What is Mineral Water? Guide to Buying & Drinking It

by Jay | Last Updated:  Last updated on December 4th, 2022,

Mineral spring water, and particularly hot spring water, has been used in therapeutic baths for a variety of maladies, including rheumatism, arthritis, skin problems, and more, since ancient times.


Several cities in England and Germany have capitalized on their proximity to natural springs by developing them into renowned spas and resorts. Since the ’70s, there has been a meteoric rise in the popularity of drinking mineral water.

Mineral spring water from France, Italy, and other European countries is bottled in vast quantities every year and shipped all over the world.

What is mineral water?

Mineral water is basically water with a high concentration of dissolved minerals or gases. It is derived from natural sources like wells. As a distinct subset of groundwater, mineral water has its own unique chemical makeup and physical characteristics.

Mineral content, carbon dioxide level, spring temperature, and the presence of trace chemicals, including iodine, iron, radon, sulfur, and fluoride radon, can all be used as criteria for distinction.

People have been drawn to these kinds of mineral springs for thousands of years, whether to drink the water or soak it in the hot springs.

What composes mineral water

Naturally, water with minerals is called “mineral water,” Natural mineral waters, according to the guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration, must come from “a geologically and physically protected subsurface water source” and have “total dissolved solids” of at least 250 ppm.

FDA defines “mineral water” as water that comes from an underground water source that is both geologically and physically protected and contains at least 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids (TDS).

However, the term “mineral water” is often used informally to refer to any bottled carbonated water or soda water as opposed to tap water.

Natural and synthetic mineral waters have widely varying mineral compositions; in some situations, the mineral content may even be lower than that of regular tap water.

Natural mineral water, which is sourced from spring, is rich in minerals such as magnesium sulfate, calcium carbonate, sodium sulfate, and potassium.

Classification of mineral water based on origin

Natural water in a glass

Mineral water can be classified according to how it was formed.

Meteorological

Produced by snow, rain, or melting of ice.

Juvenile

Also known as magmatic water, it is a type of underground water.

Fossil

From sediments found in seafloor

Mixed

A combination of the three types above

Mineral water for spa and bath use

“Taking the waters” or “taking the remedy” refers to using or consuming mineral waters at their spring sources, such as spas, baths, or wells.

Spa

One might call a place a spa if the water is used for both drinking and bathing.

Bath

The word bath is used if it was used primarily for that purpose or for therapeutic or recreational purposes, and as well if it was intended for that purpose alone.

What are the benefits of mineral water?

According to Mia Syn, MS, RDN of Nutrition by Mia, “depending on the source, certain mineral waters provide a decent supply of calcium,” which is crucial to bone health.

The bioavailability of calcium in mineral waters was shown to be on par with or even higher than that of dairy products in the recently published study.

The study finds that magnesium sulfate, sodium sulfate, bicarbonate, and chloride all contribute to healthy digestion in addition to their positive effects on bone growth.

An additional advantage of mineral water discovered by scientists is that it tastes great. Mineral water (including, yes, LaCroix) has emerged as a popular alternative to soda as Americans look to cut back on their intake of the sugary beverage.

Hence, no one should feel compelled to start stocking up on mineral water by the crate, but it does live up to its billing.

Health risks of mineral water

On the other hand, Syn stresses the importance of exercising caution when considering mineral waters in the same way that one would any other dietary supplement.

She warns that people with hypertension should limit their consumption of certain mineral waters because of their high salt content.

Because carbonation can be filling, drinking sparkling mineral water may cause you to drink less water overall than you would if you weren’t drinking carbonated beverages.

The difference between mineral water and tap water

Mineral water has not been artificially tainted and is bottled straight from the source without the addition of any chemical ingredients. On the other hand, tap water undergoes several treatments before being used by humans. Maximum purity is achieved by a purely physical filtration process.

More and more mineral water is being bottled close to where it is being extracted from these days.

These days, it’s unusual for people to go to the source of mineral water to get a drink of it, and in many situations, it’s no longer even possible due to business restrictions on the water’s use. More than four thousand different types of mineral water are sold in stores around the globe.

