While the internet is a great place to get information about almost any given topic, it’s also a place where misconceptions (and even myths) can be circulated repeatedly. One of those fallacies is the idea that softened water removes minerals and nutrients needed by our bodies. This simply is not the case. Let us tell you why.
Water Softening Does Not Remove Necessary Minerals and Nutrients
First of all, let’s review the definition of “hard” and “soft” water. As water makes its way over weathering rocks, through the ground and into our waterways, it picks up minerals that make water hard–namely calcium and magnesium. According to a U.S. Geological Survey, over 85 percent of U.S. homes have hard water. Hard water manifests itself by leaving spots on dishes and scale buildup on shower doors.
Soft water, on the other hand, is water that is naturally soft due to low levels of hardness minerals or because it has been “softened” through treatment at a municipal water plant or with a home water softening system. A typical residential ion-exchange water softener softens hard water by exchanging calcium and magnesium for sodium.
Doesn’t the Body Need Magnesium and Calcium?
Absolutely! Calcium and magnesium are essential for proper health. Inadequate consumption of either nutrient can impair health. Specifically, without proper levels of magnesium, you might experience muscle cramps, poor sleep, muscle tics/twitches, and even chronic pain. And calcium is equally important for strong teeth and bones.
But food is the primary source of magnesium and calcium. Dairy products are the richest source of calcium—accounting for more than 50 percent of the total calcium in many diets. Dietary sources of magnesium include dairy products, nuts, fruits, vegetables and grains.
Most studies indicate that the calcium and magnesium prevalent in hard water is in an inorganic form that the body cannot digest. Therefore, removing calcium and magnesium from your water to soften it does not decrease the intake of these nutrients. In fact, if you are looking to add more calcium and magnesium to your diet, drinking “hard water” (or water that has not been treated by a water softener) is not the answer. Instead, consult your doctor about possible dietary changes or nutritional supplements.
Does “Soft Water” Add Sodium to My Diet?
Since calcium and magnesium are exchanged for sodium during the “softening process”, you may wonder if this will increase the sodium intake to your diet? The simple answer is, “not really”. The amount of sodium in your water after going through the softening process will depend on the hardness level of your water to begin with. But the truth is, there is very little sodium in softened water.
In fact, less than three percent of your daily sodium intake comes from drinking or cooking with softened water. You’d have to drink six to eight (6-8) glasses of softened water to equal as much sodium as that found in a single slice of white bread!
Dr. Sheldon G. Sheps of the Mayo Clinic concluded that, “The added sodium doesn’t add up to much. An 8-ounce (237-milliliter) glass of softened water generally contains less than 12.5 milligrams of sodium, which is well within the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of ‘very low sodium.’ Thus, it’s unlikely that sodium in softened water would pose a risk for most healthy people…. It’s important to keep in mind that the majority of sodium in an average person’s diet comes from table salt and processed foods. Thus, the best way to decrease sodium in your diet is by putting away the saltshaker and cutting back on processed foods.”
That said, if you have a sodium restricted diet or have concerns about sodium intake, you should consult your physician before installing a water softener in your home.
To learn more about residential water softening and the impact of hard water on your home, we invite you to download our Hard Water Guide:
- Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of hard water.
- Understand how your home is affected at varying degrees of water hardness.
- See vivid graphics and easy-to-understand facts that explain hard water. What it is, where it comes from and why it’s costing you money.
- Learn how a water softening system can impact your daily life.