With their bubbly consistency and vibrant colors, fizzy drinks are among the most beloved products on the market. Perhaps the only benefit of soda and carbonated water is that feeling of fullness you get after just a few sips.
Both soda and carbonated water fill you up and count toward your fluid intake. Soda, though, is chock-full of sugar and empty calories, increases appetite and contributes to weight gain.
While it's true that both beverages keep you hydrated, it doesn't mean they're healthy. From a nutritional standpoint, carbonated water is pretty much the same as regular water. Soda, on the other hand, packs a lot of sugar, additives and empty calories.
The Truth About Carbonated Water
Sparkling water is a popular choice for dieters who tout the benefits of sparkling water for weight loss. It has zero calories, fills you up quickly and quenches your thirst. Plus, you can always add a few lemon slices and fresh mint leaves for extra flavor.
Depending on their source, some carbonated waters are healthier than others. Natural mineral waters, for example, contain magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, iron and other trace minerals, according to a review published in the September-December 2017 edition of Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism. These nutrients support metabolic health, keep your bones strong, aid in blood clotting and regulate your fluid balance, among other functions.
Bicarbonate natural mineral water may improve blood lipids and neutralize gastric acidity, as noted in the above review. Sulfate mineral waters promote digestive health and have mild laxative effects. Calcic mineral water may increase bone mineral density and reduce bone loss.
Seltzer water and club soda are carbonated waters, too. However, disadvantages of soda water are that they provide fewer nutrients compared to natural mineral water. Flavored varieties may contain added sugars and lead to weight gain.
Does Soda Have Any Benefits?
Diet soda isn't better either. This popular beverage may stimulate appetite and increase sugar cravings, according to Harvard School of Public Health.
In addition to sugar, soft drinks may contain caffeine, artificial flavors, preservatives and other chemicals. They do provide small amounts of vitamins and minerals, but their risks outweigh any potential benefits.
A medium can of cola, for example, has 180 calories and more than 43 grams of added sugars. It also delivers 1 percent of the daily recommended calcium intake, 3 percent of the daily recommended allowance of iron and 4 percent of the daily recommended amount of phosphorus.
These minerals, though, can be obtained from healthier sources, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy. Unsweetened almond milk, by comparison, has only 39 calories per cup and provides 40 percent of the daily recommended calcium intake, 5 percent of the daily recommended iron intake and large doses of vitamin A, potassium and manganese.
Both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages promote obesity and weight gain, according to a systematic review published in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine in August 2017. Furthermore, aspartame, saccharine and other sugar substitutes may increase diabetes risk, alter the gut flora and affect glycemic control. Although most people are aware of the disadvantages of soda water, they often believe a daily glass is unlikely to cause any harm.
Sparkling Water vs. Soda
The truth is that soda has no actual benefits. Although it fills you up quickly, it increases appetite and triggers cravings for sugary foods, as reported in a May 2018 review featured in Current Developments in Nutrition. Each daily serving of diet soda has been linked to a 25 percent greater risk of diabetes. In one study, diabetes risk was 67 percent higher in daily diet soda consumers.
Sparkling water is calorie-free and provides your body with trace minerals. It's not the best choice for your teeth, but its effects on overall health are negligible.
Now that you know more about sparkling water versus soda, you can make the right choice. Be aware, though — flavored sparkling water and tonic water are no better than cola and other soft drinks.
Stick to regular carbonated water and enjoy it in moderation to avoid damage to your teeth. Check the labels for sneaky additives and hidden sugars. For extra flavor, squeeze lime, lemon or grapefruit juice into carbonated water.
- CCMBM: "Natural Mineral Waters: Chemical Characteristics and Health Effects"
- NCBI: "Effect of Carbonated Water Manufactured by a Soda Carbonator on Etched or Sealed Enamel"
- Mayo Clinic: "Heartburn"
- CDC: "Prevalence of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake Among Adults — 23 States and the District of Columbia, 2013"
- CDC: "Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Among U.S. Adults, 2011–2014"
- Harvard.edu: "Sugary Drinks"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Carbonated Cola Fast-Food Cola"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Unsweetened Almond Milk"
- QJM: An International Journal of Medicine: "Sugar and Artificially Sweetened Beverages Linked to Obesity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Current Developments in Nutrition: "Diet Soda and Sugar-Sweetened Soda Consumption in Relation to Incident Diabetes in the Northern Manhattan Study"
- JAMA Internal Medicine: "Association Between Soft Drink Consumption and Mortality in 10 European Countries"