Minerals as cold beverages

Woman picking bottle of water in grocery section of supermarket

Mineral waters do not have a universally accepted definition. They are packaged and sold as drinks because of their high perceived value and delicious flavor. But most nations have rules on what must be included in mineral waters.

Regulations for the production and trade of natural mineral waters, for instance, have been approved as national law by the different member states of the European Community.

In fact, countries like Germany have strict limits on how much certain harmful compounds can be in the environment. Uniform limits for such drugs are being discussed by the European Commission; in certain circumstances, the limits will be stricter.

Natural mineral water must be noticeably distinct from regular tap water in this context.

Mineral water is defined as water that satisfies the following additional standards:

It is pure

It must come from protected subsurface water resources, whether natural or manmade.

It has not been altered in any way

In other words, it should not have been subjected to any kind of processing.

It contains nutritional and physiological effects

This is attributed to the trace elements, minerals, and components it contains.

It has natural characteristics

Its composition, temperature, and other characteristics remain constant within defined limits of natural variation.

Mineral water in the context of the European Union

When bottled at the source with no or minimal treatment, water in the European Union can be labeled as mineral water.

Decanting, filtering, or treating with ozone-enriched air are all acceptable methods for removing iron, manganese, sulfur, and arsenic from water, provided that these processes do not change the water’s key ingredients, which are responsible for the water’s qualities.

Except for carbon dioxide, which may be introduced, removed, and reintroduced solely through physical means, no further modifications are allowed. There can be no use of disinfectants.

Imitation mineral water

All the mineral components cannot simply be dissolved in water to make artificial mineral water that is chemically identical to natural mineral water.

The result would be very different from the mineral water being imitated because many of the components are insoluble, and others form novel chemical combinations. Dissolving some salts separately and then mixing the solutions can provide outcomes that would be unachievable if all the salts were dissolved at once.

To create mineral water, salts or carbon dioxide are added to distilled water.  The amount or absence of additional gases determines whether mineral water is considered “still” or “sparkling” (carbonated/effervescent).

Common roles and regulations governing mineral water

Big Glass Filled With Clear Mountain Drinking Water From A Wooden Spring

The term “mineral water” may have varying meanings in various nations. There could be discrepancies between the marketing restrictions in place in the nation of origin and those in place in the target market.

Due to regulatory variances across nations, exports of specialized brands of bottled mineral water may be restricted. Many countries, including the European Union, are working to standardize the packaging of natural mineral waters so that they can be shipped freely across borders.

However, natural mineral water manufacturers must adhere to all applicable laws and regulations governing consumable food and drink.

As far as international norms go, there is one that has been established by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization (the FAO/WHO codex standard).

As a result of the European Parliament’s opinion on the approximation of the legislation of the member states pertaining to the marketing of natural mineral waters, given in October 1995, a number of changes have been implemented in the nations of the European Communities.

However, the FAO/WHO codex standard and these changes are identical. Natural mineral waters sold in bottles for human consumption must meet certain standards, especially in developed nations.

The natural composition must not be changed

There should be no alterations or changes to the composition of natural mineral water other than the reintroduction or removal of carbon dioxide. The water needs to have specific levels of dissolved mineral salts. This level is often approximately 500 mg l1 in many developed nations.

Must meet microbiological standards

The microbiological standards must be met by the water in its natural state in order to be considered natural mineral water. All potentially harmful organisms should be eliminated.

Mineral water must have more than a certain number of colonies after being packaged. At 20-22 degrees Celsius, in 72 hours on agar or an agar-gelatine mixture, the number should not exceed 100 per ml; at 37 degrees Celsius, in 24 hours, it should not exceed 20 per ml.

Within 12 hours of packaging, with the water kept at 4 1 °C, the total colony count must be measured.

The values should not typically exceed 20 ml1 at 20-22 °C in 72 h and 5 ml1 at 37 °C in 24 h at the source, though it should be noted that these are meant as guidelines rather than absolute maximums. There should be no flaws in the natural mineral water’s flavor or aroma.

