Can you imagine a world without water?
It wouldn’t be very nice, would it?
…but access to good, clean, drinkable water is a privilege and don’t you forget it – and a privilege to relatively few people if you look across the globe.
Drinking More Water
Drinking more water is definitely a good idea.
How many calories? Zero. Well, there you go then.
Did you know that often when we feel hungry, it’s actually our body craving water. At least if you did drink plenty of water each day, then when you do eat, you are likely to eat less than if you didn’t drink the water – have you thought about that?
OK so it’s a fairly boring drink but there are many ways to get your daily dose of water. Green tea is very healthy for example and more interesting than plain old water if you prefer a hot drink or want a bit of flavour (OK, green tea is not much flavour, but you get the idea) – or any herbal tea for that matter, jasmine tea, liquorice tea… Or what about a cordial? Just be careful how strong you make it.
If you have struggled or do struggle to drink enough water as I do, one good tip for drinking more water is to use a bottle – i.e. every morning fill a bottle (or two bottles) with how much water you want to make sure you drink that day and then by the end of the day make sure you finish it. It’s much easier when you can see clearly how much you have left to drink to reach your target and easy to fit it around other things if you’ve bottled it. I have done this using a 1.5L bottle in the past and using this method have always been sure to exceed that amount as I’ve obviously also been taking in water from other drinks & food but at least I know I at least got the 1.5L I wanted to make sure I drank.
Why We Need Water
The body needs water, we can’t live without it. It’s full of minerals & electrolytes which are good for us as well as helping materials such as blood cells and nutrients move around the body helping our organs to function in the way that they should – a lack of water does the opposite.
A healthy body is in balance (fluid balance), meaning it has just the right amount of water inside and outside of each cell (and we have plenty of capacity before we would be what you would consider ‘over-full’ as well as our bodies telling us very clearly if that is the case).
Here are some of the reasons we need water:
- To lubricate the body
- To digest food – including dissolving nutrients and other materials for movement around the body and moving food along your intestinal tract
- To carry waste out of your body
- Enabling biochemical reactions such as metabolism
- Regulating body temperature (e.g. via perspiration)
- Sending electrical signals between cells so that your brain can think, your eyes can see, your muscles can move…
When we don’t get enough water on the other hand we suffer one or more of the following symptoms of dehydration:
- muscle weakness
So go and fill a bottle or grab a glass of water right now!!!
Now you’ve started drinking more water you’ll benefit in terms of your general health, you’ll most likely lose some weight (zero calories, remember), especially if you’ve been eating food in place of water each time you ‘think’ you’re hungry (OK, sometimes you may be genuinely hungry for food but a lot of the time it could well be your body simply craving more water – just ask yourself, do you drink enough water? and you will know the answer to that one), and you’re almost certainly going to start feeling better.
Whilst you’re sipping that, consider also that drinking more water will almost certainly save you money.
We (my family) started drinking water with any meals we ordered in restaurants or cafes, mainly because we were tired of the children asking for Coca-cola and Fanta all the time. As we wanted to cut down the unhealthy fizzy drinks for our children we thought it would be a good idea for us all to get used to drinking normal tap water with our meals. Two added bonuses we also discovered: 1) the food tasted nicer and 2) the cost of the meal was much cheaper.
We’ve already said that drinking more water you could find yourself losing weight and that for a lot of people, most of the time a feeling of hunger is actually the body telling us that we need water. Drinking water at this point is exactly what’s needed and the ‘hunger’ will be satisfied. Just drinking more water in general will mean that you will want to eat less than if you didn’t drink more water (makes sense, right?) and because this is a fundamental fuel that your body needs, you will probably have more energy and feel a lot healthier too.
Tap Water vs Bottled Water – Which is Better?
In an effort to reduce its environmental footprint, the National Trust announced in its Summer 2010 Magazine that more than 20 National Trust properties are now promoting tap water over bottled water in their tea rooms (the National Trust protects special places such as historic buildings, gardens, nature reserves, … in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for ever and for every one).
So Why Drink Bottled Water?
