Is Flavored Water Good For You and Your Metabolic Balance?

Unsweetened flavored water helps meet daily fluid needs and does not raise blood glucose levels.

Womans-hands-holding-jar-of-water-with-fruits
by
Sarah Bullard, MS, RD, LD
— Signos
Dietitian and Nutrition Writer
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
April 23, 2024
February 20, 2023
— Updated:
January 31, 2024

Table of Contents

There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for daily water intake, but research shows that somewhere between 11.5 and 15.5 cups of water per day is a good place to start.12 If you’re not inclined to drink regular water, you may fall short of those recommendations and want to explore alternative ways to stay hydrated.

Flavored water is a simple and delicious way to increase fluid intake and support hydration. Plus, drinking flavored water instead of sugary drinks, like sodas and fruit juices, can be a healthy swap. High sugar intake is related to the development of several chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and cavities.1, 2

Many types of flavored water are available, some with added sugar. Choosing naturally flavored water or options made with sugar substitutes can be a refreshing change to plain water without the risks associated with excessive sugar intake.

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What is Flavored Water?

Flavored water is plain water with flavors added to enhance the taste. These added water flavors may be natural or artificial. 

Flavored water is a type of bottled water regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA regulates all bottled water products to ensure they are safe, wholesome, and truthfully labeled.3 

Flavored water can span a variety of products, including flat or sparkling options made with natural or artificial sweeteners and natural or artificial flavors. Some come in zero-calorie or low-calorie options, but it’s important to be aware that higher-calorie varieties exist. 

Is Flavored Water Healthy?

We all know drinking enough water daily is essential for optimum health, as hydration levels play a role in many biological processes. Proper hydration is critical for temperature regulation, gastrointestinal activity, heart health, kidney function, and physical and cognitive performance.4 Still, drinking 11 to 15 glasses of water can be challenging for some.

Thankfully, naturally flavored waters can help you stay hydrated and better meet your daily needs. 

Many natural water flavorings are low in sugar, but some use artificial flavors and sweeteners.

Adults who regularly consume sugary beverages may find regular water undesirable, and the American Heart Association has found that many turn to low-calorie, artificially sweetened drinks instead. While this may be healthier than sodas and other sugary beverages, experts advise trying unsweetened flavored water for even more health benefits.5

Benefits of Water and Unsweetened Flavored Water Intake

Glass-of-water-infused-with-lemon-and-mint

Though it may vary between individuals, the human body is made up of at least 50% water.13 So, prioritizing water intake—flavored or regular—offers many health benefits.

Prevents Dehydration

Falling short of your hydration needs can lead to dehydration or a dangerous loss of body fluids. Common symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, lethargy, muscle cramps, and headaches.14 However, more severe cases can lead to irregular heartbeat, confusion, unconsciousness, and shock.

Drinking water is essential for maintaining hydration, but flavored waters can also help prevent dehydration. Some flavored varieties also contain electrolytes that support optimal hydration. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you navigate your hydration needs and safely incorporate flavored waters into your well-balanced diet.

Promotes Healthy Kidney and Heart Function

Water is essential for our organs as well. For example, the kidneys help regulate fluid levels and rid the body of waste. Drinking enough water is necessary so they can do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

Additionally, it’s critical to drink enough water for your heart. Dehydration makes it more difficult for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body and may even result in an irregular heartbeat or palpitations. Staying hydrated helps your muscles work more efficiently, including your heart.

Improves Cognitive Function and Alertness

The brain is approximately 75% water by mass, accounting for the link between hydration and cognitive performance. Dehydration can lead to issues with short-term memory, attention span, and energy levels.15 Drinking regular or flavored water can support maximum brain function and cognitive abilities.

Aids in Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight safely and sustainably, water is key. Research has continuously shown a connection between water intake and body composition, indicating that hydration can affect appetite and metabolism.16

Flavored water can support weight loss goals as well. However, it’s essential to be mindful of additives used in the ingredients. Sugar-containing sweeteners, like cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, can add unnecessary calories and work against your weight management efforts. Opt for waters made with natural sweeteners instead. 

Boosts Physical Performance

Hydration is pivotal in physical performance, injury prevention, and recovery. The latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week combined with two days of strength training.17 This level of training usually results in sweating, causing a shift in hydration and electrolytes.

If not appropriately replenished, you may experience dehydration and see a decrease in your performance level. Flavored or plain water can help you rehydrate and maximize your workout.

Improves Skin

Research has shown that higher water intake is linked to improved skin physiology.18 Skin dehydration, often characterized by dry or itchy skin, indicates overall dehydration. However, it’s important to remember that many factors affect skin health, and more water doesn’t always solve skin concerns.

Improves Digestion and Prevents Constipation

Drinking water is key in shaping the gut microbiome, which is essential for healthy digestion.19 Water helps break down food in the digestive tract so the body can absorb the necessary nutrients. Furthermore, water helps prevent constipation by acting as a stool softener and assisting digested food through your system.

Prevents Headaches

As mentioned before, your brain is approximately 75% water. So, when you fall short of your water goals for the day, the brain tissue shrinks and pulls away from your skull. As the tissues contract, it can put pressure on the nerves and cause pain, most commonly known as a dehydration headache. Drinking enough water throughout the day can help prevent headaches.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="what-is-the-best-water-to-drink">What is The Best Water to Drink For Your Health?</a>.</p>

Is Flavored Sparkling Water Good for You?

Flavored sparkling water is made by adding pressurized carbon dioxide to water. This provides the fizz in your sparkling water. But is carbonated water bad for you?