Must be placed in a safe container

Natural mineral water must be packaged in containers safe and contamination-free containers.

Packaging must contain important labels

Certain required information must be included on the labels of containers used for the packaging of mineral water. Some examples of descriptive names for water are “natural mineral water,” “naturally carbonated mineral water,” and “carbonated natural mineral water.”

Labeling should also include information about the spring’s location and an analysis of its makeup. Natural mineral water from the same spring cannot be sold under more than one trade name.

Should not have false medical advertisements/therapeutic claims

It is illegal to label or advertise the water as having any health benefits it does not actually have, especially in relation to the prevention or treatment of human disease.

The extraction must be approved by the respective governing authority

Natural mineral water springs can only be used with the approval of the country’s proper regulatory bodies.

Maintaining the water’s original properties must be observed

Water-use equipment must be installed in a way that prevents contamination and maintains the water’s original characteristics.

Regular inspections must be conducted to ensure quality

If the natural mineral water is contaminated at its source and thus no longer meets the microbiological standard for human consumption, all activities leading to commercial sales should be halted. The local government is responsible for conducting regular inspections to ensure the natural mineral water retains its original quality.

Regulations on the sale of natural mineral water differ widely from one developing nation to another. It’s possible that the aforementioned instruction doesn’t even apply to the transfer of natural mineral water from industrialized to developing nations. As of its final report in 1997, the FAO/WHO codex standard did not deviate considerably from the aforementioned mandate.

Frequently asked questions

Do minerals from water have an effect on human health?

Regular drinking water contains trace levels of essential minerals that contribute to your health. Both calcium and magnesium are essential for bone health. Your blood pressure can be kept in check with the help of magnesium as well.

The same is often the case if you happen to reside in a region with exceptionally hard water. Hard water is water that contains a lot of minerals, which can be harmful to plumbing if not treated. In fact, there may be a correlation between living in locations with very soft water (poor in minerals) and an increased risk of heart disease.

How often should you drink mineral water?

If you’re worried about the lack of minerals in your drinking water, you might want to see if switching to mineral water is a good idea. In theory, that is. There can be as many quadruple times as much calcium and magnesium in bottled mineral water as there would be in plain tap water.

Drinking a liter of mineral water daily has been shown to reduce blood pressure in those whose tap water is poor in magnesium.

There are, of course, alternative sources of magnesium. Foods rich in magnesium include almonds, lima beans, brown rice, and spinach. Mineral water is a great way to increase your mineral consumption, especially calcium and magnesium.

Do different brands of mineral water have different tastes?

The majority of the mineral water consumed in the United States comes from European imports. There is a wide variety of brands available, all of which originate from mineral-rich natural springs. S

Some are already carbonated when they are extracted from the ground, while others require the addition of carbon dioxide. Still (or non-carbonated) mineral waters also exist, but it may be more challenging to find them in the United States.

Different brands have quite different mineral profiles since they use different source waters. That’s what differentiates the tastes of different mineral waters and could be a deciding factor when picking one for its health advantages.

Sodium levels are exceptionally high in French Vichy water, for instance. The somewhat salty flavor of Vichy water is a turn-on for some, but keep in mind that drinking just one liter will use up half of your sodium intake for the day.

Meanwhile, Perrier, also from France, provides a small quantity of sodium, some calcium, and almost none of the mineral magnesium.

Is mineral water a healthier choice compared to regular bottled water?

Recent studies have shown that drinking mineral water is an efficient approach to increasing your mineral consumption because of the magnesium, calcium, salt, and zinc that are typically found in such drinks. A recent scientific investigation confirmed that there are actual advantages to drinking mineral water.

Mineral water, at its core, supplies minerals that the body can’t synthesize. While the costly bottles of Fiji Water might not be the best way to budget for your magnesium intake, they are a valid option.

Jay

Self assessed Germaphobe, specializing in everything water, water filters, health and nutrition. Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I've acquired immense amount of knowledge when it comes to natural, biology, and everything about human anatomy.