Is Seltzer an Okay Substitute for Water? Experts Weigh In.

updated May 30, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

Drinking enough water is something a lot of us struggle with. Sure, we know that our bodies need water, but for many people plain water is just boring. It’s hard to drink it all the time!

Perhaps that’s why sparkling water brands like LaCroix are have become a popular option when consumers want a zero-calorie beverage that offers more pizzazz and flavor than plain water.

Sparkling water is here to stay: Nearly 574 million gallons of sparkling water — that’s $6.1 billion worth — were sold in the U.S. in 2016, the last full year of data we have so far, according to Beverage Marketing. And that figure was expected to reach 790 gallons and more than $8.5 million in 2017.

Yes, You Can Replace Water with Seltzer (with One Exception)

“Seltzer is water with carbonation, or carbon dioxide, added to it,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. “Both water and seltzer are equally hydrating.”

“The USDA recommends both still and unsweetened sparkling water as a replacement for sugar-sweetened beverages,” says Marina Chaparro, RDN, CDE, MPH, owner of NutriChicos, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I would say two thumbs up for seltzer water, carbonated water that doesn’t contain additional sugar or sodium.”

So, the good news is that seltzer is a totally acceptable replacement for water — except when you’re working out. “I’d recommend drinking straight water before a workout so that you feel less full,” says Gorin. “For hydration during and after a workout, you may want to stick with regular water or a sports drink so that you’re able to drink more and are able to obtain adequate hydration.”

Gorin recommends flavoring regular water with berries, melon, or other fruits by steeping a pitcher of water with fruit or vegetables overnight.

There are also a few other things you should know before you pop another can of bubbly. Here’s what our experts have to say.

4 Things to Keep in Mind About Seltzer

1. Make sure you’re drinking enough water — period.

“Keep in mind that if you’re drinking seltzer as your main source of water, the gas bubbles it contains will also fill up your tummy and may actually lead you to drink less — thus, you may end up less hydrated,” Gorin said. “If you like seltzer, I would advise a mix of water and seltzer in your diet instead of only seltzer.”

2. Read your labels.

“Carbonated water is going to hydrate you the same way as tap or still water,” said Chaparro. “The main caveat is that you have to look at nutrition labels, because not all carbonated waters are the same.”

Some sparkling sodas or seltzers might contain some added sodium or added sugars, said Chaparro. “Look for seltzer without added sugar. That’s going to be great for people who are drinking soda, or some type of sweetened beverage, and want to make a swap,” said Chaparro.

3. Beware the bloat.

All of those wonderful bubbles can lead to burping and bloat. If you love drinking seltzer, your fitted dresses may feel snugger than if you were simply drinking plain water.

“Seltzer contains gas bubbles, which fill up the stomach,” said Gorin. “So if you were to drink it as one of your main beverage sources, you may experience some gastrointestinal discomfort and may feel bloated or gassy. Different people react to carbonation differently.”

4. Don’t worry about seltzer affecting your teeth.

You may have heard about the side effects of drinking too much carbonated water as bone or calcium depletion, but Chaparro says really there is no science to back that up. Some people are concerned about the effects of carbonated water on their tooth enamel, but Chaparro says that those, too, are unfounded claims.