Hey Angels and Alphas,
Nowadays, a stroll through the section for bottled water at your local grocery store will have you overwhelmed by all the available options.
Sparkling, electrolyte, flavored, mineral water, you name it. And it should come as no surprise that 0-calorie, flavored water is an extremely popular choice whether you want to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy hydration habit.
But are these beverages actually healthy, considering you’re trying to lose weight? Aren’t they akin to diet soda that’s full of artificial sweeteners? Don’t these sweeteners make you crave more sweet flavors later in the day?
That’s exactly the topic we’ll be covering today.
NATURAL FLAVORS AND ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Many beverages that are typically calorie-free utilize “natural flavors” to add taste. While these aren’t artificial sweeteners per se, it’s not really immediately clear what natural flavoring means. Sure, they might be zero calories, but this isn’t necessarily synonymous with the word healthy.
Some companies utilize essential oils and fruit extracts, but with the vague label “natural flavoring,” it’s pretty difficult to tell what’s actually inside them and how they affect us.
That being said, beverages that utilize this type of flavoring are still better than conventional soda (or sometimes even diet soda.) A lot of dieters are drinking these beverages in hopes of replacing soft drinks. By making this simple swap, regular soda drinkers are able to get the usual satisfaction they would get from a refreshing, bubbly drink without all the unnecessary calories.
Some editions of calorie-free sparkling water might also use artificial sweeteners which are somewhat controversial.
With artificially sweetened beverages, there are no additional calories, which can indeed make them a great option in terms of flavor, if you are someone who is OK with artificial sweeteners.
The FDA has conducted research that actually supports the idea that they are safe to consume. But a lot of nutrition pros are skeptical about this.
While moderate consumption might indeed be OK, the natural sweeteners and no additional added sugars could possibly trigger extra cravings. For some people, consuming something sweet, even if it’s free of sugar, can make them crave even more sweet flavors later in the day.
Still, this will ultimately come down to the individual and what they can handle. As of right now, there’s no real hard evidence that natural flavorings or artificial sweeteners will sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
Let’s talk about carbonation and weight gain.
One big reason why sparkling water is becoming so popular among dieters is that consuming carbonated beverages on an empty stomach is very filling. Carbonation takes up a lot of space in the stomach and it is shown to increase both gastric activity as well as your heart rate. Both of these factors can contribute to feelings of fullness. Though this is unlikely to have major effects on your satiety over the course of a whole day, sparkling water may be a great tool for preventing unplanned snacking.
People who are against flavored sparkling water and its alternatives point to this research published in the journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice. It found that carbonation might have some link to weight gain and should be avoided by dieters at all costs. Still, some experts remain unconvinced.
In the study above, people who drank carbonated water had ghrelin (the hunger hormone) levels that were six times higher than people who drank regular water. They also had three times higher ghrelin levels than people drinking non-carbonated sodas. That doesn’t speak well for sparkling water. However, the research did not *directly* tie sparkling water to excess weight gain.
Some experts agree and note that there’s no solid evidence that carbonation causes weight gain. It’s important to note that countless things can stimulate hunger throughout the day and many people tend to sleep too little. Many people also experience stress and yo-yo diets and fall prey to increased hunger. In other words, countless things can increase your appetite, and flavored sparkling water might just be one of them. That being said, it’s still probably less impactful than lifestyle practices that are shown to have more significant impact.