You may think sports drinks are the only way to boost your electrolytes, but did you also know that there are electrolytes in food? Instead of drinking those sugary sports drinks, you can opt for healthier, more nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables and even dairy products to replace your electrolytes and return your body to balance. Whether you are replacing them post-workout or you are worried about being outside on a hot day, these foods can replace electrolytes faster and even last longer than any sports drink. Our easy to follow guide will help you identify the various food choices that carry the secondary benefits of being rich in electrolytes!
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are ionized constituents of your body’s living cells — including blood and organic matter. Your body’s fluids, including plasma and blood, have a high concentration of sodium chloride. Electrolytes are important because your body relies on them to carry out normal electrical impulses. When your body becomes dehydrated, you lose these essential ions, and your body becomes weak, fatigued and you can even feel sick. Electrolyte imbalances do not just occur after workouts though — they can also occur after diarrhea, vomiting or during any type of intestinal virus.
The Electrolytes Your Body Relies On Include:
You need to replenish electrolytes as soon as possible. By doing so, your body will actually hydrate faster and you can recover quicker. Also, electrolytes help reduce the amount of water your body loses during actions like urination — which means the fluids are ready to be absorbed back into the nerves, tissues and muscles and prevents you from suffering from dehydration.
Why Sports Drinks Are Bad
Sports drinks do contain sodium chloride and can help replace electrolytes, but they are also high in sugar and artificial flavorings. These are provided to make the drink taste better, but are not necessarily good for a body on the verge of dehydration or a body suffering from severe electrolyte imbalance.
10 Places To Find Electrolytes In Food
There are 10 foods out there that have a higher concentration of electrolytes than sports drinks and are better tolerated by your body as well. So next time you are low on electrolytes, consider these foods first.
Dark leafy greens like collard greens can help replenish your electrolytes more efficiently than sports drinks. Collard greens are high in calcium, which promotes healthier teeth and blood clotting. Calcium also helps your body convert to magnesium and potassium (essential electrolytes for the body). After a workout or if you are suffering from an electrolyte imbalance, a bowl of steamed collard greens can help replenish your body’s electrolyte count.
Salty foods, in moderation, can help replace electrolytes. That is because sodium chloride contains electrolytes and sodium chloride is used for table salt. Therefore, salted pretzels could help supplement your electrolyte count when you’re in need of replacement. But, be careful about eating high-salt snacks, especially if you are feeling dehydrated. While salt helps replace your electrolytes, it can also quickly dehydrate your body. Therefore, stick to just a few pieces of pretzels.
Salted crackers, just like salted pretzels, contain sodium chloride. This helps replenish your body with electrolytes. You can top whole wheat crackers with sardines to increase the amount of healthy sodium you add to your body. But, do so in moderation. Just a handful of crackers are all it takes to replace sodium chloride levels in your body and you should still drink plenty of fluids following your sodium-containing snack to prevent dehydration.
If you have some olives in the pantry or even fresh in the fridge, pop a few to replace your electrolytes. Sodium helps regulate your blood pressure and allows your muscles and nerves to function properly. Instead of eating high-salt crackers or pretzels, you can eat a few olives to get your dose of sodium chloride. Remember that too much sodium can lead to hypernatremia; therefore, you need to stay hydrated in addition to replacing your electrolytes.
Seaweed is a natural source of sodium chloride, but it also has other nutritional benefits. This nutrient super food is also high in iodine; and is one of the few natural sources for iodine in nature. It is also high in antioxidants, calcium and a range of vitamins and minerals that replenish your body. Just a two-tablespoon serving contains high amounts of vitamin A and C, and calcium. It is a common regimen for osteoarthritis and athletes often use seaweed supplements to help replenish their body pre and post-workout.
Celery is another natural source of sodium chloride; and most likely, you already knew that. When you chew on a stalk of fresh celery, you will notice it has a natural salty flavor. Unfortunately, many people dismiss celery as a healthy food. But, this low-calorie green offers numerous health benefits that should not be ignored. Aside from replacing your body’s lost electrolytes, celery also is high in vitamin K, folate, potassium vitamin B12, molybdenum and fiber. It has phytonutrients that also have anti-inflammatory benefits and flavonols.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are naturally high in protein, but they are also high in phosphates, magnesium and potassium. These nutrients are essential for replacing lost electrolytes. Magnesium is what helps support your body’s blood circulation, while potassium maintains your body’s natural sodium levels (ensuring you do not have too much or too little), and phosphate helps store calcium in your bones. To increase your potassium levels, eat nuts like raw almonds, Brazil nuts and peanuts. For a dose of phosphate, add cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, or peanuts to the mix. And, to increase your magnesium levels, add almonds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, or pine nuts. It is best if you can eat them raw or dry roasted with minimal salt and additives to maximize the nutritional benefits.
There are numerous reasons to eat broccoli, but if you’re short on electrolytes, you will want to eat it even more. Magnesium supports healthy blood flow and can even help relax muscles and nerves. But, adding broccoli to a post-workout diet won’t just help replace electrolytes, it will also give your body other essential nutrients such as vitamin K, C, B6, E, chromium, fiber, folate, and potassium. It is best if you can tolerate broccoli raw, but if you cannot, a wet steam method with minimal sodium or additives is best.
Cantaloupe is not just a refreshing fruit on a hot day; it is also a great source for electrolytes. Cantaloupe carries a broad spectrum of health benefits. It has more beta-carotene and alpha-carotene than most fruits and vegetables out there, which opens the door to numerous health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. While there is still more research to be completed, cantaloupe has been proven effective at replacing electrolytes in the human body.
Coconut has grown in popularity over the past few years. While most people reach for fresh coconut water to replace their electrolytes, many do not realize that the flesh has just as many electrolyte balancing properties as the water it produces. Coconut can naturally replace lost potassium and sodium in the body and it is naturally hydrating. If you can’t stand the idea of eating coconut flakes, at least drink coconut water over traditional high-sugar sports drinks. Coconut water has been shown in studies to replace lost fluids faster and more efficiently than water and more athletes are now using coconut water instead of sports drinks and regular water to stay hydrated during events.
Other Places to Find Electrolytes in Foods
There are numerous ways to replace electrolytes. And, many foods have electrolytes. As long as a food has potassium, magnesium or sodium, it can be used to replace lost electrolytes and even help keep you hydrated. In fact, some dairy products, seasonings, chocolates, meats, and even legumes can replace lost electrolytes. So, instead of reaching for a sugar-filled sports drink, consider a healthier after workout or after activity snack that replaces electrolytes naturally and doesn’t fill you up with unnecessary calories.
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