I had a discussion with my co-worker a week ago. She is working on switching away from soda and her husband had purchased some ‘Clear American Sparkling Water‘ for her as an alternative. She brings it in and asks what I think.
Here’s the ingredient list: Filtered Carbonated Water, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Potassium Citrate, Aspartame, Potassium Benzoate (A Preservative), Acesulfame
Potassium. Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine.
First – it’s a good thing that she is switching from soda! Cutting back on all that sugar and empty calories can only be a benefit. However, we want to make sure that what she’s replacing it with is something that is a benefit.
Enter my occupational dilemma! Part of me really wants to just affirm anything people do that is a positive step in taking ownership over their health. I also have an obligation to help them evaluate the ingredient list with evidence based information.
My major concern with the ingredient list comes from the artificial sweeteners. So I consulted one of my favorite sources, the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They have a simple list called the “Summary of the Safety of all Additives.” This list ranks additives as ‘safe’, ‘cut back’ or ‘avoid’.
The problem with Clear American Sparkling Water is that Aspartame and Acesulfame Potassium are both on the list of food additives to avoid. So is this drink “healthier” than regular soda? That’s a tough call, and it will depend on each individual and what their health goals are.
My take is the following:
- Our bodies need water.
- Our taste buds like sweetness.
- Consuming sweetened beverages (whether sweetened with sugar or with artificial sweeteners) on a regular basis causes our taste buds to get accustomed to foods that are super sweet.
- Having taste buds that prefer super sweet foods and beverages makes it difficult to enjoy the subtle flavors of fruits, vegetables and plain water.
- Having sweetened drinks is probably fine in moderation (twice a week or less). Whether you choose sugar sweetened or artificially sweetened drinks is a personal choice.
If you want to consume beverages other than water on a regular basis, I would consider the following unsweetened beverages as healthy options:
- milk (1% or skim cow’s milk, soymilk, almond milk or rice milk)
- unsweet tea (for my take on bottled tea, read my article here: Is Bottled Lipton® Green Tea Healthy?)
- carbonated water (for a little sweetness, drink with a splash of 100% juice). LaCroix Water is actually becoming pretty popular and a great option for an unsweetened beverage in a can.
What’s your favorite water?
P.S. You can also make your own flavored water! Check out my tutorial.