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Guide Health: Fortified water – a good thing or not?

Many of these drinks may make sense for pro football players, but not the rest of us

Undoubtedly you will have seen the rows of fortified and flavoured water drinks in just about any store, as well as energy and sports water products too.

According to the advertising, these beverages are just the thing you need for your health. But are they?

Canada’s Food Guide has recently been updated, and it recommends that water be your beverage of choice. Note though that this is “water,” not “fortified water.”

Your daily water consumption should be about eight glasses of eight ounces each, and more if you are losing fluid because you are exercising or sweating. Canadians as a rule do not drink enough water, so keep track of your water daily intake and see if you do.

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To sort out the various water products, you need to read the labels. Fortified water usually contains vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, but you may not need any of these ingredients.

Your best sources for these nutrients are your diet, and if you think you have or know you have a deficiency, then you should be seeing your health care professionals who will monitor your overall health.

Don’t rely on fortified water to resolve your deficiency.

If you have kidney disease, your body may not be able to handle the extra vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. Sodium or salt, added sugar, and even some other minerals can force your kidneys to work harder, thereby complicating your disease.

Sports or energy drinks are water-based, and again, may contain vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, but they also may contain proteins and carbohydrates. You may not realize that the most commonly used carbohydrate is sugar, which can interfere with conditions like diabetes and even lead to weight gain and tooth decay.

The idea is that these beverages replenish elements lost with exercise, and the added sugar also gives you extra energy. This approach makes sense if you’re a professional football player undertaking heavy exercise, but the recommendation is that an average person use water instead.

Energy drinks contain ingredients that cause stimulation resulting in wakefulness. They are marketed to people who need to remain awake and alert. However, getting a good night’s sleep is the ideal remedy.

Caffeine is the most common ingredient used, but several natural substances having similar actions to caffeine may also be in the formula. Health Canada recommends that children and teenagers not use energy drinks. People with high blood pressure or sleep problems need to avoid energy drinks because they can complicate these conditions.

Caffeine can indeed improve performance, but this effect is seen more often in professional athletes, not an average person exercising in a recreational manner. Caffeine-containing energy drinks are sometimes mixed with alcohol in the belief that the caffeine will “blunt” the intoxication. Rather, the result may mean you drink more, so the mixture is considered a health risk.

Often water is flavoured. This may appeal to your taste buds but such products can be expensive and often contain added sugar as a sweetener.You can make your own flavoured water by adding citrus fruit slices, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon cubes, apple slices, and even spices like rosemary, mint, cinnamon, or ginger.

Another idea is to make ice cubes with these flavours, then add them to plain water. You are sure to find the right flavour combination that keeps you drinking water on a regular basis.

About the author

Contributor

Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in health and education.

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