What’s the Healthiest Bottled Water? How to Spot the Best Bottled Water Brands

Guide to the best bottled water brands

There is no question that staying hydrated by drinking lots of water is a healthy choice. Like us, you probably know that the wisest choice for your health and the environment is to drink from a reusable water bottle filled with filtered water, but there are times when you just need to buy a bottle of water. This might seem simple, but choosing the best bottled water to drink is actually a bit complicated! As it turns out, there are a lot of different kinds of water (from mineral water to triple-distilled to reverse osmosis and many more!), and countless bottled water brands. Read on to learn the different kinds of water and how to spot the best bottled water brands so that you can feel confident that you’re drinking the healthiest bottled water available.

The Three Different Kinds of Water: Tap, Filtered, and Bottled

Before we get into the best bottled water brands, let’s break down the three basic choices you have when it comes to drinking water: straight from the tap, filtered from the tap, or in a purchased bottle. While bottled water may offer you more glamorous-sounding choices (see the following section) and make you feel more in control of the quality of the water you’re drinking, it has some serious drawbacks.

First off, it contributes to the major environmental problem of plastic waste. Plus, you’re likely ingesting microplastics if it’s in a soft plastic bottle, and there is very little regulation about what goes into bottled water, so you don’t really know what you’re drinking.  A 2018 study of 259 plastic bottled water brands showed 90% had microplastics in the water; the lowest (best) levels were in San Pellegrino (74 per liter in the most contaminated bottle tested), followed by Evian (256). Another 2018 study that tested 19 bottled water brands for microplastics found that Boxed Water, Fiji, Ozarka, and Evian had the highest levels of contamination. How could Evian be on the better end in one study and the worse end in another? The level of microplastics differed from bottle to bottle, not just brand to brand. 

Tap water, on the other hand, allows you to avoid plastic and help out the planet by using a glass or a reusable water bottle. The drawback, of course, is that tap water will always have certain contaminants, which vary depending on where you live. 

Our favorite happy medium is to fill our reusable bottles with tap water that we’ve filtered using the best water filter for the contaminants in our particular water supply. You can get the full lowdown on water contaminants in your area, as well as your best bet for a water filter to get rid of them, in The WellBe Water Filter Guide.

How to Choose the Best Bottled Water Brands

If you’re buying bottled water (and we get it — sometimes you’re dying of thirst and forgot your water bottle at home, or you’re at the airport boarding a plane), you have a lot of different options to choose from. Just look at all the bottled water in the cold cases at your local grocery store or pharmacy, and you’ll see an abundance of different varieties, from alkaline water to triple-distilled to reverse osmosis and beyond. But what do all these terms mean, and do they matter for your health? What’s the healthiest bottled water? How can you spot the best bottled water brands from the crowd?

A lot of the terminology on those bottles sounds pretty fancy and high-tech, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot to most of us (kind of like when you go to buy eggs). And the truth is, while some of those terms really do have significance when it comes to your health, many of them are pretty much just marketing — which makes it all even more complicated.

We’re not loyalists to any one bottled water company, but by understanding the words on the labels, we can easily select the best bottled water brands for our health. Here’s a breakdown of common terms you’ll see for different kinds of water and what each means so that you can choose the healthiest bottled water next time you’re in a pinch:

Distilled Water: Distilled water is water that has been boiled into a vapor and then condensed back down into liquid to remove impurities. Distilled water can be a good choice in areas where the tap water contains impurities; however, the distillation process removes any potentially beneficial minerals from the water (which is a big reason why you’re drinking it!), and there’s concern that distilled water could leach trace amounts of minerals from your body. Therefore distilled water wouldn’t be our first choice for everyday drinking water.

Mineral Water: Mineral water refers to any water sourced from a mineral spring. According to the FDA, which regulates bottled water, mineral water must contain at least 250 parts per million of “total dissolved solids” that originate from a “geologically and physically protected underground water source.” Mineral water can contain minerals including magnesium, calcium, sodium, and zinc, among others, and has been shown to have significant health benefits. A drawback of mineral water is that it can have a high sodium content, which is a concern for those with high blood pressure.

