What kind of water should I drink?

by Julie Lanford, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN
First off, it's important to remember that we need to drink fluids to keep our bodies hydrated. In general, our bodies simply need plain water. It's our taste buds (and sometimes our emotions!) that want something different!
Just because your water is clear, does not mean it is healthy! The majority of flavored waters that are available, such as vitamin or sparking waters, are filled with sugar and artificial sweeteners. The best way to know is to simply read the ingredient list. 
Unfortunately, even the “vitamin water” brand is not just water with added vitamins. There are many ingredients in these beverages that have no benefit to your health. To see a full list of these ingredients, check out my post “Is Vitamin Water Healthy? Plus a Recipe to Make Your Own” (link here: http://www.cancerdietitian.com/2011/07/is-vitamin-water-healthy-plus-a-recipe-to-make-your-own.html). Most of the added vitamins in these drinks come from synthetic forms and do not provide you the same benefit as you would by eating food. 
Remember that drinking any form of plain water is better than choosing a soda or other sweetened beverage! Luckily, there is a way to drink delicious flavored water without being at risk of consuming unnecessary additives.
Make your own infused water!
Here are a few tips to get you started making your own infused water. Not only is it nutritious, it's also really pretty!!
First, you choose the flavor. There are limitless possibilities! You can choose fresh fruit flavors such as strawberry, orange, or blueberry or you can choose a vegetable-based flavored water by adding cucumber, beets, or celery. 
Herbs and spices such as basil, rosemary, and cinnamon can also be used to add some extra flavor. I think the best flavored water comes from a combination of all of the above! Making your own infused water gives you the opportunity to select the flavors that you like best and allows you to individually customize each beverage you make.
The directions for making your own “vitamin water” are very simple. 
1.     Choose your fresh fruits, vegetables, or herbs. 
2.     Make sure you thoroughly wash your produce.
3.     Slice or cut your produce however you like it. The more surface area of the produce that touches the water, the better!
4.     Add all the ingredients into a pitcher filled with water.
5.     Let it soak in the refrigerator overnight. 
6.     Enjoy!
You also want to make sure to use cold water. Hot water can make produce fall apart and compromise some of the nutrients. Also if you want an extra “vitamin boost”, feel free to eat the produce!

Unflavored sparkling water is equivalent to flat water. One of my favorite ways to have a “special drink” is to mix 1 part juice to 2 parts sparkling water. Have it over ice, with a slice of lime and an umbrella and you're really feeling good!!

The Cancer Dietitian BOTTOM LINE: Drink water without added sweeteners (artificial or natural) most of the time. Have processed water drinks (sodas, diet sodas, “vitamin waters”, etc) 2 times a week or less. If you like a little flavor to your water, find ways to add flavor with fruits or vegetables!

Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, is a member of Triage Cancer's Speakers Bureau and wellness director for Cancer Services, a non-profit in Winston-Salem, NC. She is a registered dietitian, licensed nutritionist and a board certified specialist in oncology nutrition. Lanford developed www.CancerDietitian.com a healthy living web site for Cancer Services that translates evidence based nutrition guidelines into consumer friendly messages for everyday life.

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