Is Mineral Water Good for You?
What are the health benefits of mineral water?
A lot of people are concerned that fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than they used to be because the soil has become depleted of minerals. (For more on this, see my article Are Fruits and Vegetables Getting Less Nutritious?)
Whether or not this is something we really need to worry about, mineral water sounds as it if might be a good idea—sort of like a vitamin supplement that you can drink. Are there health benefits from drinking mineral water? Are there any risks?
First, you should know that you’re probably already getting some minerals in your regular drinking water. Most tap water contains minerals. For example, if you drink two liters of water a day, you could be getting 10 to 15% of your daily calcium requirement and up to a third of your required magnesium just from the water you drink. (For more on drinking water, see How Much Water Should I Drink?) But the amount of minerals in tap water in different regions varies greatly.
How Do You Know What’s in Your Water?
As I talked about in my article on water contamination, if you are on a public water system here in the U.S., you should get a report every summer with details about your water quality, including mineral levels as well as any contaminants that have been found. It’s often included with your water bill. If you’re a renter, you probably never see these reports. But many are posted online on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. (Visit the EPA’s website for Local Water Quality Information.) Checking your water quality report can give you an idea how high in minerals your local water supply is.
I realize that many of you are not in the U.S. and I’m sorry I don’t have more information for you. If you live elsewhere, your local government or water authority may have some answers for you. Feel free to share any helpful information or links in the comments section below for the benefit of other non-U.S. readers.
How Do Minerals in Drinking Water Affect Your Health?
Even the modest amounts of minerals found in regular drinking water play a beneficial role in your health. Calcium and magnesium are important for strong bones, of course. (See also Diet for Healthy Bones.) Magnesium also helps to regulate your blood pressure. In fact, people who live in areas with very soft water (which is low in minerals) may have a higher risk of heart disease. Ironically, the same thing can be true if you live in an area with very hard water. All those minerals can be rough on the plumbing, so people who have hard water often use a water-softening system to remove minerals. (See also How do Water Softeners Work? from Scientific American.)
Should You Drink Mineral Water?
If you suspect that your drinking water is low in minerals, could mineral water be a good thing to add to your diet? It might. Bottled mineral water contains up to four times as much calcium and magnesium as regular tap water. One study found that people whose drinking water was low in magnesium were able to lower their blood pressure by drinking a liter of mineral water every day.
Of course, there are other ways to get magnesium. Brown rice, almonds, lima beans, and spinach are all examples of good sources of magnesium. But drinking mineral water can definitely add to your intake of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.
What is the Difference Between Brands of Mineral Water?
Vichy water from France is very high in sodium. One liter contains half of your daily sodium allowance.
Most of the mineral water we get here in the U.S. is imported from Europe. The different brands come from various natural springs, which are known for their high mineral content. Some are naturally carbonated when they come out of the ground, others have carbonation added to them. There are also uncarbonated (or still) mineral waters, but it’s harder to find these in the U.S.
The mineral profile varies greatly from brand to brand, reflecting the source waters. That’s what gives each mineral water its unique flavor but it also may determine which one to choose if you’re considering the nutritional benefits. For example, Vichy water from France is very high in sodium. Some people love the slightly salty taste, but you should be aware that a liter of Vichy water blows half of your daily sodium budget.
Perrier, also from France, is quite low in sodium and has a moderate amount of calcium, but it doesn’t provide a whole lot of magnesium. Here’s a chart that shows the amount of various minerals in several common brands of mineral water.
Mineral Content of Common Brands of Mineral Water
One liter provides
100 mg (10% DV)
Which Mineral Water Is Best?
In terms of overall nutrition, I’d have to pick Gerolsteiner, which comes from Germany. It’s the highest in calcium—a liter provides a third of your daily value. It’s also got a decent amount of magnesium and is relatively low in sodium. San Pellegrino, from Italy, would be my second choice. But, really, any mineral water (with the possible exception of super-salty Vichy) is a healthy way to get your fluids and a bit of extra nutrition as well.
Can Mineral Water Be Bad For You?
Some of you have written to me in the past to ask whether mineral water night be bad for you. For example, one reader wondered whether drinking carbonated water might harm tooth enamel. The carbonation in mineral water, whether it’s natural or added, does make mineral water slightly more acidic than regular tap water—but nowhere near as acidic as flavored sodas.
Soda, as you know, can be very hard on tooth enamel, but that’s really a factor of the sugar and the extreme acidity, not the carbonation. Studies show that there’s nothing to worry about with mineral water. In fact, the minerals may actually help strengthen teeth!
(Click here for a quick tip: Does Lemon Ruin Your Teeth?)
Another reader asked whether drinking mineral water might cause kidney stones. To the contrary! If you are at risk of kidney stones, your doctor will probably suggest that you increase your intake of fluids and get more calcium and magnesium. Mineral water to the rescue! In fact, one study found that drinking mineral water reduced kidney stone formation in people prone to get them.
The quick and dirty tip on mineral water is that it can be a substantial source of minerals and is a much healthier alternative to sweetened or artificially-sweetened beverages.
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Have a great week and remember to eat something good for me!
Comparison of the Mineral Content of Tap Water and Bottled Waters. Arik Azoulay, Philippe Garzon, and Mark J Eisenberg, MD. J Gen Intern Med. 2001 March; 16(3): 168–175. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1495189/
Mineral water intake reduces blood pressure among subjects with low urinary magnesium and calcium levels. Ragnar Rylander and Maurice J Arnaud BMC Public Health 2004, 4:56 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/4/56
Investigation of mineral waters and soft drinks in relation to dental erosion. Parry J, Shaw L, Arnaud MJ, Smith AJ. J Oral Rehabil. 2001 Aug;28(8):766-72. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11556958
Effect of mineral water containing calcium and magnesium on calcium oxalate urolithiasis risk factors. Rodgers AL. Urol Int. 1997;58(2):93-9. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9096270
Mineral Water image from Shutterstock