You know water is super healthy and important to drink, but if you don't like the taste, you're not alone: About 20 percent of Americans dislike the flavor of plain H2O, reports the Wall Street Journal. (If that's you, try one of our 20 Healthy Tips to Make Drinking Water Taste Better.)
Now many beverages companies are focusing on this group of non-water drinkers, offering alternative healthy drinks like fruit infused waters that they believe are healthier than regular soda and diet soda, which both have gotten a bad rap over the years. But sorting through all these new options can be overwhelming. Deciphering between what is a healthy choice and what might be another soda in disguise can lead many to think a Ph.D. in food science is needed.
Lots of these new fruit waters are sweetened, some naturally and others artificially, to attract the taste buds of those who at heart may prefer soda. Current research still supports that artificial sweeteners are safe to consume, and I have always told my diet-soda drinkers that one a day is fine, but if they are drinking a lot of them and consuming other foods with artificial sweeteners as well, perhaps that is overkill. Long-term safety in abundance, in my opinion, is still questionable.
Other brands include lots of added vitamins and minerals, which you should be wary of if you are already taking over-the-counter supplements. (Are supplements giving you too many vitamins and minerals?) Liquid water enhancers are another emerging trend, but anything where the consumer can control the amount they add concerns me. A drop or two may be fine, but for those individuals who like something very sweet, they may end up adding a lot more artificial sweetener than is ideal.
The good news is that many of these new products have zero calories. This make me happy, since I am always telling my patients not to drink their calories, especially if it is in addition to a calorie-dense meal. I can also get on board with those adding “fruit essence” since that is basically extracting the oils naturally from a fruit. Read the label, though, to see if anything else was added in the process, since in today’s world “natural” can mean just about anything.
But you don’t have to buy any of these. For my patients who don’t like water, I recommend simply adding some fresh fruit to enhance its flavor—lemon, lime, cucumber, or orange slices, or chunks of watermelon are all great--you can also try one of these fruit infused water recipes. I also recommend sparkling water or seltzer with no sodium, either plain or with fresh fruit or a splash of 100-percent fruit juice, which guarantees no artificial dyes or color have been added.
If I had to rank the water options today from my first choice to the last it would be:
1. Plain water or plain sparkling water with no sodium
2. Unsweetened water or sparkling water flavored with "fruit essence"
3. Artificially sweetened sparkling water
4. Water with added artificially sweetened liquid water enhancer
Ultimately the decision is yours. All I know is right now I am very thirsty, so I’m going to grab a tall glass of plain water.