The Best Water to Drink: Spring, Tap or Sparkling?

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

I can’t lie. I’m more convinced than ever that eating an anti-inflammatory diet like PAMM is the single healthiest thing you can do for yourself, and the best way to get good vibes flowing in your life.

That said, if you really want to maximize the energetic and nutritional value of your diet, don’t focus solely on food. Pay attention to what you’re drinking, too. Beverages are not only a source of nourishment, but also potential vibration-lowering substances like sugar, artificial colorings, and other chemicals. Cutting out the bad stuff just makes your diet even healthier.

For me, that means drinking plenty of healthy, energy-filled water every day. I’ll admit it’s not the most exciting choice in the world, but it’s incredibly nourishing if you’re drinking the right kind.

Unfortunately, not all kinds of water are equal when it comes to how they affect the body. Which one is best? Here’s a breakdown of your options and my take on each…

Tap Water

As far as convenience goes, nothing can compete with tap water. You just walk to the kitchen sink and fill up your glass. What could be better than that?

A lot of things, actually.

Even though tap water is readily available and goes through extensive treatment processes, it’s still not as clean and healthy as you think. Between 2010 and 2015, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) looked at safety test results from 48,712 public water utilities throughout the United States. That data found a total of 267 contaminants ranging from nitrates associated with animal waste and agricultural fertilizers to chromium-6—the cancer-causing chemical made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich. The amounts may have been below the EPA’s acceptable limit, but that still doesn’t sound healthy to me!

You can find out how your local tap water scores by visiting EWG’s Tap Water Database.

Filtered Tap Water

Filtering your tap water can help remove some of the contaminants, which makes this option a definite step up from drinking straight out of the spigot. Plus, there are a range of filter types that will fit any budget. So if you don’t have the resources to pay for more expensive bottled water—or you simply don’t want to—this is what you’ll want to do.

Carbon Block Filter

The most affordable filters are the carbon block variety. Many models attach directly to your faucet and sit on your countertop, but they also include pitcher systems like Brita. The activated carbon in these filters helps remove chlorine and large organic compounds, and most people agree that they’re good at improving the taste of tap water. The downside, though, is that they can’t remove inorganic compounds, and their effectiveness varies.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) System

If you’re willing and able to pay a little more, you’ll get better effectiveness from a reverse osmosis system. (I have one of these in my home.) RO, as it’s sometimes called, combines carbon filtration with a special membrane that helps remove the tiny particles that escape the filter. RO systems are usually plumbed into individual taps, so you’ll probably need some help from a pro to get set up. But dollar for dollar, this is the best water to drink for most people. Another option is a whole house ion exchange system, which softens water by removing inorganic materials.

The one downside to RO systems is that they are so effective at removing particles from your water, that they also remove beneficial minerals that you do want. So, if you jump on the RO system bandwagon, be sure to take a mineral supplement (I like to simply add a packet of ElectrolytePLUS Cardio back to my water and voila, problem solved and I get a lot of other health-supporting nutrients in the process).

For more information on what my work best for your home and budget, check out EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide.

Spring Water

Spring water is one of the best types of water to drink because it’s filtered naturally by the Earth as it rises from underground springs. Because of this, it’s full of magnesium, calcium, and other minerals, and contains few pollutants that you’ll find in tap water. (The more remote the spring, the better.) In fact, spring water is sometimes called “living water,” and I agree with that 100 percent.  

Unfortunately, few of us have access to an actual spring, which means buying spring water bottled. My favorite brands include AquaPanna and Saratoga Springs, because they taste great and are in glass bottles (I get into plastic vs glass bottles below).

Mineral Water

Mineral water is also spring water—just with much higher mineral content (hence the name). It’s also among the best waters to drink, though if you’re not used to drinking mineral water, you might find the taste a bit harsh. One downside of mineral water is cost. Because a lot of mineral water comes from Europe, it can be more expensive than other types of bottled water.

Distilled Water

This type of water, I would stay away from, in terms of what’s best to drink on a regular basis.

Distilled water is pure, yes—but, as with RO filtering, the process of distillation removes all of the healthy minerals in water along with all of the contaminants. In fact, because of this, there’s a school of thought that believes distilled water can actually leach minerals out of your body because the water will naturally attract and bind with the minerals around it. If you drink distilled water, be sure to get those minerals back through a multivitamin supplement with minerals.  

Sparkling Water

Sparkling water differs from other kinds of water because, thanks to carbonation, it’s bubbly and fizzy. I’ve got no problem with sparkling water as long as it’s spring water or mineral water and it has no added dyes or flavoring agents. It may even be the best water to drink if you’re a soda drinker who’s looking to cut back or stop that habit. The texture of sparkling water may remind you just enough of soda to help you get through the transition, especially if you add some fresh lemon, lime, or a splash of all-natural juice.

Alkaline Water

You might be wondering, what is alkaline water? I could really dedicate a whole article to this topic (and probably will soon); but for now, alkaline water is basically water that’s less acidic, or has a higher pH, than that out of the tap. Some of the waters mentioned above, such as bottled mineral water, tend to be more alkaline than acidic. Adding minerals to filtered tap water will also help raise the pH of your water.

Why is pH important? Well, the more acidic our blood is, the greater our chances of developing disease, so raising our pH through what we eat and drink is a good health preservation strategy.  Officially, the jury’s out on whether it’s the alkalinity or mineral content of alkaline water that’s beneficial. Either way, I recommend going alkaline when you can – through either mineral water, adding minerals to filtered tap water, or using a water ionizer. When I was in Alaska, I drank water from a glacier (which, due to its oxygen content, has a higher pH), and – let me tell you – I felt amazing!

Watch Out for Water in Plastic Bottles

There is one more consideration when it comes to the best water to drink, and that’s bottling. If I’m going to drink spring, mineral, or sparkling water, I only do it if it comes from a glass bottle.

Plastic bottles are notorious for containing both bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. Both are chemicals used to make plastic, and both can leach into the water in small amounts. Even though this happens in minute amounts that are said to have no impact on health, I don’t think it’s worth taking the risk—especially if you’re of childbearing age and trying to have a baby. BPA and phthalates are both endocrine disrupters, which mean they can wreak havoc on our hormones. BPA, especially, mimics estrogen in the body and has been shown to affect fertility. BPA has also been linked with risk for high blood pressure and plaque buildup in the arteries, which is why it’s on my list of toxins to avoid.

Make sure you apply this rule to the bottles you carry water in as well. Stick with glass or stainless steel, and avoid all types of plastic.

So, to recap—the best water to drink, in my book, is glacier water, spring water or mineral water (sparkling or flat). But if you can’t afford bottles or don’t want add to the plastic load on our beautiful Earth, filtering your tap is the way to go. And, if you use an RO system, just be sure to supplement with minerals. Most of all, though, drink more water. Your body will thank you for it!


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