Is Sparkling Water Bad For You? Experts Say Don't Sweat It

fruit infused sparkling water

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Key Takeaways

  • Questioning if sparkling water is "healthy enough" can feed into the obsession with perfectionism in diet culture.
  • Dietary patterns are more important than individual components for overall health status, a dietician says.
  • Sparkling water, though mildly acidic, helps to increase someone's daily water intake.

The explosive seltzer trend has prompted questions about whether carbonated water is as healthy as still water. But The Atlantic journalist Derek Thompson criticized this line of questioning as part of an “elite movement” to get people to obsess about their already-healthy habits. 

Sparkling water critics reflect the bigger obsession with having perfect control over our diet, experts say.

Michelle Pillepich, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian and personal trainer, says that the concept of wellness is particularly problematic on social media.

“So many influencers or celebrities are promoting very specific niche products as the key to health and typically they’re expensive,” Pillepich tells Verywell. “So it really is creating this unattainable, supposed level of health that only the rich and the elite can have and it’s perpetuating the lie that it does come down to minutia when really it’s the basics.”

Still Water vs. Sparkling Water

For Pillepich, her concern is more about people’s daily fluid intake rather than labeling sparkling water. 

“If sparkling water is appealing and tastes good to someone and is going to help them stay hydrated, then I would say drink it,” she says.

Sparkling water can be a great alternative for people who want to quit drinking sodas, which have high sugar content and acids. Although carbonated water also contains phosphoric or citric acid, which can harm the teeth, its acid level is lower than that of many sports drinks and sodas.

However, replacing soda with sparkling water doesn’t work for everyone.

Karisa Karmali, a certified personal trainer and founder of Self-Love and Fitness, had swapped soda for sparkling water to reduce her sugar intake. But she felt pain in her teeth and gums as well as stomach bloating when she drank sparkling water. 

“When sparkling water is sold as the only alternative to soda, people miss the gray area,” Karmali says.

Instead of carbonated water, she now opts for flavored still water infused with apples, berries, and citrus for a refreshing alternative.

Fixating on the Perfect Diet

Among the large variety of carbonated drinks, hard seltzers emerged as a health-conscious alternative to alcohol, boasting low calorie, sugar, and carbohydrate contents. The crowd-favorite White Claw hard seltzers dominated the alcoholic beverage market in 2019, recording $1.5 billion in sales.

But “bringing every category of food and drink into the health conversation” is unnecessary, Pillepich suggests.

“If somebody likes a hard seltzer and they want to drink it, great,” she says. “If you are drinking it because it’s the ‘healthy’ drink but you really were craving a beer... then it’s that same dangerous mindset that can really leave you feeling unfulfilled.”

Many people obsess over the ingredients in their food and drinks because they want to have complete control over their health. Pillepich says this is simply impossible because factors like genetics, sleep, and stress that contribute to overall health aren’t related to the food and drinks we consume. 

She also worries that conversations around the “healthiest” type of water, food or alcoholic beverage can cause harm for people with disordered eating patterns. This health anxiety may contribute to an eating disorder called orthorexia, Pillepich says, which is “an obsession with healthy food and clean eating.” Instead of focusing on calories and quantities, people who struggle with orthorexia are fixated on a specific ingredient or worried if a type of food will cause diseases. 

Evaluating one’s overall dietary pattern is more helpful than zeroing in on a single component, Pillepich suggests. 

“It’s about the big picture,” she says. “What you’re doing meal to meal is not nearly as important as what your patterns look like week to week and month to month.” 

In her own practice, she also encourages her clients to take a holistic approach to health.

“Health is not just physical, it’s also mental, emotional, and relational,” Pillepich says. “If this focus on carbonated water is going to be increasing your anxiety about your health or stressing you out when you’re out with your friends… then that’s damaging your health, just in a non-physical way.”

What This Means For You

Although there is no official recommendation on how much water you should drink every day, staying hydrated can help your body maintain a normal temperature, lubricate your joints, and get rid of wastes through urination, sweat, and bowel movements.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Reddy A, Norris DF, Momeni SS, Waldo B, Ruby JD. The pH of beverages in the United StatesThe Journal of the American Dental Association. 2016;147(4):255-263. doi:10.1016/j.adaj.2015.10.019

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Water and Nutrition. January 12, 2021.