If you know anything about water filtration, you’ll be aware of reverse osmosis. Often considered the most effective at-home water treatment method out there, reverse osmosis is widely-available and can remove more than 99.9% of total dissolved solids (TDS) from a well or city water source. They’re not new – they’ve been around for decades now – but RO products still are some of the best out there.
When it comes to weighing up the pros and cons, there’s plenty of good stuff to say about what makes reverse osmosis products so great, but not much to say that’s negative. One drawback you could have heard about this type of water filter, however, is slightly ironic – reverse osmosis is so effective that it doesn’t only remove the harmful contaminants, but also the healthy minerals.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we get most of our minerals from food sources, not drinking water. Nevertheless, many people care about healthy mineral removal with RO water filters, especially as minerals may be more easily absorbed from water.
In this updated blog article, I’ll be taking a look at RO mineral removal – examining which minerals are removed, why the human body needs these, and sharing my thoughts on what to do if you’re interested in the reverse osmosis process but you don’t want to lose out on your water mineral consumption.
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🧂 Healthy Minerals Found in Drinking Water
Water, whether from a well or from municipal water supplies, is packed full of natural minerals derived from rocks and soil. The human body needs these minerals to survive. While we get many of these healthy minerals in water from other sources, such as fruits and vegetables, you perhaps would appreciate being able to receive an extra source of them from your drinking water, too. Additionally, purified water with a lack of minerals doesn’t taste as nice as mineral-rich alkaline water, which may be a turn-off for you.
Some of the most common minerals in water include the following:
Calcium and magnesium
While calcium and magnesium can contribute to water hardness, these minerals play a big role in the health of the human body. Calcium is essential for the development of healthy teeth and bones, while magnesium is needed to convert foods into energy and can also support weight management. You can get calcium from foods such as leafy greens and dairy, but magnesium is harder to obtain from diet alone.
The average drinking water supply contains low levels of potassium, a mineral and electrolyte that’s important for balancing fluid in the body and supporting organs such as the heart.
Sodium, or salt, has a bit of a bad rap in today’s world, but there’s no getting around the truth: we couldn’t survive without salt. Of course, we have to limit our salt consumption somewhat to avoid the health risks associated with excess salt in the body, but we all need at least 500 mg of salt per day. There’s usually around 5 mg of salts within 100 liters of water.
Copper is often considered one of water’s “bad” contaminants, as many people don’t realize that the metal has several important roles in the body. This mineral can contribute to the health of our bones, blood, metabolism, and nervous system.
Like copper, zinc is needed in cells all around the body. It’s important for blood function, and boosts immune system health, helping your body to fight off bacteria and viruses. Zinc is also important for DNA synthesis. You can find zinc in whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals, as well as chickpeas and nuts – but it’s also present in water up to 5 PPM.
While you can expect to find traces of fluoride in water sources, many states actually add more of this organic element to water. It’s thought that fluoride has a number of dental health benefits to human teeth, though this matter is still somewhat contested in research. You perhaps would prefer that the state you live in didn’t add fluoride to your water, especially as there’s debate about whether it has the potential to result in side-effects after been consumed in the long-term. In that case, you’ll be happy to know that an RO filter does a good job of removing it.
Finally, phosphorous is another healthy mineral that’s found naturally in drinking water sources. This mineral has a number of positive health effects: it helps the body to make protein, supports the formation of bones and teeth, and helps determine how the body uses carbohydrates.
🤔 Do Reverse Osmosis Water Filters Remove Healthy Minerals?
In short, yes, reverse osmosis systems do remove these healthy minerals.
Because of the way that reverse osmosis removes contaminants, it’s difficult to separate the good stuff from the bad stuff. For this reason, if you’re considering purchasing a drinking water reverse osmosis system, you’ll have to be prepared to lose out on those beneficial minerals for the sake of drinking pure water.
Related: Does reverse osmosis soften water?
💡 How Does Reverse Osmosis Remove Minerals?
A reverse osmosis water filter consists of multiple filtration stages and a semi-permeable membrane. A high level of organic and inorganic contaminants are removed from each filter – for instance, a sediment filter can remove larger contaminants while an activated carbon filter will next remove the likes of chlorine chemicals and lead. But it’s the semi-permeable membrane that makes reverse osmosis so advantageous.
Many minerals are smaller than 1 micron in size, which means that while they’re too small to see, they can pass through the average filtration system without coming into contact with the media and being removed. But an RO membrane contains tiny pores of around 0.001 microns, which are capable of trapping impurities of all sizes, allowing only pure water particles to pass through. This is how you can make your tap water safe for drinking – but it removes healthy minerals alongside the stuff you don’t need.
