You’ve probably heard the word “electrolytes” when people talk about staying hydrated. But what are electrolytes exactly?
And do you just find them in sports drinks?
The short answer is no. Don’t tell the folks at Gatorade…
Electrolytes are salts. More precisely, they are mineral salts. And they can do a lot of good in the body.
Calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals all fall under the electrolyte umbrella. That’s right—they aren’t mystery molecules. They’re the kind of thing we’re all trying to get more of into our bodies for better health.
Electrolytes work hard to keep our bodies hydrated by regulating the flow of water in and out of cells. They are the heavy lifters when it comes to staying hydrated.
We need them as much as we need water. And not just when we’re sick.
Okay, so I’ll just pick up a six pack of those electrolyte fortified drinks to have on hand, you say.
You could do that, but you’d also be getting a lot of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and colors if you did.
Now you could drink a “Smart Water,” but there’s no reason to. And I’ll tell you why.
There are hidden electrolytes in our food! That’s right—they were there all along. In fact, you’ve probably got electrolytes hiding in your fridge right now. (Who knew?)
Fruits and veggies:
Leafy green veggies like arugula, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are chock full of potassium, an important hydrating electrolyte.
The same goes for sweet potatoes, bananas, and raisins.
The calcium in dairy products like cheese, yogurt, kefir, and milk is a hydrating electrolyte for your cells.
Good ol’ salt in foods is actually an important electrolyte for your body. Pick up a jar of olives, pickles, or a can of tuna for a salty boost to your hydration levels. If you’re worried about your salt intake in general, especially when it comes to your BP, make sure you’re getting enough potassium. Because it’s generally not the salt that’s the problem, it’s not getting sufficient potassium to balance it out.
Other whole foods that pack in a lot of hidden hydration include…
• Celery – it’s a miracle hydrator at 96% water. And an impressive electrolyte assortment of potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc.
• Watermelon – the name says it all – it’s a wonder it doesn’t fall apart.
• Strawberries – the most water packed of the berries, and also bursting with potassium too.
• Cucumbers – chock full of water and with electrolytes potassium & magnesium.
• Tomatoes – they’ve got about as much water in them as watermelon.
• Bell peppers – impressive at 92% water plus lots of vitamin C.
And you’re not just looking at sports drinks or fortified water if you want to drink your electrolytes, either.
Coconut water and natural juices without added sugar are great sources of hydration before or after exercise. I find after a workout, a small glass of coconut water really perks me up, especially on a hot Texas day.
Now of course, clean water is important. But you should drink it with an understanding of what keeps our bodies truly hydrated.
All right, so the million-dollar question: how much water (and how many electrolytes) will you have today?
Editor, Patriot Health Alliance