Why Does Cold Water Taste Better? (An RDN Explains)

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If you think about it, nearly every restaurant you go to will serve you a glass of ice water. After a hard workout in the heat, you likely prefer a glass of cold water to quench your thirst.

Why is that? Why does cold water taste better?

The preference for cold water is largely subjective and can vary from person to person. However, there are a few reasons why people may like the taste of cold water better.

In this article we will discuss the “science” of taste and the reasons why cold water may taste better.

πŸ“Œ Key Takeaways

  • The tongue is our sensory organ that plays a major role in our ability to taste different flavors. The five basic tastes are sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami (savory).
  • People prefer cold water over warm or hot water because the impurities in water are not as noticeable with cold water.
  • It also has thirst quenching properties and better fresh flavor due to dissolved particles of oxygen.
  • Drinking cold water can be refreshing and satisfying, which may encourage you to drink more water and stay better hydrated.

πŸ‘… Science of Taste

Our tongue is our sensory organ that plays a major role in our body’s ability to taste different flavors. On our tongue there are thousands of taste buds that detect different flavors.

The five basic qualities of taste are sweet, bitter, sour, salty and savory. Each one of our taste buds is able to detect all five of these taste qualities, however different parts of the tongue are more sensitive to certain tastes.

For example, both sides of our tongue are more sensitive to sour flavors, while the tip of our tongue is more sensitive to sweet and salty flavors.

Woman sticking her tongue out

How Does the Tongue Detect Different Flavors?

When we eat a meal or have cold drinks for example, the molecules come into contact with our taste buds on our tongue. The molecules stimulate our tongue and send signals to the brain which then interprets the signals as specific tastes.

Other Factors of Taste

What is generally categorized as β€œtaste” is basically a bundle of different sensations. It is not only the qualities of taste perceived by the tongue, but also the smell, texture and temperature of a meal or drink that is important.

Our sense of smell combined with our taste buds is what creates flavor. If your sense of smell is reduced from a cold for instance, then the perception of taste is also dulled.

πŸ€” What Does Water Taste Like?

Most people would say water is flavorless. However, have you ever noticed that water from different states or cities may taste different? Or your bottled water may taste slightly different from your tap water?

Some of it has to do with the different salts and minerals dissolved in the water. On the other hand, distilled water is meant to be tasteless. When you take it out of the distillery, oxygen and carbon dioxide dissolves in it.

Additionally, any impurities present in the glass or bottle the water is poured in may impact the water taste slightly.

Drinking water

🧐 Why Does Cold Water Taste Better?

There are few reasons cold water tastes better than warm water. Cold water suppresses some of the impurities found in water and it has more oxygen. However, it may also come down to personal or cultural preferences.

Taste Buds and Cold Water

The temperature of water has an impact on how easily our taste buds detect impurities that alter the taste of pure water.

Any impurities in water are more easily detected by our taste receptors with warm water. Cold water suppresses these impurities.

Chemistry of Cold Water

The chemical composition of cold water and hot water does not differ significantly in terms of the elements or minerals present.

However, the temperature does impact the solubility of gasses in the water. This is largely because cold water molecules are more densely packed together, so it holds more space for dissolved gasses.

Basically, cold water holds more oxygen which is what leads to its enhanced flavor and freshness.

Personal and Cultural Preferences

Some people may prefer drinking ice cold water while others may prefer drinking room temperature water.

It is important to note that some people may find drinking very cold water can cause discomfort. For example, if you have sensitive teeth or a history of dental work then ice cold water may bother your teeth.

In some cultures, people may prefer drinking hot water. For example, in Chinese culture, people generally prefer to drink hot water because in ancient Chinese medicine it is said to help with blood circulation and toxin release.

βœ… Potential Benefits of Drinking Cold Water

We know that staying hydrated is very important for our overall mental and physical health.

Some say that drinking cold water is bad for your body’s digestion, however there is no substantial evidence to support these claims. There are a few benefits of drinking cold water.

Helps You Hydrate Better

Drinking cold water is generally more refreshing and satisfying than warm or room temperature water, which may encourage you to drink more water and stay better hydrated.

Woman drinking cold water

Cold Water and Exercise

There is some research that suggests drinking cold water while you exercise can prevent your body from overheating and improve your workout session. This may be because drinking cold water can help to decrease your body temperature.

Additionally, some research has demonstrated that a cold drink increases fluid palatability and consumption during exercise.

πŸ“‘ The Bottom Line

While taste is subjective and personal preferences play a role in how we perceive the flavor of water, there is a scientific explanation for why many people prefer cold water over warm or hot water.

Some of the factors that contribute to this are its refreshing and thirst-quenching properties, the numbing effect on our taste buds and the enhanced fresh flavor from the dissolved particles of oxygen.

Not only that, but cold water can improve our hydration, and potentially improve exercise performance.

Ultimately, we know that staying well hydrated is essential for maintaining good health. Whether you prefer your water cold or at room temperature, drinking enough water throughout the day is pertinent for overall physical and mental health.

❔ Frequently Asked Questions:

Why Does Cold Water Quench Thirst Better?

Cold water seems to quench our thirst better and that may be related to temperature sensation and its fresh flavor. After a hard workout, cold water has been shown to decrease your body temperature and prevent you from overheating.

Why Do I Crave Cold Water?

If you are frequently craving ice or ice cold water this can be indicative of iron deficiency anemia. Please consult your health care provider if you have other signs and symptoms of iron deficiency for further evaluation.

Why Does Cold Water Feel So Good?

Cold water feels good particularly after a hard workout and is something that athletes tend to gravitate towards. It helps to increase internal core temperature. Additionally, it has a pleasant taste due to higher oxygen concentration.

  • Roxanne Trotter
    MS, RDN

    Registered Dietitian Roxy, fueled by her love for food and wellness, tackles misinformation head-on. Her Master's in Human Nutrition and diverse experience (weight management, hospitals) equip her to translate complex health topics, especially those related to water quality. Through her own practice (Nutremedies LLC) and writing for Water Filter Guru, Roxy empowers readers with accurate, evidence-based information, helping them make informed choices for a healthier life, one sip at a time.

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