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Does Our Water Need Enhancing?
What ever happened to grabbing a glass at home and filing it up with water from the tap? This is so 1970's....now we have bottled water and "enhanced waters." To read all you want to know about the difference between tap and bottled water and how it is regulated, check out a previous post, Water, Water, Everywhere.
What is enhanced water? It means that it is not your mother's water...it has been enhanced with something like flavor, protein, fiber, caffeine, herbals, vitamins, or minerals.
The reason we drink water is for hydration. Just plain old water hydrates you just fine. You do not need a special water that has vapor distillation in order for it to hydrate you more. While most of these waters are just fine for us to drink, it is worthwhile to take a look at what they have in them and whether we "need" these ingredients or not.
- Vitamins and minerals: Numerous waters are fortifying their waters with B vitamins, antioxidants, or electrolytes. While some athletes may benefit from the addition of these nutrients, most people don't need them. If you are eating a healthy diet and especially if you are taking a multivitamin, you don't need extra vitamins in your water. The exception would be someone who is doing more than one hour of continuous aerobic exercise who needs to replace their electrolytes.
- Herbals: Research is still poor on whether herbs do what many people say they do or whether they can be harmful. Many herbs have medicinal strength effects on the body, so read labels and be careful with how much you are drinking of the waters with added herbs. If you are pregnant or nursing, avoid them altogether.
- Fiber: A few new waters (or drink packets to add to water) now have fiber added to them. Fiber can help keep you full longer, and most people don't get enough fiber.
- Protein: Most people get plenty of protein in their diet and don't need it in their water.
- Caffeine: A lot of the enhanced waters with names like "Invigorating" or "Energize" often have caffeine (and sometimes herbals like ginseng, yerba mate, green tea extract). If you are sensitive to caffeine, beware of hidden caffeine in these energizing waters.
- Flavor: Most of these waters have some kind of flavor added to them. We know based on research that people tend to drink more water when it is flavored vs plain. With the flavor, however, often sugar or artificial sweetener is added. Read labels carefully if you want to avoid artificial sweeteners or don't want the added calories from sugar.
Speaking of sugar, a lot of these waters can have 50 calories or more per 8 oz serving. That means 100 or more calories for the bottle. While that may not seem like a lot, even one bottle per day at 100 calories each can add up to 10 pounds of weight gain per year.
Why not save a few dollars (and the environment) and get some water out of a filtered tap and squeeze your own lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit into it? Add a splash of your own pomegranate or other juice for a different flavor profile. Or slice a cucumber or put a mint sprig into your glass like they do at the spas.
Photo courtesy of istockphoto.