Which Water is Best? Tap, Mineral, Alkaline, or Filtered? Experts Answer

|Updated May 23, 2022
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With all the new varieties of water on the market to choose from – mineral, alkaline, filtered and spring – it is clear that consumers have a growing interest in where their water comes from. We want to know: Is the source pure? Or simply bottled in an urban plant just a short flight away. Will the single-use plastic bottle contaminate the water, as well as slowly fill our oceans? What is the best kind of water to drink for our health that is still affordable?

There are hidden pollutants that make their way into our drinking water, according to the EPA, which measures and tests local water supplies: nitrogen, bleach, salts, pesticides, metals, toxins produced by bacteria, and human or animal drugs. We should add: Anti-androgens, anti-estrogens, bacteria, fertilizer, industrial chemicals, chlorination byproducts (some carcinogenic), kerosene, styrene, as well as good old fashion mold, yeast, algae, and rust and bugs such as crickets have all been found in our water supply. And that doesn't even include the lead that leaches from aging pipes in urban centers like Flint and elsewhere.

So if you are looking to buy a healthier water, and avoid whatever lead or pollutants are in the water that is coming out of your tap, here is what science has to say about the water we can purchase, and whether it's worth it. What Kind Of Water Is Best For You?

Bottled water

Regardless of where you choose to source your water from, be it a pristine local mountain spring or a multi-billion dollar food and beverage corporation, the container in which it is stored is one common source of pollutants. Plastic bottles, you may already know, leach into the contents and over time, that micro-particle gets into our bodies.

Many of us have heard to avoid packaging which includes BPA, which stands for bisphenol A and was used to make resin and plastics, since the 1950s. Exposure to BPA was linked to possible health effects on the brain and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children, according to the Mayo Clinic, as well as diseases, and it was removed from most consumer products as a result. But the inconvenient truth is that simply choosing plastics that are free of BPA does not safeguard us against potential disease — and they may further increase the probability of illness.

Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, the cofounder of Ancient Nutrition, explains: “Instead of bisphenol A, manufacturers are now using bisphenol S (BPS) and other chemicals, yet recent studies are proving that this new approach is just as bad (if not worse) than the original. In fact, recent reports claim that more than 80 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine. And, according to a study, even less than one part per trillion of BPS can disrupt a cell’s normal functioning, which could potentially lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, asthma, birth defects, or even cancer.”

In one study in which Wistar rats were given a daily dose of 5 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, BPA exposure decreased maternal behavior in the first generation of dams, and caused developmental defects in both first and second-generation offspring (as evidenced by decreased anogenital distance in male rats), induced changes in preference for the sweet, salty, and fatty tastes in second-generation offspring, and induced a bodyweight increase in the second generation only.

In 2012 the FDA banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups but still allowed it to be used in the liners of canned goods, on the assumption that the levels that leach into our soups and canned foods are safe for humans.

You decide your own tolerance for chemicals in your food but one thing is known: Microparticles and tiny bits of plastic are making their way into our bodies at an alarming rate, and according to a 2020 study, biodegradable materials are finding their way into our organs and human cell tissue, making plastic not just a threat to our oceans and landfills, but our personal health.

Instead of plastic bottles, buying and storing your water in a glass container is a safe bet. And if you are going to make an infused water, well-maintained copper or steel may be a good choice in addition to glass.

Alkaline water

Perhaps the most popular new trend in water in recent years is alkaline water. From Venice, California to Venice, Italy it has become a household staple as the "Alkaline Diet" has taken off. Kelly Ripa and other celebrities have espoused an alkaline diet as a way of losing or maintaining a healthy weight since it essentially steers the dieter toward platefuls of vegetables and whole foods that keep acid levels low and allow optimal cell function.

The alkaline diet was first made famous by the late Dr. Sebi, who is credited with pioneering eating a plant-based diet (which is the basis for the alkaline diet) as a healthy lifestyle choice. The idea behind the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can have an effect on our body's pH balance in the blood, which can help lower inflammation, help keep your cells healthy, and combat serious diseases and conditions including chronic pain.

Most obviously, alkaline water is alkalizing … but what exactly does that mean and what does it alkalize? Studies have shown alkaline water improves acid-base balance (alkalization of the blood and urine) and hydration status. A good acid-base balance makes it easier for your kidneys and lungs to maintain this homeostasis for which they are responsible. Hydration is the ability of the body to absorb water, and it is important in nutrient delivery, immunity, body temperature regulation, the lubrication of joints, and more.

Other studies show that alkaline water may even improve longevity and decelerate aging, by neutralizing acidic PH balance and reducing oxidative stress in the body at a cellular level.

