Here's What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Seltzer, According to Dietitians
A trip to the grocery store used to include a re-stock of your favorite soda, but now you opt for seltzer (sparkling) water instead. You've made the healthful choice to skip the sugar and caffeine, and found a way to do it without having to sacrifice those bubbles you love. But do all of those bubbles do a body good? Let's find out what dietitians have to say.
Related: Raspberry Ginger Lime Seltzer
What Is Seltzer Water?
What exactly is seltzer water and how is it made? Natural carbonated mineral and "fizzy" waters have been around since the time of ancient Greece. Because ancient Greeks believed this spring water held medicinal value, they not only drank it, but they bathed in it. Many years later, in the 18th century, a European scientist stumbled upon a way to create fizzy water without a natural spring. He discovered that he could infuse carbon dioxide gas (CO2) into water, which created carbonic acid. This reaction gave the water its characteristic fizz. Flash forward to today, and seltzer water is still created using this same process. Plain versions of seltzer contain nothing else, but flavored varieties can contain citric acid or fruit juices as well as some form of sugar or alternative sweetener. Now that we know what seltzer is, let's take a look at what happens to your body when you drink it.
Four Things That Happen When You Drink Seltzer Water
1. You May End Up More Hydrated
"Drink more water!" is the universal decree you'll hear from health professionals, as many of us don't consume enough fluids to stay properly hydrated. But there's only so much tap water we can drink before the monotony becomes too much. That's where seltzer water can help. "For people who don't like still water and are self-proclaimed 'soda addicts,' seltzer can help people meet their fluid intake needs," says Lauren Manaker, M.S., RDN, LD, CLEC, a Charleston-based registered dietitian. She says that seltzer can be a great way to fulfill that desire for carbonation, without the added sugar. And that satisfying cold fizz makes water consumption fun, resulting in a winning situation when it comes to hydration.
2. It May Harm Tooth Enamel
We don't spend much time thinking about the pH of our mouth, but if we did, we'd be in awe of the fact that it works constantly to keep a neutral pH of 7 most of the time. That neutral pH helps protect our teeth, specifically the enamel. When foods and liquids are introduced, our saliva responds, working to neutralize anything acidic in an attempt to keep that neutral pH. Anything less than a pH of 4 can start to erode tooth enamel. Many seltzers (thanks to the formation of carbonic acid) have a lower pH level than still water, usually between 3 and 5. The addition of citric acid in flavored seltzer contributes to this lower pH as well.
Because of this, Manaker recommends that anyone experiencing dental erosion may need to limit their seltzer intake to help preserve their dental health. Or consider enjoying your bubbly water with food to help elicit the salivary response (which helps neutralize the acid). Finally, Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, host of the Nourishing Notes podcast, suggests enjoying your seltzer through a straw. It's a simple way to help bypass you teeth altogether.
3. You May Feel, Well, Full
Drinking all of that bubble-filled water can make you feel full. For healthy individuals, this can be a valuable tool for weight management, helping to curb hunger. However, Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND, a Los Angeles-based dietitian and author of My Indian Table, says that for people with gastrointestinal diseases such as IBS, seltzer water may cause bloating and gas, so it's best to avoid. And if you have issues with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease, you may want to limit your intake of seltzer water as the carbonation may exacerbate symptoms.
4. It May Help with Digestion
Water is a key player in digestion. If you don't consume enough, things start to slow down and you can end up feeling uncomfortable with constipation. Sparkling water doesn't hold the magic key to cure constipation, but it can be a more enjoyable way for some people to ensure they're getting enough water to keep things moving.
Dietitians agree that seltzer water can be a helpful tool when it comes to hydration. It's also a great alternative to high-calorie, sugar-loaded beverages. Enjoy seltzer water, but keep balance in mind says Shanta Retelny, and drink a combination of still and sparkling water throughout the day.
- Enjoy, but don't overdo it! While there are no specific recommendations on how much seltzer water is advisable to drink each day, listen to your body and use that as your guide. If you have GI issues or dental health concerns, limit your intake and consult your dietitian, doctor and dentist for their advice. If you're otherwise healthy, enjoy your favorite sparkling drink, but not at the total expense of still water.
- Avoid seltzers with added sugar. Once you add the sugar, it becomes similar to any other sweetened beverage. Stick with plain varieties and choose those flavored without sugar.
- Be an informed buyer! That $5 can that promotes "focus" or "calm" may or may not do either. Companies are now adding ingredients such as herbs, vitamins and adaptogens to their waters. Our advice is to read the labels before buying and talk with your health care team before consuming, especially if you're on medication or have any health conditions.
How to Creatively Enjoy Seltzer
Drinking seltzer water straight from the can is always delicious, but there are other ways to enjoy it! Seltzer water can be used as a fun, fizzy finisher for zero-proof and regular cocktails. It can also be used in place of club soda in any of your favorite drink recipes. Try adding a splash to 100% fruit juice along with sliced, fresh fruit. Or add it to your next smoothie for a light, airy treat. And you can swap the liquid in the batter of waffles and pancakes for seltzer water—which results in fluffy pancakes and crispy waffles. Or try some of our favorites, like this Cucumber-Mint Spritzer or this Mojito Mocktail. Looking for the perfect weekend seltzer-inspired cocktail? Try this Berry Bubbly Vodka Soda or this Bourbon-Cherry Seltzer.