Electrolytes are ionic solutions (salts), existing in nature in the form of minerals. Electrolytes are responsible for keeping the body properly hydrated so the muscles and nerves can function properly.
Since the human body is composed mostly of water, it is important that we take in adequate amounts of these minerals. What is more, when we are well-hydrated, we are able to release toxic internal wastes such as harmful chemicals, urea and ammonia.
The essential electrolytes most commonly found in the human body are sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, chloride, calcium, and phosphates.
Why Are Electrolytes So Important?
When the kidneys are functioning properly, they are able to regulate concentrations of these vital minerals, in conjunction with fluid levels in the body. As we go about the day, and particularly when we exercise, much of the body's precious fluids (and mineral electrolytes) are lost. We can also lose these vital salts through urination, vomiting, going to the bathroom (especially diarrhea), and through the liquid content of wounds.
When we sweat, we are particularly apt to lose the minerals sodium, potassium and chloride. This is why athletes are so concerned with replenishing electrolytes after a strenuous workout. In fact, all of the major fluids of the body require large amounts of potassium to function, and 90% of the body's potassium lies within the cellular walls. For this reason, it is essential to replenish these electrolyte on a daily basis through intake of clean fluids and foods.
When we expend sweat and lose these vital minerals, we need to replenish, not only with water but with minerals. If we combine intake of fluids with electrolytes, we will actually hydrate quicker, as water follows electrolytes. Moreover, taking in electrolytes like sodium reduces the amount of water lost in urination, allowing the fluids to be more readily absorbed back into the muscles, tissue and nerves.
How to get more electrolytes naturally
You may think of getting a re-surge in electrolytes from a bottle of Vitamin Water or Gatorade, but truly the best and most natural way of replenishing electrolytes is from food. In fact, sugary sports drinks only provide a quick burst of minerals, but deplete the body over time.
5 Foods that increase electrolytes naturally include:
Most fruits and vegetables
Apples, corn, beets, carrots and green beans, are all rich in electrolytes. Other electrolyte-laden fruits and veggies include limes, lemons, oranges, sweet potatoes, artichokes, all types of squash and tomatoes. For best results, choose fruits and vegetables that are organic and, if possible, local to your community.
Nuts and seeds
Most nuts and seeds are very high in electrolytes. For best results, choose nuts that are unprocessed and organic. Add some almonds, cashews, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds or pistachios to your morning cereal of oatmeal.
Lima, red, mung, white and pinto beans are the highest in mineral-rich electrolytes. Beans should be properly spiced to avoid excess gas.
Dark Leafy Greens
Most greens are a great source of the major required electrolytes. Spinach, in particular, is high in minerals. Incorporate more greens into your diet. You can choose from kale, beet greens, mustard greens, bok choy and chard, to name a few. Each of these greens holds sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, as well as "prebiotics" that foster good gut flora and digestion.
Specifically, bananas are a great source of electrolytes as they are rich in minerals. Potassium is a key form of electrolytes, and this sweet fruit it one of the richest sources of potassium on the planet.
Putting a pinch of Himalayan salt and a teaspoon or so of organic raw apple cider vinegar in your purified water will replenish electrolytes rapidly. I recommend this to some of the pro athletes I have consulted with.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.