All About Water: What is actually healthy for you to drink, and why?
You probably don’t need me telling you to drink more water, as the health, wellness, and nutritional benefits are well known. But what’s lesser known is an understanding of the differences between the various different types of water.
Water is essential for the body to maintain ideal bodily functions and conditions - including sweat regulation, urine production, and blood pH stability. With that said, water quality is the most important factor to keep in mind on the journey to adequate hydration. A water’s quality is dependent on a range of factors, from its sourced site, potential minerals / impurities, and pH.
However, the market oversaturation of bottled water has given rise to shady advertising - misrepresenting the health benefits and attributes of water, confusing and often misleading consumers into purchasing less-than quality water (I’m looking at you Dasani).
So what makes water Healthy?
Before determining which types of water are most advantageous in maintaining health, we must first define what is Health. According to the WHO, to be healthy is to be in a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being”. By this definition, health is defined by one's stability, indicating that the healthier someone is, the more prepared and resilient their body is for any potential ailment. Water source, purification, impurity content, and pH are key factors that contribute to the overall quality of water.
But first, the basics…
What is pH?
The term originates from the German word for power, “potenz”; coupled with the elemental sign for Hydrogen, H, pH stands for the “Power of Hydrogen.” By definition, pH is the negative log of H+ ion concentration; in non-fancy terms, it represents the concentration of Hydrogen ions (H+) in a solution. A solution with a higher concentration of H+ would be classified as Acidic, ranging on a scale from 0-6.9 pH. While a basic, or Alkaline solution would indicate a lower concentration of H+ ions, and be scaled numerically from 7.1 to 14. Pure water is the only neutral solution, maintaining a pH of 7 (under ideal conditions).
The average human body is striving to maintain a pH of 7.35-7.45; therefore, slightly alkaline water is optimal in maintaining ideal bodily conditions.
What about Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals within the body, like sodium, calcium, and potassium, that produce an electric charge when dissolved in bodily fluids, such as blood and urine. These minerals are essential in maintaining and regulating bodily functions. With that being said, this doesn’t mean you should run out to buy water advertised as “electrolyte rich”, as all water (unless specified as distilled water) contains trace amounts of electrolytes.
You’re walking down the oh so elusive “water” aisle at the grocery store and grab the generic bottle labeled, Spring Water. Like any rational person, you probably assume this water to be sourced from some natural spring, where rushing water has collected afoot some large mountain; however, the true source may actually be unknown. This was the case of Nestle’s Poland Spring water, a brand advertising as “100% Natural Spring Water”. When in reality, a recent lawsuit has exposed Poland Spring water as “a colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers” by not containing a single drop of Poland Spring water.
Authentic Spring water is collected from an underground source that has emerged onto the surface, which may or may not be purified and treated. Natural Spring water contains minerals collected from the rocks, dirt, and debris that have filtered the underground water. The presence of these natural minerals change the neutral pH of water slightly alkaline.
Natural Spring water is often considered one of the best types of water due to its alkaline pH and presence of necessary minerals (Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium etc.).
Similar to spring water, Artesian water’s only difference is that it flows to the surface without the aid of a pump, seemingly defying gravity. Artesian springs are formed when downward flowing water is trapped in-between two impenetrable surfaces - usually rocks, sand, or gravel - creating a pressure build up that is released by the upward flow of water.
Tap Water (Municipal Water Supply)
Water sourced from the City’s municipal water supply, for the conveyance of public drinking water, is cleansed for human consumption - so they say.
I’m sure you’ve heard some of the suspicion and hesitation when it comes to drinking tap water. Well, you’re right to be suspicious. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to protect America’s drinking water, by not implementing legal limits for more than 160 unregulated contaminants in U.S. tap water. Fluoride - notorious as a neurotoxin with the potential to stunt cognitive development, resulting in IQ deficits - is one of the widely known impurities intentionally put in the water supply. In addition, plenty of other carcinogenic, reproductive, and immune systems compromising “forever chemicals” have been identified in our tap water supply, affecting the health and wellness of hundreds of millions of Americans- forever.
When consuming tap water, it’s important to prioritize filtering out the harmful contaminants with some sort of filtration device. A plethora of options is available for purchase; however, researching what chemicals are in need of filtration is necessary so that you don't end up wasting your money filtering out calcium and consuming mercury.
Also called “hard water”, Mineral water is bottled at the source of a natural underground mineral spring or reservoir, containing various minerals, such as salt, calcium, and sulfuric compounds. The water may be processed to remove impurities or add carbon dioxide (CO2) gas for carbonation.
Different Types of Water
Distilled / Deionized Water
Water that has been boiled allows the liquid to evaporate, leaving behind the majority of impurities. While the pure steam is recondensed in a separate chamber, this now becomes distilled water. This process of distillation can sometimes happen repeatedly, 2-3 times, to ensure water purity.
Deionized (DI) water has been treated to remove all electrically charged compounds (ions). Water is typically sent for deionization after a pre-treatment, where organic materials are removed via physical filtration systems.Water is then sent through a DI system that acts like a magnet, attracting positively charged ions and replacing them with hydrogen (H+) and negatively charged ions with hydroxide (OH-); together, they become H2O- water.
The combination of distillation, filtration, and deionization results in the purest water - nearly void of all contaminants.
Purified water has been filtered or processed to remove impurities like chemicals and other contaminants. To be sold as “purified water”, the overall impurity levels need to be reduced to 10ppm or less. In other words, purified water is just a characteristic of water, specifying that the quality of water meets EPA purity standards.
Usually sourced from groundwater or tap water, purified water removes impurities such as bacteria, algae, fungi, parasites, metals, and chemical pollutants. However, this type of water is often the most misleading and poor quality water choice.
Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Filtration systems that remove impurities and minerals by applying high pressure on water passing through a membrane.
“SO WHAT SHOULD I DRINK??”
Generally speaking, a majority of the water available to people within the U.S is well above the quality of many other countries. Although our tap water quality is questionable - at best - filtration options are available and highly recommended in order to achieve pure water, free from harmful toxins.
The minerals and ions within certain waters are usually most advantageous when in need of more energy (during exercise, exhaustion, dehydration, etc.); however, it’s most important to ensure the quality of your water (presence of chemicals, toxins, non-mineral particulates). Like in most situations, the natural option is the best option. Therefore, the “creme of the crop” of water is a tie between Natural Spring water (filtered for purity, while maintaining natural minerals for health and alkalinity) and distilled water, processed via reverse osmosis (almost completely void of particulates/ pure H2O).
The only downside to distilled water is that it’s purity and lack of natural minerals attract the particulates and minerals from the plastic bottle and pull them into the water. Because of this, it’s advised to drink distilled water (pH 7) in glass bottles.