Step aside, Veuve — seltzer is now the queen of the bubbly world. From old-school vintage to DIY SodaStream, the bubbly stuff is everywhere these days. Much healthier than soda, this effervescent drink is a fun, nutritious way to get your hydration on. But, is there any difference between seltzer and its H2O counterparts — sparkling water, tonic, or just plain tap? We're so glad you asked.
First off, what’s important to know is that all carbonated water is pretty much created equal. So, whether it’s a cheap supermarket brand of seltzer or fancy Pellegrino, you're basically looking at the same thing. Club soda, sparkling water, soda water, or seltzer — all those bubbles just mean that inside that bottle there’s some dissolved carbon dioxide gas (a.k.a. carbonation). What doesn’t belong in this group: Tonic water — it actually has about 90 calories and a ton of sugar in a standard eight fluid ounces.
Any fizzy-water diehard knows that prior to the invention of SodaStream (genius!), making your own bubbly just never quite lived up to the professionally bottled concoctions. And with good reason: When it’s made by a manufacturer, the water is super-chilled (almost freezing actually) to the exact temperature that allows CO2 to work its magic, and then it’s put under major pressure (way more than champagne). It’s this duo that creates the perfect conditions for carbonation. But, not so anymore. With the handy-dandy gadget in question, you can DIY your heart out and enjoy.
But, the ultimate secret to making stellar seltzer at home? Refill your Brita. Turns out, filtered or bottled water makes your fizzy water taste way fresher. “Many brands of bottled water are free of contaminants found in some tap waters such as bacteria and disinfection byproducts that can alter their taste,” says Tracy Olgeaty Gensler, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist in Chevy Chase, MD, and author of The Anti-Aging Fitness Prescription.
Now that you've mastered clean, fresh fizz, it's time to answer the next important question: To flavor, or not to flavor? “Unflavored seltzer water has zero calories and sodium, calcium, magnesium and other minerals, which may vary slightly from brand to brand,” says Gensler. “But once you start adding sugar additives — it’s not as good for you.” Which makes sense since regular soda is essentially carbonated water with sugar added to it. And at this point, you probably don't need us to tell you how chugging Coke is not only unhealthy, but can also add a couple hundred calories onto your daily diet.
Here's the claim from SodaStream: Its soda mix flavors “contain less sugar, calories, carbohydrates, and sodium than national drink brands, and they contain no high-fructose corn syrup. Each bottle of concentrated soda mix makes the equivalent of 12 liters (33 cans) of soda!”. But, when you read the label, there’s still 35 calories and around eight to nine grams of sugar for ever 8 oz. of water. “All of the ‘regular’ flavored options (except the Dr. Pete flavor) include both sugar and acesulfame potassium — an artificial sweetener that’s about 200 times sweeter than classic sugar,” says Gensler. “Some flavors even contain sucralose in addition to sugar and acesulfame potassium.”
Your best bet if plain carbonated eau isn’t going to satisfy your thirst? Opt for zero calorie flavored waters such as Vintage (pick from a slew of options like lemon lime, wild cherry, raspberry, mandarin orange) or SodaStream’s MyWater Flavor Essences (also with zero calories and no artificial sweeteners). Or, simply go for the real thing and sip on Gensler’s Black Tea Refresher recipe: Combine 1 cup plain seltzer with 1 cup brewed, cooled black tea, a half teaspoon sugar and shaved ice (10 calories, 2 grams sugar). Super taste-y and all-natural.
Photo: Courtesy of Pellegrino