Reverse osmosis happens at a very fast rate, and a fairly high pressure is needed to send water quickly through each different filtering cartridge (you can buy a pressure pump for a low cost if you’re concerned about this, but most household water pressures are fine). In the end, after the RO process, you’ll be left with an almost untraceable level of TDS in your water (test your TDS levels before and after if you want to see proof!). Yes, there is some water waste involved in the membrane step of this process, but the resulting waste is actually not enough for most people to notice.
Alongside these minerals, RO systems remove a whole host of additional contaminants, such as lead, arsenic, disease-causing bacteria, chemicals like pesticides, and harmful dissolved impurities like nitrates, chromium and sulfates. There’s nothing that can pass through the reverse osmosis membrane – not even tiny viruses.
An RO filter really is unique from a large percent of purification filters you can find on the market. RO membranes offer one of the few ways to achieve almost completely pure water – other systems, including activated carbon filtered devices, can only cause a decrease in common impurities including chemical contaminants like chlorine and lead. Water that’s treated right using an RO product is completely demineralized, but also benefits from being completely free of all organic and inorganic matter.
📉 What Quantity of Minerals Does RO Remove?
Reverse osmosis can remove more than 99.9% of all contaminants, and this includes minerals in your tap water. Some of the minerals removed from an RO system include salt, iron, manganese and calcium. These minerals, while very small, are larger than water molecules, which means they’re unable to pass through the RO membrane and end up getting flushed out of the system.
As I mentioned in the opening of this article, the World Health Organization is pretty clear on the fact that you won’t be missing out if you drink purified water that contains no minerals, because you’ll get all the minerals you need from food sources. But if you just prefer the taste of alkaline water, you probably find it a little annoying that RO water filters remove all the healthy stuff from your tap water.
Related: The pH of RO Water – Is It Acidic?
🔸 Should I Remineralize My Reverse Osmosis Water?
It’s understandable if you want to invest in the latest RO system, considering there are so many benefits of this type of drinking water treatment. So, the big question is, should you buy one of these widely-available water systems and find a way to add minerals back into your water?
It’s definitely an option. Some drinking water reverse osmosis filters come with an included alkaline water filter that adds a measured amount of minerals back into your water after treatment. This means you don’t have to miss out on RO water technology, but at the same time, you can still drink the minerals that give your water an enjoyable alkaline taste.
It’s possible to remineralize water yourself, too, by adding drops of minerals or using a dedicated filter that is designed to make water more alkaline.
Remember, you get all the minerals you need from food sources, provided you eat a healthy diet. You don’t necessarily need to drink these elements, and you certainly won’t experience a deficiency if you filter them out of your water – particularly as you’ll find them in much higher quantities in your food.
Any new reverse osmosis product is a big upfront investment, but it tends to pay for itself with long-term use. It’s certainly one of the best filtered water solutions out there, and a must-have for anyone who’s concerned about the quality of their water supply. Whether you have hard water-related problems or a high level of specific unhealthy contaminants, RO can tackle the issue with almost 100 percent effectiveness.
❔ Frequently Asked Questions
Do all water sources contain the same impurities?
No, and nor do they contain the same amounts of essential elements. If you live in certain states in the US, your water could contain much higher levels of minerals than in others. Either way, when you remove these natural elements from water, you’re not going to experience obvious health issues. The only difference you might notice after using an RO filter for the removal of impurities is to water taste.
What’s the difference between organic and inorganic minerals?
Inorganic minerals come from water and soil, while organic minerals come from animals and plants. The biggest difference is their source. Plant-based organic minerals include amino acids and citric acids, while inorganic minerals, which are more common in the majority of water sources, might be iron, copper and calcium.
Will RO give me normal water?
There isn’t generally a “right” type of water that fits the “normal” category. Some water sources contain more salts than others; some include more elements from plant matter; some have more hard water ions and some have soft water ions; some have an increase in concentration of heavy metals, and some have traces of chemicals that could cause serious concern. RO will simply provide you with water that’s safer and better for the health of humans than the water that the majority of us drink. There’s evidence to suggest that it can greatly reduce your risk of harm from your drinking water, which is particularly important if you drink from a well water source.
Are there any other downsides of reverse osmosis?
Generally, new reverse osmosis systems are easy to maintain and look after – you just need to change the filtering cartridges after a number of months to several years, depending on the kind of unit you’ve opted for. But one problem with this type of system, in addition to the fact that it eliminates vitamins and minerals, is that RO will always waste some water down the drain. Specifically, around 3 to 4 gallons of contaminant-laced water are wasted for every 1 gallon of clean water produced. Various recent types of RO unit are already slightly less wasteful compared to the systems of the past, with less water loss at a slightly better 1:1 gallon ratio during the RO process.
What can I use RO water for?
Whatever you want! Cooking, drinking, bathing and so on. You can use RO water in all cases, from basic uses around your home to particular uses for specific reasons. This type of water treatment can prevent diseases, help you to do your bit for the environment by helping you to stay away from single-use bottled water, and even provide you with a means of easily saving money over the years.