Is La Croix Healthy? — Nutritionists Have the Answer

Is La Croix bad for you? Sparkling waters have faced some controversy, but they don't deserve all the shade. Here's what to know.

The seltzer boom is here. It's happened. Sales of sparkling waters and seltzers (including alcoholic ones) have skyrocketed since 2018 and show no signs of slowing. But if you find yourself downing case after case of your favorite La Croix — only to have a friend doubt the healthfulness of your beverage — you might be wondering: Wait, is La Croix bad for you? Here's a look at the science, and what's really in your La Croix.

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La Croix vs. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Let's get one thing clear: La Croix is absolutely healthier than soda or sugar-sweetened beverages such as iced tea and lemonade. In fact, the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee published in July 2020 found that nearly 70 percent of added sugars come from five food categories — one of those being, yep, sweetened beverages. The committee recommended reducing the amount of added sugars in the diet from the current recommendation of 10 percent of total calories down to 6 percent of total calories. (For example, reducing 200 calories to 120 calories in a 2,000-calorie diet.)

There are no sugars, sweeteners, or artificial ingredients contained in La Croix beverages, according to the brand's website. As such, it is a zero-sugar beverage, so it's a tasty choice if you want to swap out your soda or other sugar-sweetened beverage for a La Croix to cut back on added sugar. (The same can be said for any sparkling water or seltzer that doesn't have any kind of added sweetener.) So, if you're wondering whether La Croix is bad for you, but you're choosing between that and soda or juice, you should def choose the sparkling water.

Not to mention, La Croix and other sparkling waters totally count toward your hydration for the day — and staying hydrated is one of the simplest healthy things you can do for yourself, according to Taylor C. Wallace, Ph.D., CEO at Think Healthy Group, certified food scientist, and professor in the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University. In fact, a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that both sparkling and still water offered approximately the same hydration benefit.

La Croix's Natural Flavoring

The ingredients listed on the La Croix can read: "only carbonated water, naturally essenced (non-GMO)." The La Croix website further explains that the natural flavors are derived from natural essence oils extracted from the fruit named in each of the La Croix varieties. In other words, the "natural flavors" added come from the natural oils in tangerines, apricots, mango, or whichever fruit is named on the can.

That said, there's no way to know for certain exactly what's being used to create each flavor of La Croix since the full ingredients aren't disclosed. The term "natural flavor" or "natural flavoring" is defined as a product that "contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional," according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So, there are a lot of possibilities in what could be used to flavor the drinks.

Some folks may be concerned that the intense flavors in La Croix can make you crave the product and expect flavor of a similar magnitude every time you grab a drink — meaning, after drinking tons of those Pamplemousse-flavored sparkling waters, it might seem that normal water just won't cut it anymore. That's a valid concern. However, "there is no scientific evidence whatsoever to suggest that natural or artificial flavors make you crave more, like when your sugar rush subsides," according to Wallace. If you do find yourself becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the natural flavors of fresh fruit or regular water, it might be worth looking at your consumption of flavored beverages such as La Croix and reevaluating your hydration habits.

What About the Carbonation?

Some research suggests that carbonated beverages may cause tooth enamel to wear away. However, sparkling water is generally fine for your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). One study that looked at the effect of regular water and sparkling water on tooth enamel found that both had the same effect, according to the ADA.

Some background: Dental erosion is can happen in acidic (lower pH) environments. It's true that carbonated water is slightly more acidic than regular water, but it has a higher (read: safer) pH than most sugary drinks. In a 2016 report on the pH of beverages in the U.S., the ADA reported that bottled waters and one municipal water source had pH levels between 5 and 7, and Perrier carbonated mineral water had a pH of 5.25 — all labeled as minimally erosive to enamel (La Croix was not specifically tested). That's compared to sodas and juices, many of which presented pH levels between 2 and 3 — much more acidic than even carbonated water — and are labeled as erosive or extremely erosive. (See: Your Apple Cider Vinegar Habit May Be Ruining Your Teeth)

That said, if the sparkling water is citrus-flavored, then it can have higher acidity levels and increase the risk of damage to your enamel. Even so, it's "far better for your teeth than sugary drinks," maintains the ADA. If you do plan to enjoy a citrus-flavored sparkling beverage, though, do so in one sitting or with meals so you aren't sipping it throughout the day and exposing teeth over and over again to the slightly higher levels of acid it contains, suggests the ADA.

How About BPA?

BPA (bisphenol-A) is a synthetic compound found in many plastics, such as in water bottles and food containers and in the lining of cans. BPA-based plastics are used to line food and drink cans to protect against metal contamination, but these endocrine disruptors bring on a host of health problems of their own — especially since some studies show that BPA can seep from packaging into food and drinks. BPA is thought to be similar to estrogen and may have the ability to disrupt the function of other hormones in the body, and possibly negatively impact the brain.

That being said, the research on the dangers of BPA is mixed. In November 2014, the FDA conducted a safety assessment of BPA and stated that the levels currently occurring in food and canned beverages are perfectly safe. Whereas the state of California, for example, includes BPA in its Proposition 65 list of toxic chemicals that are "known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm."

The good news: You likely don't need to worry about BPA in your La Croix anymore. According to the brand's website, as of April 2019, all beverages are produced in cans without BPA liners. If you're drinking other brands of seltzers or sparkling waters, it might be worth double-checking the status of the brand's cans (or opting for glass) if you're concerned about BPA.

The Bottom Line

So, is La Croix bad for you? It can definitely be part of your healthy eating plan, and when compared to other beverages, comes out pretty clean. But in terms of how much La Croix is too much? It's not a black and white answer of bad or good — you should be looking at the totality of your diet and drink habit as a whole. But if you're choosing between it and a soda or sugary beverage, you should definitely go for the La Croix.

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