What Are Electrolytes?
I have received a lot of questions regarding which foods are high in electrolytes. In my best and worst electrolyte drinks article, I analyzed the best and worst electrolyte powders, liquids, tablets and capsules that you can add to your water. In this article, I will show you how to increase your electrolytes through your fruit and vegetable intake. In fact, I have narrowed down the list to the top 11 foods high in electrolytes. This list can be especially helpful for those who are not getting enough potassium and magnesium.
Electrolytes are the “sparks of life,” charged metallic “ions” that help balance fluid pressure inside our cells and control the pH of our blood. The main electrolytes are sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. There is a delicate balance between these electrolytes for your body to be in optimal health.
What do electrolytes do? When there is an extreme deficiency or excess from even just one electrolyte, life-threatening disorders can occur. Excess sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, chemotherapy, medications, diabetes, digestive disorders and kidney disorders can all lead to extreme electrolyte imbalances.
Why are electrolytes important? The first signs are low electrolytes often include a headache, muscle spasms (calf cramps in the night are a sign of potassium and magnesium deficiency), low energy and dizziness or irritability. If this isn’t addressed, it can lead to A-fib, constipation, kidney stones, bladder infections and heart failure.
While water is supposed to be our major source of minerals, things have changed due to our depleted water supplies.
How to Get More Electrolytes Naturally?
Unlike sugary sports drinks that only include sodium and potassium, electrolyte levels can be maintained by including fruits and vegetables that are high in electrolytes in your diet. Not only do you get all the electrolytes, but you also get vitamins, a healthy source of carbohydrates and numerous other health-protective compounds.
Your electrolyte needs for all of these will depend on your activity level and health goals. What you will notice is that most electrolyte drinks are heavy in sodium and low in potassium. In nature, the opposite is true. Many people today have a high sodium/low potassium ratio due to eating out at restaurants, processed foods and a lack of fruits and vegetables. While the majority of fruits and vegetables high in electrolytes are in season during summer when we need them most, there are many foods rich in potassium that are available year round.
The Top 11 Fruits and Vegetables High in Electrolytes
Nutrition Bonus: Watermelon is 92% water. It is native to Kalahari desert of Africa and contains lycopene, B1, B6, l-citrulline, and l-arginine. Lycopene is highest in watermelon, and also found in tomatoes and guava. One study found that lycopene was photoprotective, and inhibits proliferation of several types of cancer cells.
Men with a high consumption of lycopene in diet reported 25% fewer incidences of prostate cancer and overall 44 % reduced risk of other cancers. Females consuming ample amount of watermelon have five times less likely risk of cervical cancer.
L-citrulline and L-arginine boost nitric oxide levels, leading to better cardiovascular health and exercise performance. L-arginine may also boost fat loss and watermelon juice has been found to reduce muscle soreness.
For tasty post-workout hydration or dessert, blend watermelon and freeze it in individual cups. Instant watermelon slushie.
1 pomegranate 4 inch diamater
Nutrition Bonus: Pomegranates contain high amounts of folate (107mcg), flavonoids, rich in potassium, a good source of magnesium, blood sugar lowering ability post-meal, prostate cancer prevention and treatment, inhibiting cartilage destruction in those with osteoarthritis, limit brain cell damage, protection against sun damage, ability to positively influence nitric oxide, prevent LDL oxidation and lower inflammation. One study found that pomegranate juice outperformed blueberry juice, red wine, vitamin C and synthetic vitamin E for quenching free radical damage inflicted upon cell membranes, while another study found that pomegranate helped reduce cellular oxygen radicals by 71% while increasing cellular antioxidants by 141%.
Carbohydrates: 21.1 grams
Nutrition Bonus: Oranges are a rich source of folate, rich in potassium, a good source of calcium, and vitamin C. All citrus contains an aromatase inhibitor, an anti-estrogenic compound helping prevent estrogen positive breast cancer in women and increasing testosterone in males.
1 medium cucumber
Nutrition Bonus: Cucumbers are 95% water, supplies B1, B5 and B7, a good source of magnesium and calcium, a good veggie source of potassium, apigenin and have a cooling, anti-inflammatory effect on the body. They contain a unique flavonol called fisetin that may protect brain cells. Cucumbers also contain phytonutrients and anti-cancer polyphenols (lignans) that interact with our gut bacteria to protect against breast, ovarian, prostate and uterine cancers.
Choose lacto-fermented pickles to also get some salt and probiotics after a hard workout.
5. Tart Cherries
1 cup Cherries
Nutrition Bonus: Multiple studies have found decreased muscle soreness and increased recovery from cherry juice and dehydrated cherry supplements. One of these studies had subjects perform ten sets of ten repetitions at 70 % of a 1-RM back squat. The researchers found that Montmorency powdered tart cherry supplementation used daily and 48 hours post-workout significantly lowered muscle soreness strength decrement during recovery, and markers of muscle catabolism throughout the 48-hour post-lifting recovery period compared to placebo.
1 medium Banana
Magnesium: 31.9 mg
Calcium: 5.9 mg
Phosphorus: 26.0 mg
Nutrition Bonus: Bananas contain B6, rich in potassium, a good source of magnesium, phytosterols, carotenoids and a prebiotic fiber that help probiotics colonize and keep you full.
Nutrition Bonus: Beets have received a lot of attention due to their ability to boost nitric oxide levels. This is due to the nitrate content, like celery. Beets are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and compounds, a good source of sodium in balance with potassium, and contains the elusive betaine. Beets have been found in studies to lower blood pressure, increase endurance, detox the blood and liver and lower inflammation. Try a few ounces of fresh beet juice before a workout to get a boost, or after to restore electrolyte levels.
Nutrition Bonus: Strawberries are a good source of folate and vitamin C. Berry phenols like ellagic acid in strawberries have strong anti-cancer activity and the ability to protect the mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell). Strawberries also contain malic acid. Malic acid has been found to increase carbohydrate reserves and decrease oxygen consumption by tissues, therefore increasing physical work capacity and endurance. Malic acid also helps whiten your teeth.
1 stalk of celery
Nutrition Bonus: Celery contains nitrates, apigenin, and luteolin. Nitrates in certain green vegetables have been found to reduce blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, improve endothelial dysfunction and enhance exercise performance in healthy individuals and patients with peripheral arterial disease.
Apigenin is an aromatase inhibitor, helping prevent estrogen positive breast cancer in women and increase testosterone in males. Luteolin was found to locate triple-negative cancer cells and stop them from metastasizing.
1 cup mango
Magnesium: 2.8 mg
Calcium: 3.3 mg
Nutrition Bonus: Citrus has higher levels of vitamin C and aromatase inhibitor, an anti-estrogenic compound helping prevent estrogen positive breast cancer in women and increase testosterone in males.
Use nature as your guide to find the best foods high in electrolytes throughout the year. As your activity and sweat loss increases, the more of these foods should be included in your diet. The nutritional bonus of these foods combined with the electrolytes provides the ultimate hydration package.