them,” Retelny adds.
To add flavor to chilled water, Retelny recommends these additions:
- Lime, basil and crushed berries
- Cucumber, mint and strawberries
- Apple cider vinegar, honey and cinnamon
- Rosemary, mandarin orange
- Lemon, ginger and agave nectar