“Drink water, it’s good for you!” We hear this advice all the time and know that we need to drink water every day. But what if you don’t like the taste of water? America’s first water sommelier Martin Riese says there’s a reason for that. “Water is not just water,” he tells Yahoo Life.
Here, Riese explains why you might not like water, why its flavor can vary and how to find a water you might actually like.
Why don’t some people like the taste of water?
Basically, it comes down to your individual taste buds and personal taste preferences. Almost every natural source of water tastes differently, and depending on how it’s processed, its flavor can change even more.
“Every water has a TDS, or total dissolved solids, level, and the more solids” — think metals, minerals and salts — “that are dissolved in water, the stronger the taste of the water,” explains Riese. “Your personal preferences trigger your taste preferences. Everyone is individual and some people can taste more stuff than others.”
If you’re sensitive to the taste of certain minerals, this might be why you liked — or didn’t like — the water you’ve tried. It’s also important to note that certain medications or treatments can also affect your ability to taste.
Why do different sources of water taste different?
Similar to wine, “water is actually 100% terroir driven,” meaning a particular region’s climate and soil where the water is sourced affect its taste, explains Riese. “You can actually taste where the water comes from. It has the content of the different minerality and different stones in that certain area.”
This all has to do with the journey of water in the water cycle. Water from the ocean, lakes and streams evaporates into the sky, then condenses and comes down as rainfall. When rain lands on various surfaces, such as stone or soil, it starts to leach out different minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which then flow back to a natural spring source.
“Different salts, different mineralities are dissolved by Mother Nature and give that water its unique taste profile,” says Riese. Natural debris falling into water sources and items added by humans will also impact the taste of water. For example, decomposing plants may make water taste earthier, notes Riese. More sodium makes it salty. Magnesium can make water taste bitter.
Along with the source of the water, the trip the water takes to get to consumers also affects its taste. Households in the same area can have different tasting tap water, for example, depending on which pipes the water flowed through and what minerals and tastes the water picked up along the way, according to Riese.
Does using a filter help with taste?
Filters or reverse osmosis systems are often used to help reduce the amount of chlorine (added as a disinfectant) and other contaminants in tap water, and they can help water taste and smell better.
But as Riese explains, they might also get rid of some of the favorable parts of the water’s taste profile by taking out other minerals. Depending on local regulations, the amount of chlorine used in treating the water might still be off-putting, especially since many people associate the smell of chlorine with swimming pools.
Why is it so important to drink water?
Without water, we wouldn’t survive. Up to 65% of our bodies are comprised of water, and every cell in our body uses it. Some humans can survive between one to two months without food, but only a few days without water.
Water is key for keeping our energy levels up, minds focused and heart and brain functioning properly. It aids digestion, carries oxygen and nutrients in our blood, filters bacteria and waste through our kidneys and bladder, helps manage blood pressure and even acts as a shock absorber for our brain and spinal cord.
When we are dehydrated — even mildly, at just 1% to 3% of our body weight — our energy levels, mood, ability to think clearly can be significantly affected. Insufficient water intake can also cause headaches, constipation and kidney stones.
How much water do people need each day?
An individual’s water needs depend on various factors, including age, sex, weight, exercise routine and overall health status. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states that, on average, women need about 11.5 cups of water per day and men about 15.5 cups. If you eat a varied diet, you can get about 20% of your water from food, such as fruits and vegetables.
The best way to tell if you’re hydrated properly is to check your urine. If it’s a pale yellow color, you’re likely getting enough water. If it’s dark yellow and has a strong odor, it’s time to drink some more.
What’s the best way to make water taste better?
Before giving up on water, Riese recommends doing a taste test to see if there’s a brand of water out there that matches your taste preferences. He recommends purchasing four to five different branded waters, noting that the source of the water is important.
You’ll get the most flavor and electrolytes from those labeled “spring,” “glacier,” “mineral” or “iceberg” waters, according to Riese. He recommends leaving on the shelf the ones labeled “purified,” “distilled” or “vapor distilled,” since they are nothing but “highly processed tap water.” Even though impurities and contaminants are removed from purified water, it loses its natural minerals, he says, and as a result often tastes flat due to its lower TDS levels.
Line up the waters and taste them at room temperature. “Do not chill them down. When you add ice, you’re pretty much losing the ability to taste. You’re numbing up your taste palate,” and ultimately hiding the flavor of a water, notes Riese. “You will realize they taste differently, and possibly find a water that you do enjoy.”
If you still feel that you can’t drink “plain” flavored water, try infusing your water by adding fruit or herbs, such as lemons, cucumbers or mint. You will get a refreshing burst of flavor without added sugar. Or if you’re OK with a bit of sugar, you can add a splash of 100% percent juice or a water enhancer. The extra flavor might help you drink more water in the long run.
Maxine Yeung is a registered dietitian and personal trainer.
Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.