Are Functional Waters Worth the Hype?

woman pouring glass of functional water

You already know that guzzling H2O is good for your health but what about drinking “functional water?” We tapped the experts to find out more about this increasingly popular beverage—including which ones are worth trying (and the ones to avoid).

Wait, what is it? Functional water is simply good old H2O with added special ingredients (like herbs, vitamins and antioxidants) that claim to bring health benefits. Think: herb-infused drinks that promise to boost energy or alkaline water that supposedly neutralizes acid in the body (more on that one below).

And do they work? “Some functional waters can certainly be beneficial to health,” nutritionist Jennifer Blow tells us. Specifically, ones with electrolytes can help during heavy exercise sessions or when someone is dehydrated. “Water with added vitamins and minerals can also help top up your levels but it’s always best to try and get these from your diet,” she adds. Meanwhile, registered dietician Maryann Walsh likes flower- and probiotic-infused Blossom Water. “The flavors are refreshing and drinking a bottle provides one billion CFUs of probiotics, giving your body a gut health and immunity boost.”

But are there any functional waters that you should steer clear of? “It's usually a good idea to take any functional waters promoting 'detox' properties with a grain of salt,” says Walsh. “If you enjoy the flavor and it helps you drink more H2O, then go for it, but don't expect any weight loss or 'detoxification' from functional waters that make this claim. If you have a healthy functioning liver and kidneys, then your body is detoxing just fine.” 

What about alkaline water? Sorry, but that’s just a fad. “Alkaline water that claims to alter body pH levels is, unfortunately, one of the trends that has caught on—hard. But don’t be fooled by this magic elixir. There isn’t any credible scientific evidence that backs this claim up, nor is it particularly useful to balance your body’s pH levels as your body will do that all by itself,” says Blow. While some studies have found that alkaline water may be able to help with acid reflux disease, there just isn’t enough evidence to support this yet. 

Bottom line: In general, functional waters aren’t going to do your body any harm. But they’re not necessarily going to turn you into a glowing version of Gwyneth Paltrow, either. But hey, if some extra flavor or added ingredients help you drink more of the clear stuff, then by all means, give it a try—just don’t expect any miracles, OK? 

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...