Alkaline Water: Alkaline water is water that has had nutrients added to it to achieve a higher pH, making it less acidic than other water. A lot of claims have been made about the potential benefits of alkaline water, including that it can neutralize acid in your bloodstream, slow bone loss, and expel toxins more efficiently; some even argue that it can protect against heart disease or cancer. There have been studies showing that alkaline water can improve bone strength, reduce acid reflux, and lower blood pressure, but all of these were small studies that can’t necessarily lead to firm conclusions, so more research is needed. On the negative side, tipping your body’s balance too far to the alkaline side can mess with the natural acidity of your stomach — stomach acid helps break down food, which you want! (You can learn more about how both pH and hydration impact your gut in our free guide to improving gut health naturally!)

Electrolyte Water: Electrolyte water is basically a subcategory of mineral water, since electrolytes are minerals that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. Electrolytes are usually associated with sports drinks like Gatorade, because they help with a number of functions associated with athletic recovery: they rebalance your fluids and help your muscles contract. To tap into the benefits of electrolytes, some bottled water brands will add in electrolytes, like potassium, and magnesium. While these can certainly be beneficial, the fact is that, unless you’re drinking distilled water (which has no minerals), your water already contains electrolytes. This term is definitely more marketing than anything else.

Reverse Osmosis Water: Reverse osmosis, like distillation, refers to a filtration process used to remove impurities from tap water. In this process, untreated water flows through a semipermeable membrane, which traps things like salt, chemicals, minerals, and impurities. Just like distilled water, reverse osmosis water offers a healthier alternative to people who live in areas with contaminated tap water, but it also strips out healthy minerals that could be beneficial to our health. In fact, the World Health Organization released a statement over their concerns about people drinking demineralized water. The best kinds of reverse osmosis systems put the minerals back in the water after they remove everything, but these systems are usually quite pricey.

Spring Water: As defined by the FDA, spring water is “derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth at an identified location, may be collected at the spring or through a bore hole, tapping the underground formation that feeds the spring.” Spring water, like mineral water, goes through very little distillation to retain naturally occuring minerals. In fact, spring water is very similar to mineral water, except that mineral water, as the name suggests, contains more minerals. Spring water doesn’t need to contain a minimum amount of minerals. Despite the FDA definition, be warned that the term “spring water” doesn’t necessarily mean the water is pure and clean. Because so many springs are now contaminated, many items marketed as spring water contain contaminants you’d probably rather not be drinking. In fact, Poland Springs’ parent company, Nestlé Waters, is facing a class action lawsuit against it claiming that they falsely marketed groundwater as spring water. As of summer 2020, a judge has deemed that the case will go forward after rejecting Nestlé Waters’ request to dismiss the claims. 

Sparkling Water: Sparkling water is simply water that’s been carbonated, making it bubbly. It’s become quite trendy in the past five or so years, becoming the #1 purchased beverage in the country. The quality and health risks of any specific sparkling water will depend on the source of the water itself, but there’s one potential risk that everyone who enjoys bubbly water should keep in mind: PFAS chemicals. A 2020 study from Consumer Reports found that most of the top sparkling water brands contained detectable levels of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which have been linked to various health problems, including low birth weight, hormone disruption, and cancer. Topo Chico, one of the trendiest bottled water brands, had the highest levels of PFAS, with Polar, Bubly, and Poland Springs close behind. Meanwhile, only two still water brands had detectable levels of PFAS. 

The WellBe Takeaway: What to Remember About the Healthiest Bottled Water

It can be easy to get bogged down in all the flashy terms and different kinds of water outlined above, but, ultimately, water doesn’t need to be that complicated. Just keep a few key points in mind to keep your body properly hydrated with the right kind of water:

