Electrolytes: What Are They & Why Are They So Good For Us?

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.


pouring water in glass cup

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.

Beans

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.

Bananas

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.

TIP:

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.

– Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

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  • TxAnne

    Odd to not mention coconut water!

    Even the UN recognizes its value: “COCONUT WATER
    FAO secures patent for tropical product

    The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has joined the list of contenders for food-related patents that can affect African and other developing countries. The UN agency has been granted a patent in the United Kingdom for long-life coconut water. It has announced that it will share the information with all interested producers rather than seek to make a profit.

    A favourite in coastal tropical regions, fresh coconut water is tasty and full of the salts, sugars and vitamins that might make it popular with athletes. Once exposed to air it deteriorates rapidly. Current processing techniques cook out the flavour along with bacteria. FAO’s process — a form of cold sterilization — may make coconut water a new star in the world’s $1 bn sports drink market and bring a new source of income to poor producers in developing regions.” Attribution: “Africa Recovery, United Nations”.

    From un.org

  • John

    All these recommendations are good, except for one thing. Every one of them has the usual whack-job leftist proviso that the food should be organic and local to really be good. What a bunch of hog-wash. Organic food is such a wide label, that many times one farm will produce, from the same field and batch, vegatables labeled organic and otherwise, depending on which bin they’re put in. Truly, the word organic has become useless. Also, as per most literature, a good washing is all that’s needed on any food to make it wholesome and safe, whereas organic simply costs more, and doesn’t give you any guarantee of greater nutrition or taste. For that, you’d have to grow it yourself. And as to local. Well that’s fine if you live in the sun-belt, but for the rest of us that would mean giving up practicall all greens, beans and fruit for 6 – 8 months of the year. Again, this article does make good points, but the writer is a lefty cracker with an agenda.

  • Ellis

    I have yet to see any qualified evidence that the well-known organic combines and family farms are engaged in any practice like you are saying. I wouldn’t put it past any of the big agrobusinesses that have ventured into the organic shelf space, though. I stick to the brands I’m comfortable with, that I’ve done a little research on.

    Its not leftist nonsense to recommend organic, locally grown food. The organic foods aren’t exposed to pesticides and herbicides, which can reach a lot deeper in the plant than your simple topical soap scrubbing could ever go.

    The organic method includes letting the land lay fallow every few years – the forgotten art of crop rotation. Conventionally grown crops grow in soil that is so depleted that they have less than 10 percent of the minerals available when compared to fallow land. To make up for this, the soil is assaulted with fertilizers to compensate for the lack of natural nutrients. This produces crops with an unbalanced nutrient profile that would never have occurred in nature.

    The reasons that local food sources are recommended are myriad.
    First you have to consider freshness. As a result of the concentration of farm control in the major agribusinesses, modern crops are harvested before fully ready, because they will be spending a long time in transit to those central distribution warehouses.
    Never fear – many crops will be exposed to gasses at the final distribution point, which artificially ripen them. Tomatoes and bananas are the two biggest recipients of this blessing. Never mind that many fruits can produce this gas naturally, we’ll just help it along with a synthesized version.
    Second, this food may be in transit for too long (one grocery store stock manager told me that some brands of hen eggs were in and out of warehouses and trucks for a year prior to delivery), so we better jack it full of cobalt radiation at a convenient government DOD-sponsored location.
    Also, these many transfers and the length of transport means that lots of petrochemicals are burned, using up a valuable resource. Of course, thats a drop in the bucket when the federal government is burning up a few hundred million gallons of fuels daily in their war machine, but lets not digress…

    I certainly can taste the difference between organic and conventional foods. Carrots are my favorite example. In a blind test I can tell the difference between organic and non-organic – FROM THE SAME BRAND (Wm. Bolthouse brand). Its easy. I juice them and drink the juice. The organic one tastes so sweet it could be a soft drink. The conventional carrot juice tastes like soapy water.

    So, while organic is more expensive in most cases, and it may not taste different to your dulled tastebuds, it tastes better to me, it lacks a lot of things that I’m allergic too, it has a lot of things that make me feel a whole lot better, and I prefer to vote with my dollars in favor of organic foods. If I can’t get local, I do the best I can.

  • Val

    When I’m really thirsty and feel I need to balance my electrolytes I eat watermelon. It really does the trick and tastes yummy. I was also interested to discover that I’m low in potassium (from a hair analysis) which is probably why I reach for bananas.

    Like the salt and vinegar tip. Val

  • EJ

    LMAO … Silly Repug doesn’t realize the article is about electrolyte sources, and, not once are the terms ‘organic’ nor even ‘locally grown’ mentioned in the article.

    John should move on to Politico or Huff Post so as to spew out his hateful political nonsense. What hypocrisy to accuse the author of an agenda, after calling him names.

    John, you’re an asshole. Go to school and get a real job.

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