Bottled water labels: how to read them and choose the right one for you
Mineral water, bottled in hygienically safe containers, reaches the consumer as it gushes out of reservoirs, springs and other sources. However, its commercialization must be authorized by the competent authorities. Knowing how to read water labels can help you choose the most suitable one for you, based on your nutritional needs.
Which type of bottle to choose?
Historically, mineral water used to be packaged in standard glass bottles. Today, the market has developed and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles have taken over. The PET industry has progressively improved its production, giving bottles increasingly eco-friendly and lightweight characteristics. In fact, over time the weight of PET bottles has been reduced by approximately 30% or 40%.
In this sense, packaging represents an increasingly important factor when it comes to bottled water marketing and the end consumer. The bottle conveys not only an aesthetic message (design, labelling and visual presentation), but also a commitment to sustainability. Moreover, today, companies tend to select their packaging according to distribution channels, consumer needs and brand positioning. The half-litre bottle, for example, remains the most common type when it comes to out-of-home consumption, during walks, in the office, on trips or during sports, while the market share of user-friendly bottles for children keeps increasing.
How to read bottled water labels
Water comes in many types. We can therefore classify bottled water according to its fixed residue, or, in other words, according to the amount of mineral salts present in a litre. This varies depending on the area where the mineral water comes from. To calculate the fixed residue in water, experts analyze the amount of dry residue left per litre of mineral water after the water has evaporated at 180°C. This value is visible on the packaging label and it is expressed in milligrams per litre (mg/l).
We can classify mineral waters according to their fixed residue value into:
- Water with very low mineral content (up to 50 milligrams of fixed residue per litre of water). These are 'lighter' types of water that promote diuresis and the expulsion of small kidney stones.
- Oligomineral water, i.e. water low in mineral salts (51 to 500 milligrams per litre). Since it contains little sodium, oligomineral water is ideal for daily use. Among other benefits, it also has an excellent diuretic action. In Italy, this is the most widespread type of water with more than 61% of the country's market share.
- Water with medium mineral content (501 to 1,500 milligrams per litre). This type of water contains a higher percentage of mineral salts.
- Water rich in mineral content (over 1,500 milligrams per litre). This type of water contains an even higher amount of mineral salts. That's why it is often used for healing purposes and following a medical consultation. Water rich in mineral salts can better replenish fluids and minerals lost through sweating. So it is recommended for athletes or sports lovers, during physical activity or in summer.
Now you might wonder if a high or low fixed residue water is better. There is no right or wrong answer to that! It really depends on everyone's needs and the doctor's opinion. However, for infants and children it is better to choose natural mineral water with a fixed residue of 250 mg - 500 mg per litre.
Choosing according to your needs
A conscious water choice can be really helpful, especially when it comes to certain pathological conditions. Understanding the differences among the numerous types of mineral water is crucial, as the consumption of one specific type over another can contribute to maintaining a healthier lifestyle. And this is why 'decoding' the labels of bottled water is key in selecting the most suitable mineral water for your needs.
To sum up, natural mineral water does not have a therapeutic effect in the strict sense. However, thanks to its special organoleptic characteristics, it promotes good health and well-being at various stages of life. In fact, we should consider water as a true 'functional food', i.e. food that is beneficial depending on our activities, gender, period of life, health conditions, disease prevention etc.
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