I can tell you that when I drink tonic water, it is bad for me. Why? Because I tend to have it with gin…
But alcohol aside, is this a health drink or not? It has all the makings of a health drink after all – lack of color, bitter taste... Even the name sounds like it should be a ‘tonic’ for something.
Let’s take a closer look…
The Truth About Tonic Water
Tonic water basically starts out as carbonated water. After that, the majority of stores will add a little bit of fruit, sugar and quinine – a bitter alkaloid that gives it its bitterness.
This is where things start to go a little awry as this means that most tonic water comes with a fair amount of sugar added for good measure. Have a few ounces of tonic water with your drink and you’ll have added about 11 grams of sugar. There’s not much difference between the tonic water in many cases or a drink of Pepsi!
And what’s wrong with that? Well just to recap, drinking sugary drinks like Pepsi and Coca Cola means that you’re going to be spiking your blood glucose levels. This results in a sudden influx of insulin, which causes your body to absorb that sugar from your bloodstream. In turn, that creates a ‘sugar high’ as you suddenly have lots of energy.
But because most of us won’t use this sugar right away, that means it will end up being stored as fat via a process called lipogenesis. What’s more, is that the sudden spike and drop in sugar means you’re now more likely to be hungry and to want to snack. Continue this process enough and eventually you will find yourself lowering your insulin resistance and in the long term this can lead to obesity and even diabetes.
Meanwhile, drinking sugar drinks also means taking a lot more calories in throughout the day without necessarily noticing, damages your teeth and generally just wreaks havoc on your body and your health.
That’s not to say that tonic water is all bad for you though! The quinine found in tonic water has a number of positive benefits including acting as a muscle relaxant, an anti-inflammatory agent and a treatment for some conditions (including malaria!).
That said, it is also possible to overdose with quinine and in some cases people may have adverse reactions including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and more. For these reasons, the FDA limits the amount of quinine that can be used in tonic water.
If you’re looking for a drink that will offer great health benefits then, continue your search! That said, tonic water is relatively harmless as long as you keep quantities down and check the amount of sugar before making your decision.