However, even the research on alkaline water is a young science. Though some water is naturally alkaline in nature, most alkaline water refers to manufactured water and the long-term effects of this chemically altered water have not yet been properly studied. There is preliminary evidence in mice that alkaline water may retard growth.

One study says, “At the completion of the study, [young] animals in the study groups [those given alkaline water] had lower body weights (up to 29 percent less) than controls despite equal food and water intake, suggesting a systemic response to the alkaline treatment.”

Mineral water

Mineral water (also spring water) sounds like a natural choice since we know that the water from deep within the earth is both nourishing and free of pollutants. But what exactly is mineral water? And how can a company claim this on the label?

The FDA defines mineral water as "water containing not less than 250 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved solids (TDS), coming from a source at one or more boreholes or springs, originating from a geologically and physically protected underground water source.”

There is evidence that mineral water, traditionally used to treat gastrointestinal disease, may lower intestinal inflammation.

But that isn't the full story. Sometimes CO2 is added or removed from mineral water to prevent oxidation and bacterial growth. This could be due to arsenic present in the water having to be removed. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know whether your mineral water has been chemically treated or irradiated unless you call the company directly, and this is good practice.

Since the price of mineral water in glass can exceed $27.99 for five gallons at a company like Mountain Valley, not including a $15 bottle deposit per bottle and a delivery charge, drinking mineral water straight from nature can be quite expensive.

Filtered Water

Perhaps since natural mineral water can be expensive, Dr. Axe recommends filtered water, citing the fact that “less than 30 percent of plastic water bottles are recycled,” and also the problem that plastics can leak into the water, creating potential endocrine disruption. He explains: “estrogenicity in water from plastic bottles is three times higher compared to glass,” and most of the types of water mentioned earlier in this article come in plastic bottles.

There are many types of filters to suit your needs: alkaline, reverse osmosis, UV, mineralizing and more. Express Water makes filters that perform several different functions and you can choose from both alkalizing or non-alkalizing.

When you look up filters, the NSF is a public health organization that tests water systems for contaminants and offers a list of certified filters that are effective against certain contaminants.

"Manufacturers, regulators, and consumers look to NSF for the development of public health standards and certification programs that help protect the world’s food, water, consumer products, and environment," the site explains, and the organization has been testing and protecting consumer water supplies since 1944.

But the NSF website points out that no filter works against all potential pathogens and pollutants, so you need to decide which ones are most important for you to remove. The first step, NSF advises, is to understand what contaminants are in your water. If you have city water, your water supplier may give you its most current water quality report. You can ask your local water authority for a water profile (Consumer Confidence Rating or CCR) and if you want to test your own well water, contact the local a nearby lab in your area.

Filters can work at the point-of-consumption, or before your water enters your home. Select the filtration system targeted for your water quality needs, since not all water filters address every type of contaminant. When shopping for a water filter, pay attention to what the filter is certified to reduce – so if your water is high in nitrates find treatment systems for this. If you are concerned with pathogens, lead, or other contaminants, make sure your filter removes those. Check NSF's helpful filter guide for more info before you buy.

How much water should I drink?

Regardless of what kind of water you choose to drink, chances are you aren't getting enough. Studies show that you need half your weight in ounces a day, and more if your goal is to lose weight. Aim for 2/3 of your weight in ounces, in that case. Here's how to calculate that:

Multiply your weight in pounds by 2/3 and that is the number of ounces of water to drink in a day. That means if you weigh 150 pounds you need to strive for 100 ounces of water a day. If you want to punch this into your calculator take your weight (for example, 130 pounds) times .67 (2/3) equals 87 ounces. For a 180-pound person, you should drink 120 ounces a day. That's ten full tall glasses of water.

What Temperature Water Is Healthiest?

Choose the right water temperature too. Warm water is generally soothing at all times. On a very hot day, ice water may be appropriate.

According to the latest findings, if you're just going about your day, choose water that is not too cold: between 50 and 72 degrees, since it allows your system to absorb and rehydrate faster. The theory that drinking cold water helps you burn more calories (as your body has to work to warm the water to absorb it) has been largely debunked.

Water is so essential that a person may live several months without eating if they have access to water, but likely not more than a week without water. The choice of which water to drink deserves your full attention. Mindfulness in this regard will have longstanding consequences for your health, your children’s, and your grandchildren’s.

For more help with your water regimen, read our articles on lemon water, water temperature, hot water, and how much water to drink to lose weight.

Bottom Line: Any drinking water is healthy unless it's stored in plastic.

Drink the water that makes you feel the best, and the one that helps you drink more water all throughout the day. Try all three, and mix it up for variety.

For more expert advice, visit The Beet's Health & Nutrition articles