Minerals and how to replace them if you drink distilled water

Written by William Fryer - MA Oxon

by William Fryer MA Oxon

Some people exclaim, “what about the minerals!?” when confronted with the prospect of mineral-free water. In a previous article I have explained why the whole mineral argument is not relevant because water is a poor source of minerals. But let’s start with a recap and then talk about some replacement options.

We get minerals from food. Not only is water a poor source of minerals - even mineral water - it often contains minerals we are over-supplied with also, mineral content in tap water varies.

I live in Wiltshire, the water comes from an aquifer in limestone bedrock. As a consequence it has a relatively high mineral content, mainly calcium carbonate. But people living in granite or slate areas of the UK will actually have very low mineral content in their water.

I work in a hospital and I spend a lot of time looking at blood test results for patients. The only people who are ever mineral deficient are either old people or people with an illness. I cannot recall the last time I observed mineral deficiencies in a person under 70 without any major illness. Almost certainly, if you are the kind of person who is worrying about mineral deficiencies you will not have any mineral deficiency.

Even a high quality mineral water is a poor source of minerals

Let’s look at the mineral analysis of a typical mineral water. I have selected Evian because it is a well-known mineral water and is typical of a quality mineral water. Something like Badoit has a much higher mineral content and you can taste it, but few people drink it because it has such a strong taste.

MineralQuantity in 1L of EvianDaily RequirementDaily Volume of Evian Needed
Calcium76mg/L700mg9 litres
Potassium1.1mg/L3500mg3182 litres
Magnesium25mg/L270mg11 litres
Sodium6.8mg/L6g882 litres

Let’s take each of these in turn.

Calcium 

Essential for the normal functioning of muscles in the body and we all get told as kids to drink milk to supply calcium for our bones. I challenge anyone to drink 9 litres of Evian every day. If you achieve this not only will you spend a lot of time urinating you will also end up diluting your electrolytes and probably end up in hospital where an Endocrinology Consultant will diagnose you with hyponatraemia (low sodium) secondary to hypervolaemia (high volume). You will then be sent home after being told to drink less in future.

Most people are pretty well supplied with calcium but if you feel the need to boost calcium try any or all of the following:

  • milk,
  • cheese and other dairy foods;
  • green leafy vegetables – such as cabbage, curly kale, okra and spinach;
  • soya drinks with added calcium;
  • bread and anything made with fortified flour;
  • fish where you eat the bones – such as sardines and pilchards.

All of these sources are richer and more effective than mineral water.

Potassium

Useful for blood pressure control, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. Also, this is a mineral that some people have a deficiency in. However if you wanted to use mineral water to supply you with potassium you would need to drink three cubic metres every day. An impossible task.

So drinking mineral water is never going to help with potassium, but here are some alternative sources: 
  • bananas, oranges, melon, apricots, grapefruit (some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium),
  • spinach, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, cucumber, courgette,
  • leafy greens,
  • also juice from oranges, tomatoes, prune, apricot and grapefruit,
  • milk and yoghurt,
  • tuna, halibut, cod, trout,
  • kidney beans, lentils, soya beans, salt substitutes,
  • molasses,
  • nuts,
  • meat and poultry,
  • brown & wild rice,
  • whole wheat.

Magnesium 

Is another important electrolyte with a role in energy production and bone health. Most people are still going to end up in hospital if they attempt to drink eleven litres of mineral water each day but spinach, nuts and wholemeal bread are good sources.

Sodium 

Is used by the body to maintain fluid balance so it is an important mineral. The most common source is salt (sodium chloride). However most people are oversupplied with sodium and it is a leading cause of high blood pressure (hypertension) because high sodium hardens arteries.

The average individual in the UK consumes over 10 grams of sodium (in the form of sodium chloride or salt). It may be necessary to up salt intake if you are exercising and sweating a lot but this is a mineral which few people need to supplement. Generally most people need to reduce sodium intake.

The current government guideline is six grams a day. Biologically we only need one gram a day but the guideline is six grams simply because they don’t think the UK population is capable of achieving one gram a day.

Eat healthy or try specific supplements

In summary: distilled water is a poor source of minerals, but we get minerals from food, so to get minerals simply eat healthy food. If you do want to add minerals back into distilled water then a product like Formula 56 which is a low sodium mineral supplement for distilled water can be used. If you are exercising and therefore sweating a lot then Formula 78 is a supplement you can use to create isotonic drinks from distilled water.