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Visitor Questions
Q My question is about water and your thoughts about what is the best water to drink, and what is the best ph for drinking water?

Dear Friend of WHFoods:

We actually have a Q+A on this topic of water that we'd like to share with you.

Can you please tell me about the benefits of drinking water as well as provide me with some information about its pH balance?

First, with respect to the benefits of drinking water, we cannot overemphasize the importance of this essential nutrient. Our bodies are approximately 60% water by weight, and even a 5% shift in this amount can compromise our health. Our bloodstream cannot transport nutrients effectively unless we drink enough water. Our kidneys cannot filter wastes without enough water. We cannot maintain our skin tone, or our digestive flow, or regulate our body temperature without enough water. The vast majority of nutrients dissolve in water, and this fact alone makes water unique in our nourishment.

The natural pH of water is close to neutral—a measurement of 7 on the pH scale. Water districts typically try to keep the pH of tap water within a limited range of 6-10. I've seen websites recommending consumption of "acidified water" in which an acid substance is added to natural water to bring its pH level down. I've also seen websites recommending consumption of "alkalized water" in which a basic substance is added to raise water's natural pH. I've never seen research studies to suggest that either practice is desirable. In addition, these steps don't make sense to me from a science standpoint. One of the unique features of water is its neutral pH—this neutral level allows the body to easily shift the pH either up or down, depending on the moment-by-moment metabolic circumstances. In most circumstances, the optimal step is to support the body's ability to carry out metabolic activities by consuming adequate amounts of clean, neutral pH water, and leaving the acid-base balance up to the body and its complex buffering systems.

At a much more general level, two factors are equally important when it comes to water: (1) drinking a sufficient amount, and (2) making sure what you drink is high quality.

The quality of tap water can vary depending upon where you live and whether the water is provided from a municipal site or you have your own spring or well. Contamination can occur not only from the water source but also from sources closer to home. For example, the quality of your water can be affected by your type of plumbing (whether you have copper lined pipes, lead solder containing plumbing, etc.), whether you use a well, and whether there is contamination from agricultural chemicals. If you are curious about the quality of your water, you may want to get it tested. In general, it would be best to filter city water before consumption. With rural (well) water, the decision about filtering is usually best made on a well-by-well basis.

The quality of bottled water also varies greatly. Some water is good quality and other water is simply repackaged tap water. Bottled water can also be expensive, unless purchased in large amounts in the type of 5-gallon containers used with water coolers often found in office settings. I recommend that you read the label carefully when buying bottled water and look for the following information:

  • Check to see where the water originated. High quality waters either name their source (which is typically a natural spring) or they list their primary ingredient as "filtered water" and also present information about how the water was purified and tested. Consider natural mineral water as a particularly good option. You can get a surprising amount of your day's calcium and magnesium and other key minerals from most high-quality mineral waters.
  • Avoid distilled bottled waters. Although they can be highly safe and well purified, they have typically lost too much of their natural mineral content.
  • If you are concerned about the quality of your tap water, you may want to investigate getting a water filter. In general, the best water filters involve blocks of carbon (rather than granulated carbon) and are often combined with reverse osmosis filters. The under-sink types of filters are typically more effective than the type that attach at the faucet. I recommend carbon block or reverse osmosis filters over distilled water because I believe that too many desirable minerals are lost during the process of distillation. Another option that may be available in your area is water filtration systems in supermarkets. Many natural foods supermarkets offer good quality water filtration systems where you can refill your own jugs. For some this is a convenient option, yet for others having a home filtration system is more convenient.
  • Whatever option you use for guaranteeing high quality water, you also need to make sure that you consume enough water during the course of the day. Water is usually best consumed between meals if you are drinking a sizable amount (8 ounces or more). As for intake goals, the National Academy of Sciences recommends (in its Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommendations) about 13 cups of water each day for men and 9 cups for women.

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