Drinking plenty of water is essential for good health—it nourishes cells, flushes toxins from your system and helps keep all your vital organs running smoothly. Optimal hydration may even raise your energy levels and help shield your body from disease, according to Christopher Vasey, N.D., author of The Water Prescription: For Health, Vitality, and Rejuvenation (Healing Arts Press). But before you reach for that bottle or faucet, consider these water-enhancing strategies—they just might help turn your eight glasses a day into a key catalyst for head-to-toe health.
In some cities and towns across the U.S., tap water flows free of pollutants and other unsavory substances. But for those saddled with a not-so-pure supply, investing in a filter is the first step toward healthier water. Since different devices filter out different impurities, it helps to know what’s lurking in your H20 before you purchase a purifier. To find out which contaminants might be clouding your water, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Ground and Drinking Water website (epa.gov/safewater), or contact your local utility company for its report. One of these filtering methods should help you sip safely.
Activated carbon filters These are effective for removing chlorination byproducts, lead, copper, mercury, pesticides and parasites. Most pour-through pitchers and faucet-mounted filters use activated carbon (often in the form of charcoal) to soak up and lock in toxins before they reach your drinking glass. Try the Pur Three-Stage Faucet Mount System ($38 and up at purwaterfilter.com) or the Brita Pacifica Pitcher ($25 at brita.com/us). Because charcoal loses its filtering ability as it becomes clogged with contaminants, you should aim to replace your filter after about 40 gallons of use—that’s 640 eight-ounce glasses.
Reverse osmosis A more costly method that involves filtering water at the point where it reaches your home’s plumbing system, reverse osmosis is the only technology certified by the EPA to eliminate the chemical perchlorate (a rocket-fuel ingredient and increasingly common water contaminant thought to threaten thyroid health). But employ the technology with caution. “Reverse osmosis filters are the most effective kind of purifier, but it should be stressed that they remove healthy substances (such as minerals) along with all the toxins,” notes Vasey. What’s more, the Natural Resources Defense Council cautions that reverse osmosis filters waste a significant amount of water.
Distillation By boiling tap water and recondensing the purified steam, distillers may be the ideal filter for people looking to free their water of heavy metals (such as arsenic, mercury and fluoride). One good system is Nutriteam’s stainless steel countertop model ($185 at nutriteam.com).