If tap water is good enough for the National Trust, why do so many people insist on buying bottled water?
2055 million bottles were sold in the UK in 2010 (a 0.7% increase from 2009). Bottled water costs money and mostly comes in plastic bottles that impose a further cost to the environment.
Yet, water is available for free (or a fraction of the price) in our own home. And UK tap water is deemed to be among the best in the world and offers ‘the certainty of a safe, clean and refreshing supply’ (sources 1, 2).
Is the increase of bottled water consumption another victory of marketing over common sense?
I would think so but let’s try and remain open-minded.
What Has Bottled Water Going For It?
Purity and health benefits according to the ads.
Spring waters have been thought to hold healing powers ever since Celtic and Roman times.
The health benefits would be derived from the mineral content and trace elements. Already thousands of years ago, in ancient Asia, the properties of good drinking water (including minerals, trace elements, correct acidity) were mentioned in the book Rig Veda. The World Health Organization concurs. Here’s what they write about drinking water (source 3):
“Drinking water should contain minimum levels of certain essential minerals and other components such as carbonates. Unfortunately, over the two past decades, little research attention has been given to the beneficial or protective effects of drinking water substances. The main focus was on contaminants and their toxicological properties.”
They go on to explain what risks calcium and magnesium deficient water could pause to humans (higher risk of Cardio-Vascular diseases, especially of sudden death from CVD, higher risk of motor neuronal disease, pregnancy disorders – preeclampsia, and sudden death in infants -, higher risk of fracture in children, certain neurodegenerative diseases, pre-term birth and low weight at birth and some types of cancer)!
So, when it comes to drinking water, what matters is not only that it is clean and cleared of contaminants but also that it has the correct mineral content beneficial to health.
Does that mean that, when it comes to health, bottled mineral water is the winner over tap water? Not necessarily.
What Has Tap Water Going For It?
Tap water does not come from sewage water. It comes from reservoirs, lakes, rivers and even sometimes from natural underground wells (just like bottled water!). And just like bottled water, tap water will contain a certain amount of naturally occurring minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, sodium). This amount will vary depending on the source of the tap water (water from underground wells generally containing more minerals as it’s been in contact with rocks).
On the other hand, bottled water is not always as perfect as one might think. Mineral water content and quality vary greatly from brand to brand. Bottled “Spring water” mineral content is too low. Bottled “Mineral Water” does contain minerals in larger quantities but not always the optimal mix and sometimes quite high amounts of sodium (to be avoided if you need a low sodium diet). Bottled water fluoride content is often low and some worry that filtered and bottled water consumption could increase tooth decay risk.
Now YOU Need To Do Some Research
So, now, YOU need to do some research. What is the tap water like in YOUR area?
Simply call your water supplier and ask for the calcium/magnesium content of your tap water.
If you’re from the USA, check this medical article which looked into just that (source 5) and shows that in some areas such as Indianapolis, San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix, tap water is rich in minerals.
I couldn’t find recommended minimum and maximum levels from the WHO but their website contains research papers where optimal quantities for adults are discussed (source 4): 50 mg/l of calcium (minimum 20 mg/l), 20 to 30 mg/l of magnesium (minimum 10 mg/l), 0.5 to 1mg/l of fluoride, 200 mg/l maximum of sodium.
When To Consider Tap Water
If your local tap water magnesium and calcium levels are sufficiently high and the water is deemed clean (check reports from independent bodies), then DO consider drinking tap water. It’s cheaper, the cost to the environment is much lower than plastic bottles. If you’d rather stick to tap water even though your tap water is soft (low calcium and magnesium content), make sure to get plenty of those minerals from your diet (from vegetables and dairy products).
Maybe, in the future, governments will decide to supplement tap water with magnesium and calcium – like they do with fluoride to prevent tooth decay. This is the recommendation from a group of scientists who met in April 2006 (source 6) at a Symposium in Baltimore.
Until then, I’m afraid there’s no easy answer. Do your own research, check out the tap water cleanliness and its mineral content in your local area and decide what’s best for you!