Vital to many central functions in the human body, electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge. When dissolved in body fluids, electrolytes break apart into positively or negatively charged ions that provide the voltage necessary for nerve signaling, muscle movement, and fluid balance throughout the body. These are 10 sources of electrolytes that you must know to stay in good condition.

Electrolytes are found in blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids. Every time we sweat, urinate, or defecate, we lose some of them. It is important to replenish electrolytes as they are depleted.

Without electrolytes, our cells would dry up or burst from being too full, our hearts would stop beating, our muscles would stop working, and our brains would stop sending messages to the rest of the body.

How Electrolytes Affect the Body

Although it is a buzzword associated with sports drinks, electrolytes are part of several familiar minerals that are already present in many foods. However, they are not the same, so it is essential to consume a good balance of different electrolytes in your diet:

Potassium – Helps regulate blood pressure, pH balance, heart rate, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and water balance.

Calcium – Forms and maintains healthy bones and teeth, cell division, muscle contractions, blood circulation, blood clotting, hormone release, and signaling from the brain to other parts of the body.

Magnesium – Converts food into energy, creates protein from amino acids, regulates neurotransmission, repairs DNA, maintains heart rate, and helps muscles relax and contract.

Sodium : balances body fluids, nerve signaling, and muscle functions.

Chloride : Maintains pH balance, transmits nerve impulses, and moves fluid in and out of cells.

Phosphate – Needed for tissue growth and repair, energy production within cells, muscle movements, DNA and RNA creation, vitamin absorption, and nerve conduction.

11 Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance

When you are not getting enough of these items in your diet, it affects your entire body. The most common signs of depleted electrolytes include:

  • Fast heart rate and irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Confusion and trouble concentrating
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Feeling very thirsty

If you have any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out an electrolyte deficiency. Your electrolyte levels can easily be determined with a urine or blood test .

The myth of sports drinks

Invented in the 1970s, sports drinks were initially developed for professional athletes for hydration and replacement of carbohydrates (sugars).

Today, however, sports drinks are marketed to a much wider audience that is unlikely to be as physically active as an Olympic athlete. With marketing aimed at kids, these tasty but sugar-laden drinks may be contributing to childhood obesity.

Claims that sports drinks are superior to water for hydration, that they stimulate thirst so you drink more, and the importance of prehydration are dubious at best. And they only contain a limited amount of electrolytes, just potassium and sodium.

For those who exercise vigorously for 20 minutes to an hour most days of the week, replacing electrolytes lost due to sweating should be part of your training regimen and for this there are good quality commercial natural drinks and others. that you can make or eat at home.

10 best natural sources of electrolytes

If you get less than 60 minutes of physical activity per day, you can restore the full range of electrolytes by making sure your diet includes these foods and drinks:

1. Spinach as a source of electrolytes

Whether boiled or eaten raw, spinach is an incredibly nutritious leafy green. A good source of protein and insoluble fiber, spinach is especially high in vitamin A and C, and contains several phytochemicals like lutein, kaempferol, and quercetin that have antioxidant properties. Per 100 g, it provides 16% potassium, 3% sodium, 10% calcium, 20% magnesium and 5% phosphorus.

2. Bananas

Easy to eat anywhere, bananas are enriched with vitamin C and B6, as well as trace elements such as folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, and riboflavin. They also provide various types of catechins and dopamine antioxidants. In terms of electrolytes, bananas offer 10% potassium, 7% magnesium, 2% phosphorus, and 1% calcium for each 100g serving. Eat them plain or make a healthy banana peel tea.

3. Whole milk

Deeply hydrating and packed with electrolytes, most wouldn’t consider milk their thirst-quenching source. And yet each cup of 3.25% milk is 28% calcium, 22% phosphorus, 10% potassium, 6% magnesium, and 4% sodium. You should consider taking it organic and free range and not as a primary source of electrolytes.

4. Coconut milk

A highly nutritious non-dairy dairy product, coconut milk is made from grated coconut meat soaked in hot water so that the coconut cream can be skimmed from the top. One cup contains many good things, including 24% phosphorus, 22% magnesium, 18% potassium, 4% calcium, and 1% sodium.

5. Coconut water excellent source of electrolytes

One of the best and most delicious and natural sources of electrolytes. If you prefer your drinks to have a lighter consistency, coconut water provides a good variety of vitamins and minerals. At the electrolyte level, each cup is fortified with 17% potassium, 15% magnesium, 6% calcium, 5% phosphorus and 11% sodium.

6. Seaweed

Sea vegetables, seaweed encompass several different varieties that boast varying amounts of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that are often found at higher levels than many other foods. Depending on the type, eating 100g of seaweed can provide up to 180% of your RDI for magnesium, 45% for potassium, and 60% for calcium.

7. Switchel

The original energy drink, switchel, is an ancient drink made from apple cider vinegar, pure maple syrup, fresh ginger root, and water or club soda. Not only is switchel an excellent rehydration toner, it is naturally rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium thanks to its ACV and maple syrup content.

8. Freshly squeezed orange juice

A single cup of fresh orange juice will definitely meet your daily vitamin C needs (207% of the daily value), along with a healthy dose of folate, thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid, and vitamins A and B6. Orange juice is also a good source of potassium (14%), magnesium (7%), calcium (3%), and phosphorus (4%).

9. Shrubs

Since many fruits and vegetables naturally contain electrolyte minerals, try mixing up some shrubs instead of sugary sports drinks. Easy to make, shrubs are any combination of fruits and vegetables soaked in vinegar for up to a month. It is a fermented drink that provides probiotics, vitamins, and a variety of minerals. To specifically restore electrolytes, add apples, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and leafy greens to your mix.

10. Table salt

Salt is one of the most accessible sources of electrolytes . Although consuming more than 2,300 mg of salt per day (the equivalent of one teaspoon) can contribute to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease, the body cannot function without some sodium in the diet. While the main culprit for excessive sodium intake is processed foods, spicing up home-cooked meals with a little table salt will provide you with two important electrolytes: sodium and chloride. Other natural sources of chloride include olives, tomatoes, and celery.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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