Tap, Distilled, Mineral, Spring, Coconut: Which waters do what?Water
As far as beverages go, water might be the one that fares pretty low on the list of drinks we actively think about – at least for those who have easy access to basic drinking water.
It’s something that’s ingrained in us to drink daily, most likely comes from a tap or bottle, and, for the most part, might not arouse a huge amount of thought (apart from the need to stay hydrated and the assumption that it might be limitless).
When it comes to the origin and taste of water, there might be the odd preference: filtered, not just tap. Or sparkling, not just still. But considering we know water is an essential resource for living, and considering how many types (and sources) there are, how well-versed are we on our options for drinking water? And most importantly, how do we know which waters do what for us?
For the majority, tap water is the most readily available of drinking waters, but also the one that’s met with the most uncertainty when it comes to its safety – especially if you’re based in the United States. So where does tap water come from and how does it become drinkable?
It turns out, it comes from a variety of sources. Namely, shallow groundwater from places like wells, dams and reservoirs.
After the raw water is collected, it’s sent to be treated or filtered, and made drinkable enough to flow through your kitchen tap. In California, for example, public agencies and private water developers have built nearly 1400 reservoirs to aid water supplies throughout the year.
So after all this, the question remains as to whether tap water effectively hydrates your body. Well, the short answer is: it depends on where you live and your local water quality requirements.
Some waters are chemically treated, which can strip the water of most of its composition, apart from fluoride, which in some cases is added to tap water as a health benefit (although too much can have some negative effects). Other water plants, by contrast, might only need to use minimal purification efforts for the raw water that’s collected.
And it’s worth noting that the water utilities that treat raw water are only responsible for its quality up until the point of entry to your house, but not after. Meaning that contamination is very much dependent on the final leg of the tap water journey: when water passes through the pipes and plumbing system of your house or apartment, where lead or bacterial cross-contamination tends to happen.
So there’s some tap water that could be purer than others, and some which could have a higher mineral content than others – all of which depends on your location and the purification methods used.
The purity and mineral content (if any) of this water is also idiosyncratic to where you are. Which means that any environmental changes to your surroundings will invariably affect the condition of your water.
And this can make your water more or less vulnerable to contamination. If there are land disturbances, for example, new constructions or, as in Des Moines, high levels of nitrate that run off from rivers, the purity of the water that flows in your taps is compromised. Which also as a result compromises the effectiveness of its ability to hydrate and be healthy.
And, if the tap water in your area is the kind that is lacking in minerals, it can actually be more harmful to your health than not. According to the World Health Organisation, regular consumption of low-mineral water (and that includes some tap waters) can have adverse effects on your body, as the electrolytes and salts in your body are more likely to get flushed out.
Distilled water, as the name suggests, is created through the process of distillation. In short: it’s one type of purified water.
It is a physical separation process that involves separating contaminants from water through a heat source. After the water is heated, the steam created is subsequently cooled down and condensed into a separate container. The water that remains is entirely purified and contains no harmful contaminants – and no minerals.
So what does purified water do for your body?
As previously mentioned, water that is only pure is not only lacking in essential nutrients, but as a result can actually be harmful to your health, as it causes an imbalance in electrolytes. So whilst pure if often the desired outcome, it’s not the healthiest.
Untouched or treated in any way, mineral water obtains its minerals by flowing through mineral-rich rocks. This water is then bottled directly from the source, and it’s subject to frequent checks to ensure its mineral composition remains largely the same every time.
As these layers of rocks and their composition depend on their whereabouts – whether mountainous, volcanic, or otherwise – all mineral waters themselves differ from one another in taste, odour and mineral content.
Some might have a high mineral content or even a medium level one such as Evian, which is sourced near Évian-les-Bains. Others might have a low mineral content, as with Black Forest Mineral water, water that’s bottled from the Black Forest region of Germany. What’s more, some mineral waters might come in the bubbled variety, getting carbonated at the source from gases that occur naturally.
In Germany, a popular mineral water comes from the Gerolstein region. Here, the water has passed through layers of a rock called dolomite, making this water have a particularly high mineral content of calcium and magnesium – substances you’d typically associate as getting from milk or green leafy vegetables.
As our bodies can’t produce all these required minerals alone, nor necessarily through food alone, waters high in minerals are a vital source of nutrients you wouldn’t be able to get from purified or tap water. The calcium you’d associate coming from dairy foods, for example, is actually as highly bioavailable in mineral water as milk calcium.
Like mineral water, spring water also comes from subterranean water resources and is usually bottled at the source. It almost meets all the same requirements for mineral water.
However, whilst spring water is a natural resource, unlike mineral water, requirements are not as tight. It’s simply held to the same standards that apply to tap water, and there’s no official recognition needed to label your water “spring water”, nor does its composition need to be consistent every time.
So whilst spring water is a natural and sustainable resource, it’s still not entirely reliable as an effective source of vital nutrients you need for your body.
Hailed as a natural and nutritious source of water, and often referred to as “Mother nature’s sports drink”, coconut water has reached new heights of popularity in the world of hydration. But what does it do for your body?
Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside young, green coconuts. And it’s easy to see why it’s synonymous with healthy living: it’s loaded with antioxidants and has electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium and most importantly, potassium – a mineral you’d usually associate with getting from bananas.
And whilst some brands process the water by heat treatment or pasteurization, a growing trend towards drinking it naturally might ensure it stays ranking high on replenishing health drinks you can count on for hydration.
Not All Water Is Made Equal
For a resource we might not put much thought into, the types of drinking waters available to us are numerous, as are their range of nutritional benefits. But whether it’s a basic understanding of your options or a deeper look into the mineral content, it’s worth taking a closer look at where your H20 comes from – and most importantly, what each type does for your body.
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“Mit oder ohne?” If you’ve ever ordered water in Germany, you’ll be familiar with this restaurant scenario. The waiter arrives at your table, you ask for water, and they respond with a very crucial question: would you like your water “mit” (with) bubbles, or “ohne” (without)? The next thing you know, a nice cold bottle