Should I drink cold, hot, or room temperature water?
Depending on where your family comes from, you probably grew up with a strong preference for a particular water temperature. If you were born and raised in China, you’re likely accustomed to drinking hot water (with or without tea leaves), even in the summer. In India, you may have become used to room temperature, or even warm water. Meanwhile, if you were raised in the US, you may scoff at any water above refrigerator temperature, and even go so far as to add ice cubes to already chilled water.
These differences are frequently rooted in cultural beliefs, but there’s been little conclusive research done to show whether any particular water temperature is better for your health. Still, there have been a handful of studies over the years, as well as centuries of anecdotal evidence to consider when choosing your water temp:
For Americans, this can seem hard to believe, but hundreds of millions of people around prefer hot water, even without the addition of tea leaves. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this is partly because water at colder temperatures is believed to disrupt the flow of qi, which can have a range of negative health consequences. Even if you are not a practitioner of TCM, you have likely noticed the health benefits of hot water any time you’ve experienced congestion from a cold. In fact, researchers at Cardiff University have looked into these effects, and here’s what they found out:
“The hot drink provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness, whereas the same drink at room temperature only provided relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough and sneezing.”
So, if hot water isn’t your cup of tea, do stick with it when you’re experiencing cold symptoms, and you’ll be able to see some relief!
Here’s the good news: Despite some alarming headlines about the dangers of drinking cold water, especially during the years hotter days, it is safe for the vast majority of people to consume cold water whenever they like. It quenches thirst and leaves you refreshed, and you’ll likely drink more of it in a single serving on a hot day, meaning better overall hydration. That said, there are some people and some moments in which cold water is a poor choice.
If you’ve ever gotten an ice cream headache, you’ve experienced the painful consequences of scarfing down something ice cold. Water can produce the same effect at its coldest temperatures, leading to a cold-stimulus headache in some folks, especially those with migraines. That’s because cold temperatures constrict the blood vessels. Ever noticed how your muscles perform more poorly when exercising in colder temps? Bring those cold temps inside your body by consuming ice cold water, and now those constricted blood vessels are in your digestive system, or even your nearby reproductive system. For people who menstruate, this can make period cramps feel worse (you wouldn’t choose an ice pack over a heating pad during your period, would you?), and for all people, it can slow down digestion.
In other words, go ahead and grab a bottle of water from the fridge, but skip it during meals or when you’re on your period!
Room Temperature Water
Now we get to Goldilocks’s number one pick for best water temperature. (You know… just right.) While both hot and cold water can have negative consequences for our health in some cases, room temperature water is the all-around winner when it comes to healthy water consumption. When you choose water at room temp, you can optimize your hydration and support digestion without any of the possible negative effects of hotter or colder water. One reason is that it’s more quickly absorbed, since your body doesn't need to use as much energy to warm or cool the water to match your body temperature. So if you’re out at a restaurant in a western country that brings ice water to your table, consider asking for your water at room temperature instead!
The Last Word: Any water will do
Even though room temperature water is generally healthier for most people in most cases, here’s the real takeaway: Drink whatever kind of water gets you drinking more water overall. If you love cold water so much that you could easily drink a glass every hour, by all means, do that. If you prefer hot water and can consume enough to keep you properly hydrated, go hot. Drinking more water is good, at any temperature!