Skip to content
Shop COVID -19 Essentials At SA's Largest Online Medical Retailer
Shop COVID -19 Essentials At SA's Largest Online Medical Retailer
Is Sparkling Water Good or Bad for You?

Is Sparkling Water Good or Bad for You?

Sips of sparkling water may keep you hydrated and help you cut down on your soda intake.


Medically Reviewed by Kelly Kennedy, RD


There's more to fizzy water than meets the eye.

Sparkling water has surged in popularity in recent years. It’s now a nearly $30 billion industry and is expected to grow more than 12 percent per year until 2028, according to a report published in April 2021 by Grand View Research.

One of the reasons for that boom is that health-conscious consumers are turning to sparkling water as a sugar-free alternative to carbonated sodas and juices. “It's a great drink to introduce if you're looking to cut out or decrease your soda consumption,” says Leah Kaufman, RD, a nutrition consultant in New York City. “The bubbles make it feel like you're drinking soda.”

These fizzy beverages can also help you meet your hydration goals, which is significant given that most Americans don’t drink enough water. The average American adult consumed just slightly more than four cups of water per day, according to a study published in BMC Public Health. There’s no official guideline for how much water to drink each day, but the Mayo Clinic recommends that men consume 15 and a half cups and women 11 and a half cups of total fluids per day, about 20 percent of which will come from food. “For many people who are trying to get themselves to drink more water, sparkling water is a more appealing drink,” Kaufman says.

But is sparkling water as healthy as it seems? Here’s what you need to know.

What’s in Sparkling Water, Anyway?

Although sparkling water may sound fancy, Kaufman says it is generally just water infused with pressurized carbon dioxide. It's also known as seltzer.

Other types of carbonated water, including sparkling mineral water, club soda, and tonic water, have subtle differences that set them apart from seltzer. Sparkling mineral water is naturally laced with minerals and can be naturally or artificially carbonated, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. Club soda may also contain trace minerals, such as sodium and potassium, but those are usually added by manufacturers and don’t meet the minimum concentrations specified by the FDA to qualify as mineral water. Tonic water, which is often used as a mixer for cocktails, is known for containing quinine, a bitter-tasting substance derived from tree bark. To offset quinine’s taste, sweeteners such as sugar or high fructose corn syrup are added to tonic water, Kaufman says. One 12-ounce serving can have 124 calories and 32 grams of sugar, according to the USDA. For that reason, Kaufman says, she doesn't recommend it for people who are trying to lose weight, who have diabetes, or who are watching their carb and sugar intake.

To make plain sparkling water more appealing, companies will often add flavor. You may spot the words “natural flavors” on product labels, but there’s some confusion as to what that means.

Indeed, the vagueness of the word “natural” caused an issue for the National Beverage Corporation, the parent company of the popular sparkling water brand LaCroix, when it was slapped with a class-action lawsuit in 2018, as NBC News reported. The claim alleged that the words “all natural” on cans of LaCroix was misleading because there are a number of artificial ingredients in the water, including linalool, limonene, and linalool propionate, a chemical also found in insecticides.

Representatives from the National Beverage Corporation responded to the lawsuit by saying the claims were false and that the popular beverage follows the FDA's definition of “natural,” which means nothing artificial or synthetic has been added.

The case was dismissed in February 2020 after a third-party lab could not prove that certain ingredients in the beverage were derived from artificial sources, because the ingredients could have been derived naturally, according to Business Insider.

Data on PubChem, a public chemical compound database maintained by the National Institutes of Health, shows that limonene is a chemical found naturally in the oil of citrus peels. “It is commonly used to provide a lemon flavor and aroma to food,” says Shannon Henry, RDN, a registered dietitian with EZCareClinic in San Francisco. Linalool comes from mint, herbs, and citrus fruits, and linalool propionate, which is found in ginger, is used for its scent and flavor and doesn’t seem to pose a threat to humans.

“Linalool and linalool propionate, also known as linalyl propionate, are natural too and derived from plants,” Henry says. “Despite the fact that linalool is used as an insect repellent, this doesn't mean that it's toxic for human beings.”

When companies do add artificial flavors to sparkling water, it is often in the form of artificial sweeteners. Nonnutritive sweeteners can go by the names aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, and stevia, according to the FDA.

The Truth About Sparkling Water and Its Effect on Your Health

The LaCroix lawsuit isn't the only time sparkling water has come under fire. Myths have persisted about the fizzy beverage, including the claim that sparkling water can erode tooth enamel. A study published in April 2016 in the Journal of the American Dental Association collected data on the pH levels of 379 beverages and found that Perrier carbonated mineral water had low erosion potential, while S. Pellegrino sparkling natural mineral water had slightly more. They clocked a 5.25 pH and 4.96 pH respectively, whereas Coca-Cola had a 2.37 pH (a low pH indicates a higher erosion potential; still water is a neutral 7 pH). So while sparkling water is not as safe for your smile as still water is, it’s not nearly as risky as regular soda or juice — plus, it’s free from added sugars, which contribute to dental decay, as shown in an Oxford Journal of Public Health study published in September 2018.

Then there was the concern that carbonated beverages could lead to weight gain. In one rodent study, levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin increased after consumption of carbonated drinks. That study, however, which was published in the September–October 2017 issue of the journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, faced the criticism that findings in rats don’t necessarily translate to humans, and other research has found that sparkling water may actually have the opposite effect on appetite and weight. Researchers at the University of Chicago School of Medicine found that carbonated water helped temporarily keep participants full, according to a paper published in the journal Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. 

A sparkling water habit may also lead to weight loss by promoting hydration. Proper hydration helps with weight management because the body can't accurately differentiate between hunger and thirst, according to UChicago Medicine. You can often quench that feeling of hunger by drinking water. The one reason you may not want to drink sparkling water is if you’re prone to stomach trouble. “The only time I would tell somebody not to have sparkling water is if they have any kind of GI issue,” says Kaufman, adding that the bubbles can lead to feeling bloated or gassy and can worsen the heartburn associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease. “In that case, your best bet is sticking to flat water.”

What to Consider When Choosing a Sparkling Water

These days, sparkling water comes in nearly every flavor under the sun. Kaufman says when selecting one, it’s a good idea to examine the ingredient list and watch out for the artificial sweeteners listed above. “Look for brands that use natural flavors and carbonated water only,” she says. Spindrift ($26 for a 24-pack, Shop.drinkspindrift.com) is a good option — it contains real squeezed fruit, Henry says.

The Bottom Line

Let’s face it — bubbles make water more fun to drink. And the major benefit of drinking sparkling water is that it helps you meet your hydration needs. “Drinking plenty of water every day is important for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints healthy, prevent infection, supply essential nutrients to the cells, and for the maintenance of the normal function of the body,” Henry says. “If you hydrate yourself well, it will enhance the quality of your sleep, cognitive strength, and mood.”

Previous article How to Become More Flexible (Because Yes, It’s Important)
Next article What We Need to Know About Migraine and Seizures