A one-year study comparing carbonated beverages to non-carbonated beverage intake among rats found increased weight gain and ghrelin hormone levels in the rats drinking carbonated beverages. Ghrelin causes hunger and increased appetite.6 

Additionally, they found that ghrelin levels were increased in 20 healthy human males after drinking carbonated beverages compared to non-carbonated drinks.6

Some flavored sparkling waters contain added sugars and use chemicals and extracts to replicate natural flavors. Check the water’s label to determine if added sugars or alternative sweeteners have been added, like stevia, sucralose, or aspartame. Steer clear of added sugars and alternative sweeteners for the healthiest flavored water. 

If you enjoy the taste of unsweetened sparkling water, you can still enjoy them in moderation. Some mineral waters, rich in calcium and magnesium, even have a natural carbonation. Drinking a handful of cans per week is generally okay. If you have increased appetite and hunger, switch to naturally flavored water. 

Artificial vs. Natural Flavorings and Blood Sugar Control

Many flavored waters use artificial sweeteners or added sugars. Added sugars can be harmful to your health and increase the risk of developing diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.1 Still, artificial sweeteners are associated with insulin resistance, obesity, and unfavorable gut microbiota.2 Either way, moderation is key.

Artificially Sweetened Flavored Water Nutrition Profile:7

  • 0 calories
  • 0 g protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 0 g carbohydrate
  • Artificial Sweeteners: aspartame, acesulfame potassium

Naturally Sweetened Flavored Water Nutrition Profile:8

  • 0 calories
  • 0 g protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 0 g carbohydrate
  • No artificial sweeteners

There is no risk of adverse effects on glucose management with naturally sweetened flavored water. Adding berries or a spritz of citrus juice, like grapefruit or lime, to your seltzer is a refreshing way to stay hydrated.

On the other hand, research has linked insulin resistance and obesity to the intake of artificial sweeteners. These drinks are still healthier than sugar-sweetened beverages but should be limited due to artificial sweeteners. 

Can Infused Water Drinks Help Lower Blood Sugar?

You can skip the confusion at the store and make your own infused flavored water at home. Infused water simply adds fruits, vegetables, or herbs to plain water and allows the flavors to infuse into the water for several hours. This eliminates any use of carbonation, added sugar, or alternative sweeteners. 

Infused water is a healthy way to flavor your water that will last about 3 to 4 days in your refrigerator.9 You can make it even easier by purchasing an infuser water pitcher with a compartment for the fruit, vegetables, or herbs, eliminating the need to strain before drinking. 

Alternatively, a glass mason jar with a lid can be used to make infused water, but you may want to strain out the fruits, vegetables, or herbs before drinking. 

The number of carbohydrates and calories that transfer to the water is minimal. The average sweetened beverage contains about 40 g of carbohydrates from added sugars, leading to a quick spike in your blood sugar. Infusing water provides a tasty, natural drink that will not raise blood sugar levels to the same extent. 

Still, it’s essential to be mindful of the dangers of infused water. Consuming excess infused water, especially water prepared with potent ingredients like ginger and citrus fruit, can cause gastrointestinal distress or mouthburn.

4 Natural Flavored Water Recipes

Infusing your water with fruit is an excellent option for those who avoid plain water due to its taste. Basil and mint complement fruit well for infused water. Other herbs and spices like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, and even jalapenos will naturally flavor water. 

Fresh fruit and herbs will provide the best flavor for your water. Cutting the fruit and herbs into smaller slices or pieces allows more flavor to infuse into the water. You will also infuse some vitamins and minerals into the water as they permeate overnight in your fridge.  

Most infused waters taste best the longer they infuse. Overnight infusions allow for the most flavor, but shorter time frames can work if you are in a hurry. Infused water lasts for about three to four days in the refrigerator. 

  • Strawberry + Basil Infused Water: The sweet flavors of strawberry and basil are refreshing. Strawberries are high in vitamin C. Combine 5-6 quartered strawberries with a small bunch of torn basil and add 6 cups of water. Let it infuse overnight in the refrigerator. 
  • Peach + Mint Infused Water: Peach-infused water is reminiscent of summertime. Peaches are antioxidant-rich. Cut the peach slices into ½ inch slices and roughly tear the mint. Place these in 6 cups of water. Infuse for four to five hours in the refrigerator to allow the mint to absorb into the water. 
  • Lemon + Mint Infused Water: All citrus fruits taste excellent with mint. This refreshing drink can be put over ice. Lemons are known for their antioxidant capacity and can help with weight loss by improving insulin resistance and glucose levels.10 Slice a lemon into ¼ inch slices and roughly tear one bunch of mint. Add 6 cups of water and allow four to five hours of infusion. 
  • Blueberry + Cucumber Infused Water: Cucumbers add a spa-like feel to your beverages. Blueberries are a superfood due to their high antioxidant content, which helps to reduce inflammation in the body.11 Take ½ cup of blueberries and cut them in half. Then add a small cucumber and slice it into ¼-inch slices. Place all ingredients into 6 cups of water and sit for about four hours in the refrigerator.

You can find more recipes, healthy eating, and lifestyle habits on Signos’ blog. Take some time to read more evidence-based nutrition information and make even more changes. 

Learn More About Healthy Nutrition With Signos’ Expert Advice

Learn more about nutrition and hydration. Use the Signos CGM to help improve your health by tracking your blood sugar response to beverages and food. This CGM helps you to adopt healthy eating habits and easily keep track of your diet. 

This quick quiz will determine if Signos is a good fit for you. Learn more about nutrition and healthy habits on Signos’ blog.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href="what-can-a-diabetic-drink-besides-water">Practical List of What Can a Diabetic Drink Besides Water</a>.</p>

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References

About the author

Sarah Bullard is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer with a master’s degree in nutrition. She has a background in research and clinical nutrition, personalized nutrition counseling, and nutrition education.

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