“Plain seltzer without additional additives can be as hydrating as water,” says Feller. “The CDC lists plain seltzer and water as a smart beverage choice and some research has found that there is no difference with regard to hydration status when a person consumes still or carbonated water without additives.”
You can drink it during exercise, but be mindful
If seltzer is as hydrating as water, can you drink it when you work out? Yes, Feller says, but it really depends on your carbonation tolerance: “I would suggest that each person see if they are able to tolerate the carbonation during vigorous activity.”
“Having seltzer water can keep a person hydrated however if the carbonation causes gas or bloating it may also cause cramps and can disrupt the persons ability/comfort to exercise,” adds Marinucci. “It is also more filling than plain water so a person may not drink as much as they need if they choose seltzer over plain water.”
From my own experience drinking seltzer in a Pilates class today, I don’t recommend it. The seltzer made me feel like burping and threw off my breathing flow.
Your teeth could suffer, but moderation and washing down with water helps
Seltzer is indeed, harsh on your teeth, but not if you drink it right (and in moderation).
“The problem with seltzer is that it can be acidic,” says Dr. Lee Gause, a dentist who specializes in implant and cosmetic dentistry and founder of Smile Design Manhattan. “Teeth fare better in a neutral or even slightly alkaline solution. Different seltzer brands have different levels of acidity, primarily stemming from both the citric acid that gives seltzers the bubbles and zesty lemony taste. Even unflavored seltzers contain a carbonic acid that gives it its bubbles.”
Over time, that acidity can lead to enamel erosion.
“I have seen a lot of patients whose main cause of erosion was an overly acidic diet from citrus to sodas and lack of regular or alkaline water,” says Dr. Gause. “All of that being said, [seltzer] is safe to consume in appropriate volumes — keep it to once a day with meals, at a maximum, and be sure to wash everything down with standard water.”
Grause also recommends using a straw if you want to be “extra careful”, as this allows the seltzer to bypass your teeth.
When to cut down on seltzer
Dr. Gause recommends skipping the seltzer if you already have an acidic diet, “consuming lots of lemon juice, pomegranate, grapefruits, tomatoes, blueberries, pineapples, apples, corn, mushrooms, broccoli, etc.”
Might I add that these are all foods I eat in great quantity, so I certainly need to cut down. I also have IBS, and the carbonation in seltzer can cause further irritation.
People who have IBS and or a sensitive GI may want to steer clear of carbonated water.
“People who have IBS and or a sensitive GI may want to steer clear of carbonated water,” says Feller, with Marinucci adding, “If someone is experiencing digestive symptoms like feeling gassy/bloated/has a hiatal hernia and continues to consume seltzer with symptoms then that would be considered too much.”
“Also, if a person is using it to fill up and intentionally skip multiple meals/snacks then that is too much because every skipped meals/snacks are missed opportunities to fuel the body with nutrient dense foods,” says Marinucci.
Make your own, so you know what’s in it
Reading labels is always wise, but with seltzer — in particular flavored seltzer — it can be tricky to know exactly what you’re getting. The term “natural flavor” has been a hot debate, with even the FDA calling for more transparency, given that the labeling is vague at best, and doesn’t illuminate the processes that may be involved. Seltzer brands like La Croix, which famously touts no calories, artificial sweeteners or sodium says its flavors are “derived from the natural essence oils extracted from the named fruit” boasted on the can. How exactly this happens is a proprietary mystery.
No disrespect to La Croix here (that grapefruit one is my best friend at barbecues, and I love that it’s not too fizzy or too sweet), but if you want to know exactly what’s in your seltzer, make your own at home (I use a SodaStream, but there are other kits out there).
“The simplest ingredients possible is a good rule of thumb,” says Dr. Gause. “You can easily make your own without having to spend on branded water, [and] know exactly where it came from.”
In any event, seltzer is absolutely the best sparkling beverage choice, especially if you’re watching calories or looking to up your hydration.
“For someone who regularly consumes soda, having seltzer water can be an excellent alternative because it is calorie-free, sugar-free and chemical-free,” says Marinucci. “The naturally flavored seltzers may not taste as sweet as regular or diet soda, however in time, a person’s taste buds can adjust and they will actually begin to [like] it. For a little extra natural flavor and nutrition, squeeze some fresh fruit like lemon and enjoy.”