  • Drink enough water. Staying hydrated is the #1 priority here. Being dehydrated can have a negative impact on your mood and energy and even brain function! Everyone’s water needs will vary, but the general guideline is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
  • If you’re drinking tap water, always use a water filter to extract bacterial contaminants, chemicals, heavy metals and other toxins. There is almost no water system in the U.S. that is not contaminated with some of the above mentioned pollutants, and some areas are much worse than others. Check out our water filter guide to find your best filtration option. 
  • Don’t reuse soft plastic water bottles. We’re all about reusable bottles here, but simply reusing a soft plastic water bottle does not cut it. You may be slightly reducing waste, but you’re also subjecting yourself to health risks, as reusing soft plastic bottles can leach chemicals into the water you drink and promote the growth of dangerous bacteria. Plastic (as opposed to glass or metal) is a porous material, making it easier for bacteria to accumulate in it and for chemicals to leach out of it into the water.
  • If you need to purchase bottled water, you can spot the best bottled water brands by knowing the terminology used to describe different types of water and adjusting accordingly. For instance, if you’re drinking distilled or reverse osmosis water, make sure you’re getting minerals another way, like from your diet and/or supplements. Here’s a quick rundown on the benefits and risks of the most common marketing terms:
  • Distilled water: filters out contaminants, but removes any beneficial minerals.
  • Mineral water: usually the healthiest bottled water choice. Contains beneficial minerals.
  • Alkaline water: has a high pH, which has been associated with certain health benefits. However, it can upset the natural acidity of your stomach, leading to digestion issues for some.
  • Electrolyte water: contains electrolytes, which help your muscles recover. However, most water (except distilled or reverse osmosis) already have electrolytes.
  • Reverse osmosis water: very similar to distilled water, with the same benefits and risks (unless minerals have been added back in, but this is rare).
  • Spring water: comes from an underground spring. Very similar to mineral water, but with fewer minerals, and it may contain contaminants.

Hopefully this guide has helped you wrap your head around all the different kinds of water out there, and will allow you to confidently purchase the healthiest bottled water next time you find yourself out and about and in need or a drink.

What do you nominate as the best bottled water brand? We’ve shared ours below, and want you to share yours in the comments!

San Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water

What’s the Healthiest Bottled Water? How to Spot the Best Bottled Water Brands

Mountain Valley Spring Water

What’s the Healthiest Bottled Water? How to Spot the Best Bottled Water Brands

Evian Natural Spring Water Bottles

What’s the Healthiest Bottled Water? How to Spot the Best Bottled Water Brands

BKR Glass Water Bottle

What’s the Healthiest Bottled Water? How to Spot the Best Bottled Water Brands

Volvic Spring Water

What’s the Healthiest Bottled Water? How to Spot the Best Bottled Water Brands

S'well Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle

What’s the Healthiest Bottled Water? How to Spot the Best Bottled Water Brands
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Leave a Comment
  1. Great article summarizing different kinds of water. I enjoyed reading it. And now I am more knowledgeable  in making choices about water.  Glad to see that my favorite San Pellegrino is the cleanest choice. 

  2. My favorite bottled water is #2, “Mountain Valley” Spring Water. Although, I’ve been drink “Acqua Panna” a lot lately…What are thoughts regarding their brand? Lastly, what brand of “bottled water” is deemed the best in 2021? I THANK YOU in advance for ALL of your responses!!

    Best of Health!
    D. Gipson

    1. Hi Debra! We stand by our favorites that we listed in this article, and always advocate for filtered water in a glass or metal bottle first before opting for bottled waters — bottled water, of course, is sometimes necessary or more convenient for certain occasions or when traveling. If you would like more info on water filters to replace or lower your use of bottled water, check out our water filter guide! Xx Adrienne and Team WellBe

  3. Water is most essential in day to day life. I am the one who faced a lot of health issues by consuming unhealthy water. Water we drink should have minerals, nutrients in it and should keep us hydrated.

    1. We absolutely agree, Vasundhara! And we hope your issues have since resolved. We know it can be difficult to not only identify but also properly heal from health issues that arise from consuming unhealthy water. Wishing you the best and thanks for sharing! Xx Adrienne and Team WellBe

  4. Among many water bottle brands in India. I can say that hege natural mineral water is the best quality mineral water from himalayas. This water helps in reducing health problems such as gastric issues, bone, dental issues and many more.

  5. It’s good to know that spring water does not contain as many minerals as mineral water. I thought they were identical. But that’s not the case so I’ll get some spring water.

  6. Using a glass or a reusable water bottle to drink tap water allows you to avoid plastic and help the environment. The disadvantage is that tap water will always contain certain toxins, which will vary depending on where you reside. Thank you for sharing!

