From morning coffee to afternoon tea to your post-workout hydration, you consume your home’s water all the time. But you may be taking for granted how healthy it is, based on several factors: Where your water comes from, where you live, and your own dietary needs and challenges.
Here’s the skinny on tap water, bottled water, and other options you can use to hydrate yourself for optimal health.
Tap water: We shower with it, cook with it, fill the dog’s water dish with it, and drink it on ice. So, you may think that your tap water flows clean and is safe for all these uses. And in many cases, it is; municipal water treatment plants can be amazing feats of engineering and technology and your pipes may be in tip-top shape.
Depending on where you live, your pipes, and whether your water is from a well or the city, however, the tap water you drink may contain arsenic, aluminum, fluoride, chlorine, or the residue from your neighbor’s toxic lawn spray. In any of these cases, “don’t drink the water” is a good rule of thumb when it comes to what’s flowing from your tap. You may also want to conduct a water test to understand just what’s in the water.
When assessing the safety of your tap water, you should also consider whether your water is soft or hard.
- “Soft” water contains higher levels of sodium. For people with high blood pressure, soft water unfortunately adds to their sodium intake
- “Hard” water contains a high content of naturally occurring minerals, specifically magnesium and calcium.
And generally, we can all benefit from the magnesium and calcium we consume through water, so hard water has some health benefits.
On the other hand, calcium and magnesium in hard water can also change the pH balance of your skin and effectively weaken its barrier-like properties that would otherwise shield you from harmful bacteria and infections. (This is especially problematic for eczema sufferers.) So, if you notice you’re developing dry skin or hair, you may want to consider a water-softening system for your home or consult with your dermatologist about moisturizers and hair products to combat the effects of hard water.
If your solution to bad tap water is to simply buy bottled water, think again: Bottled water comes with its own long- and short-term health problems for you as well as the planet.
Here’s the skinny: About 40% of bottled water is just tap water bottled in single-use plastic. This means you are not only not getting a better product, but you’re paying for something that otherwise is free.
Even worse: You’re contributing to the already staggering levels of plastic garbage on land and at sea. With about 40 billion plastic water bottles used each month, astonishingly, only 9% of them get recycled.
Finally, drinking from a plastic water bottle also exposes you to even more chemicals. Plastic bottles contain a chemical called bisphenol A or BPA, which is a synthetic hormone disruptor that has been linked to serious health problems such as:
- Learning and behavioral problems
- Altered immune system function
- Prostate and breast cancer
- Risk of obesity
- Early puberty in both genders
For these reasons, drinking bottled water is probably the option with the worst net-negative effect on your health and the planet’s.
Distilled water may be a good option for a short period of time, but it isn’t ideal. Distilled water is water that has been boiled, evaporated, and returned to a liquid state. This process removes all minerals, bacteria, and contaminants from it.
However, it also eliminates valuable magnesium, calcium, and even sodium from your body. These minerals can actually benefit your body in moderation, and you need them to survive; in fact, drinking water without any minerals can have a negative effect on your health over long periods of time.
Moreover, due to its lack of minerals, distilled water also becomes slightly acidic. This means that, when you drink it, distilled water may draw minerals out of your body to restore its pH levels.
Distilled water could be beneficial to drink if you’re in a brief period of detoxification or purifying lake or stream water while camping. But in the long term, it’s not a sustainably healthy solution.
Other Kinds of H2O
Some kinds of H2O have real benefits, while others offer no evidence-based health benefits (despite some persuasive and impressive marketing claims).
- Alkaline water: While alkaline water is trendy, there isn’t an effective body of objective research to back up the supposed benefits.
- Filtered water: Installing a water filter in your home is a good way to consume tap water while filtering out elements that might endanger your health. With no plastic bottles or chemicals (and a low cost), this is often the most economical and environmentally-sound choice.
The Best Kind of Water to Drink: Living Water
So, when it comes to finding the ideal water to drink, you don’t want something that’s too acidic or too alkaline. The best kind of water will have a pH range between 6.5 and 8.5. Knowing this, many people have found that living water, or mountain spring water, is the best water for optimal health.
You can even bottle it yourself (not in single-use plastic, please!). FindaSpring.com is a website that helps you find natural springs in your area so you can bottle your own water.
The Bottom Line
Evaluating your drinking (and cooking, and coffee) water is a key way to improve your health and avoid the negative consequences of exposure to bad substances. Our favorite choice for H2O? Filtered tap water (like these whole-house water filters).
If you want help making healthy decisions and improving your habits, be sure you talk to one of our Arootah Coaches.
What is your preferred type of water to drink? How did you decide to drink that type of water? Share in the comments.