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Are “smart” waters smarter?

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In the summer, with heat and humidity levels rising, I tend to drink a lot more water than I do during other times of the year when I’m outside and active. During strenuous activity - say, hiking in the mountains – electrolyte supplements (usually powders that you can mix into water) can be even more helpful than plain water to replenish some of the nutrients that your body uses up to keep you moving. Or, you could simply bring along a bottle of vitamin-and-mineral-enhanced flavored water.

Over the past few years the sales of vitamin enhanced waters have skyrocketed, as big beverage companies took the idea of an energy supplement a step further and turned flavored water into a health drink. SmartWater, Vitaminwater, Life Water and Fitness Water paved the way for vitamins to be introduced to previously less-than-healthful beverages as well, like Diet Coke Plus and enriched soda-like energy drinks. Instead of a way to recharge after a workout, the drinks are now sold almost as nutritional supplements, marketed as a good way to get vitamins/fiber/etc. But as promising as they sound, are any of these new drinks really good for you?

The WSJ tackled this very question today with the help of nutritionists and other health experts. The verdict seems to be that they’re not all bad. On one hand, some vitamins are more readily absorbed by the body when in a liquid, as opposed to in solid food. But on the other hand, just about any nutrient you can get in a soda or vitamin-water comes from a balanced diet, so you shouldn’t actually need to drink any of them to get all the nutrients you need. The drinks still have calories and, while they have fewer than most sodas, they have more than plain water.

In short, the “smart” waters aren’t exactly better than regular water and a balanced diet, but you could definitely do worse. Overall, the nutritionists recommend getting as much as you can from fresh fruits, veggies, etc. And if you want to chase them with a bottle of enhanced water, that’s your call.

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  • Toby
    July 27, 2007

    I really like the flavored waters as a way to break up the monotony of drinking plain water all day. Have you given Aquafina Alive a try? I recommend it – very few calories and it comes in a few good flavors. And it has vitamins, of course! 🙂

  • Lacy55
    November 19, 2007

    Some of the enhanced waters out there aren’t as good for you as some might think. Vitamin Water is one of the worst, with 125 calories (and 33 grams of sugar) per bottle! For me thats just too much for water; if I’m going to splurge I’d rather have a soda…

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