  7. There is no doubt that drinking plenty of water will help you stay hydrated. Like us, you undoubtedly are aware that drinking from a reusable water bottle filled with filtered water is the best decision for your health and the environment, but there are occasions when you simply must purchase a bottle of water. Thank you!

  8. What are your thoughts on Icelandic water? (someone said the PH may be too high for some but from what I can see, Essentia is higher PH and tends to be rated #1).
    Also, thoughts on Waiakea water (Hawaiian volcanic water)? What category of water does that fall in?

    1. Hi Kristi! Great question! Icelandic Glacial Water claims to have a pH of 8.4, Essentia 9.5, and Waiakea between 7.6 and 8.2.

      Both Icelandic Glacial Water and Waiakea Water are naturally alkaline, meaning that they haven’t been processed to increase the pH, and also contain naturally occurring minerals and electrolytes. Essentia, however, has undergone an ionization process in order to make it alkaline, and then has electrolytes added in order to further raise the pH, presumably to be among the most alkaline water on the market.

      Icelandic Glacial Water does have options that come in glass as opposed to plastic. Waiakea has some options in reusable aluminum bottles. Unfortunately, Essentia only sells water in plastic bottles.

      For reasons aside from the pH, we aren’t the biggest fans of Essentia water, and prefer options that are minimally processed and do not come in plastic! Hope this helps!

      Xx Team WellBe

  9. Great article. I have for years drunk only plain seltzer in cans. Now I discover that seltzer was causing my incontinence!  The problem went away as soon as I stopped drinking it. Now I don’t know what to drink.i don’t want chemicals from plastic. I don’t want to add to pollution. Fracking is all around us in addition to a huge city sized cracker factory not too far away so I’m not sure the fridge filter is good enough for tap water.

    Is delivered water an option ? Has that water been tested ? Are those big plastic containers that go in a cooler ok as far as leaching chemicals into the water ?  
     Do I need to invest in a crazy expensive filtering system like the big Berky thing? Help !!!! 

    1. Hi Maggie! We know that (unfortunately) deciding where to get your water/what filter to use can be so confusing!! What’s even more challenging is that water quality varies from zip code to zip code and because of this, the best water filter for each person varies. Check out our WellBe water filter guide here: https://getwellbe.com/best-water-filter-health/ for filter recommendations. Above all else, focus on changes that are attainable for your situation! If the thought of a house water filter is overwhelming (or not in the budget) a personal filtered water bottle is a great start!

      Hope this helps!

  10. What about purified water ? Specifically asking about purified water w enhanced w minerals. I know it can’t be great water but currently I have “pure life” and unfortunately my real options are the cheaper/bulk options from there bc of my financial situation. I did see Dasani was a “good option” in this case bc of it’s 7 layer filtration process. Would you agree ? Would it be better than my PUR plus faucet filter ? Sorry so lengthy and thank you SOO much !!

  11. Thank you for writing this article on bottled water. I used to rely on filtered tap water but have switched to drinking bottled water to reduce my exposure to fluoride. The more I learn about fluoride in city tap water, the more I leans towards precaution by avoiding it. It is not reassuring that the EPA has been trying to prevent the release of a new fluoride toxicity report. I think a recent court order will lead to the release of that report in the coming week. I’d really like to know what it says. It might be reassuring, or it might not.

    Years ago, when West Nile Virus was an emerging concern, I lived in a community that sent around trucks spraying pesticides to kill mosquitos. The problem I saw was that it was primarily the low-income people that were subjected to this and with no say in the matter. Those living on big estates that the spray could not reach were spared the acute exposure. The same thing goes on with fluoride in tap water. Those who can afford it are buying bottled water. Lots of it. And they are largely spared exposure to fluoride in municipal water. It is the low income people who are most subjected to fluoride exposure. People who buy bottled water may be doing it for many different reasons. But a primary reason is that they do not like tap water. It tastes bad, it is often over-chlorinated, and it may have additives (e.g., fluoride) that some do not want. And some may not want to bother with filters. Cities may think they are making the right decisions by how they treat tap water, but I don’t think they think about unintended consequences–more and more demand for bottled water and a lot of plastic bottles to deal with. Maybe the local public health officials should meet with the recycling department officials and learn about the excessive plastics problem in our waste stream.

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