Your body depends on electrolytes to help it perform vital functions. Your brain moves your arm by telling the cells in your body to begin a chemical reaction. These reactions need electrical charges to work properly. Maintaining this electrical capability and voltage output of cellular communication are electrolytes.
Electrolytes are salt, primarily in the form of ions, which are molecules or atoms that have lost or gained an electron. We need electrolytes to function at every physical level, especially muscular and nerve performance. The major electrolytes in the body are made up of potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, phosphate, bicarbonate and sulfate. The kidneys are essential to maintaining electrolyte production, however when you sweat you lose a large portion of your electrolytes–primarily potassium and sodium. Replenishing these salts are essential to bodily functions. This is why most sports drinks have one or more of the aforementioned electrolyte salts. Consuming these products will immediately replace lost minerals and are highly recommended, however many electrolyte replacement drinks add unnecessary sugars, dyes and other chemicals that can do more damage than good in the long run.
Many people believe that consuming salt is a sufficient way to replace electrolytes in the body. Some even go as far as taking salt tablets, which can be dangerous. The human body needs about 250 mgs. of sodium per day. Most Americans consume 6000 to 7000 mgs. per day. Below is a breakdown of some electrolyte-rich foods.
- potassium – bananas, avocados, oranges, apricots, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes
- calcium – broccoli, sardines, tofu, almonds, spinach, cheese, milk
- magnesium – pumpkin seeds, broccoli, brown rice, lima beans, peanuts, spinach
- sodium – beets, black-eyed peas, cheese, chick peas, meat, milk, shrimp, spinach
- chloride – coconuts, avocados, spinach, asparagus, cucumbers, tofu
- phosphate – almonds, red meat, liver, legumes, yogurt, garlic, dried fruit, chicken, eggs
- bicarbonate – most baked goods
- sulfate – dry soup mixes, baked goods, vegetable juices, shellfish, coconuts, potatoes, jams
Symptoms Of Electrolyte Imbalance
If you do not have enough electrolytes in your system, the following side effect can occur:
- bone disorders
- blood-pressure irregularity
- heart palpitations
- muscle spasms
- nerve disorders
Following a diet that is high in the above mentioned foods (spinach seems to be a real winner) will help you maintain proper electrolyte levels. Remember that most electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, are lost through your sweat glands during strenuous activity. Be sure and replenish with water or sports drinks. Illness that involve vomiting or diarrhea can also contribute to a loss of electrolytes.