There is no question that staying hydrated by drinking lots of water is a healthy choice. But things get a little more complicated when it’s time to decide what kind of water to drink. It might seem silly — water is water, right? — but the truth is that not all water is created equal. 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 mineral water to triple-distilled to reverse osmosis and beyond. So what do all these terms mean, and do they matter for your health? And what’s the best bottled water to choose? We’ll break it down for you in this guide.
The Basic Kinds of Water: Tap, Filtered, and Bottled
When it comes to H20, the first choice you need to make is whether you’re buying a bottle of the stuff or drinking from the tap. While bottled water may offer you more glamorous-sounding choices (see the following section), and allows you a bit more control of the quality of the water you’re ingesting, it also contributes to the major environmental problem of plastic waste. Plus, you’re likely ingesting microplastics if it’s in a plastic bottle, and there is very little regulation about what goes into bottled water so you don’t really know what you’re drinking. Most of us have trusted marketing and hoped that certain companies are doing the right thing by not misleading us, which we now know is not always necessarily the case.
Water from the sink, a water fountain, or your refrigerator, on the other hand, allows you to help out the planet by using a glass or metal 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 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.
Choosing the Best Bottled Water Brand and Deciphering Labels
If you’re buying bottled water (and we get it, we buy bottled water occasionally and definitely in airports), you have a lot of different options to choose from. Each label is covered in all sorts of terminology that sounds pretty fancy and impressive, but doesn’t mean a whole lot to most of us (kind of like when you go to buy eggs). And the truth is, a lot of those terms are pretty much just marketing. But some of them really do have significance when it comes to our health.
Here’s a breakdown of common terms you’ll see for different kinds of water, and what each means:
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 “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 end can mess with the natural acidity of your stomach — stomach acid helps break down food, which you want!
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 associ