Happy Earth Day!

Back when I studied macrobiotics, I was taught that there’s only one type of water that our bodies really thrive on – pure spring water.

It’s truly the best water on earth.


Gihon Spring in Jerusalem

But nowadays, we hear a lot about this or that water filter and I get lots of questions about it.

My thoughts always go back to my year of hands-on learning with the true masters of holistic nutrition, Herman and Cornelia Aihara.

With all the hype around nutrition in recent years, I’m realizing more and more the wisdom of those early mentors.

As a chef at Cornelia’s Lake Tahoe summer camp in 1991, we had access to the highest quality spring water in the world.

I’ll never forget that water…

And I’m still using spring water today.

Fast forward to 2013 and we have more choices than ever – spring water, filtered water, alkaline water, carbonated water – the list is endless. And it can be confusing, right?

In honor of Earth Day, I’ll answer 5 of the most common questions about water.

The first question is probably the most common:

1) Can I drink bottled water?

There are unfortunately many problems with bottled water:

• Quality: It’s difficult to know what you’re getting with bottled water. Some comes from municipal water sources, or in other words, it’s tap water. Other brands may contain fluoride, which has been shown to be toxic to the body. Bottom line – you just don’t know what you’re getting with bottled water.

• Packaging: While most plastic water bottles are recyclable, many people don’t bother to recycle them. Producing them is also an issue, since they are petrochemical products that pollute the environment during production.

• Toxins: PET plastic water bottles may harbor toxins that are hormone disrupters. These toxins can leach into the water. Hard plastic bottles contain bisphenol-a, which is highly toxic as well.

The Environmental Working Group recently analyzed the labels of 173 unique bottled water products to determine where the water comes from, how or if the water is treated, and whether the results of purity testing are revealed.

More than HALF of the brands surveyed failed EWG’s test, 18% didn’t say where their water comes from, and another 32% wouldn’t disclose any information on purity of their water.

Can you believe this?

If you’re curious about your own favorite bottled water brand, here’s a look at the top-10 U.S. brands:

1. Pure Life Purified Water (Nestle), EWG grade = B
2. Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water (Nestle), EWG grade = C
3. Aquafina Purified Drinking Water (Pepsi), EWG grade = D
4. Dasani Purified Water (Coca-Cola), EWG grade = D
5. Deer Park Natural Spring Water (Nestle), EWG grade = D
6. Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water (Nestle), EWG grade = D
7. Ozarka Natural Spring Water (Nestle), EWG grade = D
8. Poland Spring Natural Spring Water (Nestle), EWG grade = D
9. Zephyrhills Natural Spring Water (Nestle), EWG grade = D
10. Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water (CG Roxane), EWG grade = F

Filtered tap water received the best grade (an A) from EWG because if you change your filter regularly, EWG says it is purer than bottled water, plus it saves money (bottled water can cost up to 1,900 times more than what flows from your tap).

So here’s what I recommend:

Unless you have access to a fresh, local spring (which is obviously my first choice) you may want to consider what I consider to be the best quality bottled spring water on the market, Mountain Valley Spring Water from Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.

My third choice is to use water from a home filter.

2) What temperature should the water be when I drink it?

I get this question a lot, and my macrobiotic mentors were very clear on the answer.

• For pure hydration, there’s nothing better than room temperature water, which is more hydrating than cold water. Why? Because your body has to expend energy to bring cold water to body temperature, which results in water loss.

• Cold water may cause the blood vessels around your stomach to shrink, slowing hydration.

• When you drink cold beverages, they tend to solidify fats from the foods you’re eating as they pass through your digestive system. This makes those fats more difficult to digest, and more difficult to be released from the body.

Room temperature beverages, on the other hand, ease digestion and help move fat through your body.

3) Can I drink carbonated water?

Yes, but in moderation.

Here’s why:

• Carbonated water contains high levels of carbon dioxide and carbonic acid. Because of this, it is more acid-forming in the body than pure water.

• Some evidence suggests carbonated water promotes the growth of kidney stones. If you suffer from this condition, you need to stay away from it altogether.

• As with other acidic-forming foods, carbonated water changes the body’s pH. In return, your body works to neutralize its pH to a less acidic level, often leaching calcium and other minerals from the bones to do so. This can lead to lowered bone density and osteoporosis, chas v’shalom.

• Your kidneys are designed to digest “flat” water, not carbonated water. Drinking carbonated water pushes your kidneys to work harder.

The bottom line is, “flat” water is better.

It lubricates your tissues, digests easily, and supports detoxification.

4) Why do I need to avoid drinking water with meals?

Drink water 30 minutes before a meal or 60 minutes after, but not during a meal. In macrobiotics we learn that water “dampens digestive fire” and suppresses digestion.

If you must drink a little while eating, sip no more than a 1/2 cup during meals.

5) Do I really need to drink eight glasses of water each day?

Yes, but it needn’t all be from a glass.

If you’re eating an excellent diet, the foods you eat contain plenty of water, particularly if you’re focusing on “liquid nutrition” as I teach about in my S.T.E.P.S. Program™ for Permanent Weight-Loss.

Soups, smoothies, vegetable juices, and teas contain lots of water, as do raw fruits and vegetables.

On the other hand, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. By then, you are already dehydrated. Hydrate well between meals. Customize the levels of water you need based on your climate, activity levels and overall diet.

But as a general rule of thumb for weight-loss and detoxification, I encourage my clients to drink at least 1/2 of their body weight in ounces. Especially in the spring and summer seasons, this is the best way to lose weight, detoxify, and stay hydrated!

So for example, if you weigh 145 pounds, you’ll want to drink at least 70 ounces of liquid per day, whether in your smoothies, soups, gazpacho, teas, vegetable juices, sugar-free lemonade, or water. Use your imagination – and ENJOY!