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Should You Add Mineral Water to Your Diet?

Studies show mineral water may reduce heart disease. Should you make mineral water part of your diet? What's the best brand for you? What should you avoid?

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
6-minute read
Episode #579
The Quick And Dirty
  • Not all bottled water is mineral water.
  • Mineral water can be a substantial source of calcium and magnesium, which may lower your risk of heart disease and other health issues.
  • The amount of minerals (including sodium) varies greatly from brand to brand.
  • Mineral water does not contribute to tooth erosion or increase your risk of kidney stones.

Do you need minerals in your 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.

RELATED: Are Fruits and Vegetables Getting Less Nutritious?

I don’t think we need to worry about declining mineral levels in produce, but mineral water still sounds like a good idea—sort of like a vitamin supplement you can drink. Are there health benefits of drinking mineral water? Are there any risks?

I don’t think we need to worry about declining mineral levels in produce, but mineral water still sounds like a good idea—sort of like a vitamin supplement you can drink.

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 percent of your daily calcium requirement and up to a third of your required magnesium just from the water you drink. But the amount of minerals in tap water in different regions varies greatly.

RELATED: How Much Water Should I Drink?

How do you know what’s in your water?

As I talked about in my article on water contamination, if you're on a public water system here in the US, 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 you can look up your local water quality report on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Checking your water quality report can give you an idea of how high in minerals your local water supply is.

Most countries have agencies that provide similar information. If you’re not in the US, try doing an internet search using your country with the phrase "drinking water quality." (Here are links for Canada, the European Union, and Australia.)

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. Magnesium also helps to regulate your blood pressure. In fact, people who live in areas with very hard water (which is high in minerals) have a reduced risk of heart disease. Hard water that is high in magnesium can also relieve constipation.

RELATED: Diet for Healthy Bones

However, all those minerals can also be rough on the plumbing, so people who have hard water often use a water-softening system to remove minerals. (Scientific American has more information about water softeners in "How do Water Softeners Work?") If you’re using a water softener to lower the mineral content, then obviously, you would not get the health benefits associated with hard water.

Should you drink mineral water?

If you suspect (or know) that your drinking water is low in minerals, could mineral water be a good thing to add to your diet? It might.

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.

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.

RELATED: Why You Need More Magnesium in Your Diet

What's the difference between mineral water brands?

Not all bottled water is mineral water. Some bottled water is simply filtered or distilled tap water, often with small amounts of minerals added back in to enhance the taste. Some bottled water comes from a natural source, such as a spring, but may not be high enough in minerals to be considered true mineral water.

The technical definition of mineral water varies somewhat around the world. Here in the US, in order to be labeled mineral water, it must come from a natural source, such as a spring, and have at least 250 parts per million of dissolved minerals. That translates to at least 250mg of minerals (including sodium) per liter.

The mineral profile varies greatly from brand to brand. 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.

Most of the mineral water we get here in the US 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. There are also uncarbonated (or still) mineral waters, but it’s harder to find these in the US.

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 mineral water brands

Brand
 
 
 
One liter provides
Calcium
Magnesium
Potassium
Sodium
 Apollinaris
100 mg (10% DV)
130 mg
(33% DV)
20 mg
(<1% DV)
410 mg
(17% DV)
Gerolsteiner
348 mg
(35% DV)
108 mg
(27% DV)
11 mg
(<1% DV)
118 mg
(5% DV)
Perrier
170 mg
(17% DV)
6 mg
(2% DV)
1.5 mg
(<1% DV)
12 mg
(<1% DV)
San Pellegrino
200 mg
(20% DV)
52 mg
(10% DV)
4 mg
(<1% DV)
36 mg
(2% DV)
Vichy
54 mg
(5% DV)
9 mg
(2% DV)
48 mg
(1% DV)
1110 mg
(46% 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 might 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 it's 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!

The carbonation in mineral water does make it slightly more acidic than regular tap water, but it's nowhere near as acidic as flavored sodas.

More recently, flavored carbonated water has become extremely popular. Although flavored waters don't contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, the natural or artificial flavorings can increase the acidity of the drink, which increases the potential for erosion of tooth enamel.

Drinking acidic liquids, including flavored carbonated water, through a straw can help protect the teeth. And rinsing the mouth with a bit of plain water or chewing a piece of sugar-free gum can quickly restore the normal pH of your mouth.

RELATED: Can Cavities Be Healed With Diet?

RELATED: 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 them.

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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