Beyond Dehydration: Why Electrolytes are Important & How to Make Sure You're Getting Enough of Them
Dehydrated or not, sweating or not, adequate intake of electrolytes is important for everyone. And while this is true, it's especially true when enduring the summer heat. So, what are electrolytes exactly? Very basically, electrolytes are essential minerals found in all bodily fluids, e.g. blood, sweat, urine, and more. They include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride. They’re responsible for many, many important functions in the body, ranging from keeping a normal heartbeat to preventing muscle cramps. Keep reading to learn more about each mineral, including how to make sure you’re getting enough.
SODIUM is key to maintaining fluid balance in the body. As such, signs of inadequate sodium intake include swelling, muscle cramps, headaches, tiredness, and high blood pressure (yes, you read that correctly). If you sweat a lot or live in an extra hot climate, you may be especially at risk for low sodium and a low-carb diet, as sodium is lost in urine in higher amounts in this scenario.
CHLORIDE, while less well known, goes hand in hand with sodium and is the other component of salt (sodium + chloride = salt). Chloride is especially important for stomach acid levels, which are critically important for good digestion.
POTASSIUM has an important role in balancing sodium in the body. It’s essential for the same reasons as sodium and should increase as sodium intake increases.
CALCIUM is important for bone and teeth development, muscle function, hormone activity, and more. In order for calcium to be adequately used by the body, intake of vitamins D and K2, as well as magnesium, are also very important.
MAGNESIUM has hundreds and hundreds of roles in the body and helps with the immune system, insulin sensitivity, relaxation, and more. Magnesium deficiency is very common, and it may be worth discussing supplementation of it with a trusted healthcare provider.
While supplementation of these minerals may be necessary for some, the best way to ensure adequate intake is to focus on a high-quality diet that includes both plant and animal foods. Below are food sources high in each mineral.
SODIUM: Salt and things that contain it are your best bet here, e.g. beef jerky, pork rinds, olives, pickles, and cheeses.
CHLORIDE: Same as with sodium, because remember SODIUM + CHLORIDE = SALT!
POTASSIUM: Bananas, yes, and coconut water, yes, but also potatoes, milk, beans, citrus fruits, and dried fruits, as well as animal foods like bacon, ham, and salmon
CALCIUM: Milk, cheese, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and fish that are canned with the bones, e.g. salmon or sardines.
MAGNESIUM: Nuts and seeds, leafy greens, cocoa, as well as salmon and cod.
As you can see, electrolytes are just another, albeit very important, a component of nutrition and a well-rounded diet. Tell us, what are your favorite sources of electrolytes? Any drinks or supplements we need to know about? Share in the comments!