Most of us know we can easily get electrolytes from electrolyte powders, tablets, sports drinks, and other manufactured electrolyte supplements.
While these products are great and can be efficient ways to replenish your electrolyte stores, you may be wondering if there’s a more natural way to get these minerals.
You’re in luck. Many common foods and beverages are naturally packed with important electrolytes.
Eating and drinking these options regularly can help you maintain your electrolyte stores and replenish them when they get low. In this article, we’ll discuss six of the best natural sources of electrolytes.
Table of Contents
- Electrolytes are a specific group of minerals that play a key role in hydration and other processes in the body.
- Replenishing electrolytes with food, drinks, and/or electrolyte supplements regularly can help you maintain optimal electrolyte levels.
- Foods and beverages that are high in electrolytes can help you meet your baseline electrolyte needs, replace lost electrolytes, and maintain a healthy diet.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that play key roles in maintaining our hydration. Electrolytes also help balance our pH levels, move nutrients throughout our bodies, and assist in nerve signals and muscle contractions.
Electrolyte minerals include:
How Many Electrolytes Do You Need?
We all need electrolytes daily to maintain the stores of these minerals within our bodies. However, we need different quantities of each mineral daily.
The recommended daily intakes are:
- Sodium: 1500 mg/day with no more than 2300 mg/day
- Potassium: 3400 mg/day for men; 2600 mg/day for women
- Phosphorus: 700 mg/day
- Calcium: 1000 mg/day for adults under 70; 1200 mg/day for adults over 70
- Chloride: 2300 mg/day
- Magnesium: 420 mg/day for men; 320 mg/day for women
Fluid and Electrolyte Balance
Our bodies are good at maintaining balance in many areas, including both fluid balance and electrolyte balance. However, sometimes our electrolyte levels can be disrupted, and we can have too many electrolytes, too few electrolytes, and/or too much water or too little water within our bodies.
What Is Electrolyte Imbalance?
Intense exercise that causes excessive sweating and illnesses that can lead to vomiting and/or diarrhea are two of the biggest causes of electrolyte loss. Liver problems, kidney problems, and some medications can all also cause electrolyte loss and trigger electrolyte imbalances.
Common Signs of Electrolyte Imbalance
Signs of electrolyte imbalance include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle cramps
How to Prevent Electrolyte Imbalance
Regularly consuming electrolytes helps maintain optimal electrolyte levels. Additionally, replacing electrolytes after you lose them in large quantities helps restore your body and its balance.
When it comes to electrolyte consumption there are obviously many processed electrolyte options. Sports drinks, electrolyte powders, and electrolyte tablets are all readily available on the market today. These are great options when you are looking to quickly replace a large amount of electrolytes lost. However, some of these options contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, and/or other added ingredients.
If you are looking for where to get electrolytes naturally, look no further than food.
Some foods and drinks are naturally packed with electrolyte minerals. Including these in your diet regularly helps maintain your electrolyte stores and keeps your body functioning optimally.
Foods to Replenish Electrolytes
Salt, bananas, and yogurt all contain high levels of various electrolytes. Other foods that are packed with electrolytes include avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, soy, meat, and fish.
There is no overthinking needed here. Salt is an easy way to boost your sodium intake anytime. Salt, otherwise known as sodium chloride, provides a concentrated dose of both these minerals.
Various types of salt contain varying levels of sodium. Some of the most common salt options contain the following amounts of sodium per teaspoon:
- Table salt: 2300 mg
- Kosher salt: 1920 mg
- Sea salt: 2120 mg finely ground; 1560 mg coarsely ground
- Pink Himalayan salt: 2200 mg
Salt is added to many foods we eat, especially processed, packaged, and restaurant foods. Some healthier ways to get added salt along with other minerals include salted nuts and seeds, salted canned beans, pickles, and olives. Snacking on these foods and/or including them in your meals can help boost your electrolyte intake.
Bananas are naturally high in electrolytes. You may have heard that bananas help prevent muscle cramps. This is because they are high in potassium and other electrolytes that aid in optimal muscle function, specifically muscle contractions.
One medium banana contains 422 mg of potassium, which is more than 10 percent of your daily potassium needs. It also contains 32 mg of magnesium, which is more than 10 percent of your daily magnesium requirement.
A banana can be a great pre-workout snack to top off your electrolyte stores or a solid post-workout snack to start replenishing. Bananas can also be a great option to snack on when you are sick. They are easy on your stomach and will help replace any electrolytes you have lost.
Yogurt is another great, natural electrolyte option. Whether you choose regular or Greek, flavored or plain, nonfat or full-fat, yogurt provides your body with a healthy dose of electrolyte minerals.
One cup of yogurt contains 296 mg of calcium, which is almost 30 percent of your daily needs. It also contains 380 mg of potassium, 233 mg of phosphorus, 113 mg of sodium, and 30 mg of magnesium. This equals 11 percent of your daily potassium, 33 percent of your daily phosphorus, 8 percent of your daily sodium, and 7 percent of your daily magnesium.
Yogurt can be a great high electrolyte and high protein snack anytime of the day. It can also be a solid addition to a post-workout smoothie to give your body a healthy dose of electrolytes and protein after an intense training session.
Drinks to Replenish Electrolytes
Coconut water is well-known as one of the best, natural electrolyte beverages. This liquid is packed with electrolyte minerals without any added sugars or additional ingredients.
One cup of coconut water contains 600 mg of potassium, 252 mg of sodium, 60 mg of magnesium, and 48 mg of phosphorus. This provides your body with about 15 percent of your daily potassium, sodium, and magnesium and 7 percent of your daily phosphorus.
If you are buying a bottled version, be sure to read the ingredients because some products contain added sugar, flavors, and other less natural ingredients.
Many fruit juices contain electrolytes. Two of the top options are orange juice and watermelon juice.
cup of orange juice contains 469 mg of potassium, which is 14 percent of your daily needs. It also contains 42 mg of phosphorus and 27 mg of magnesium, which equal about 6 percent of your daily needs for each.One
One cup of watermelon juice contains 269 mg of potassium and 24 mg of magnesium. This provides you with 8 percent of your daily potassium and 6 percent of your daily magnesium.
You can make your own electrolyte beverage at home to replace a sports drink by combining coconut water with your favorite fruit juice and a pinch of salt.
Milk and other dairy products are naturally high in electrolyte minerals making them a great choice for a natural electrolyte source.
One cup of milk contains 374 mg of potassium, 306 mg of calcium, 251 mg of phosphorus, 95 mg of sodium, and 30 mg of magnesium. This provides you with 11 percent of your potassium, 31 percent of your calcium, 34 percent of your phosphorus, 6 percent of your sodium, and 7 percent of your magnesium daily.
If you are lactose-intolerant or dairy-free, alternative milks also provide varying levels of electrolytes.
Milk can be another great addition to a post-workout smoothie for an additional electrolyte boost. Try combining it with a banana and yogurt for a big hit of electrolytes.
While sports drinks and electrolyte supplements get most of the attention as a source of electrolytes, more natural alternatives exist. In fact, many of them are foods and beverages that are part of a balanced diet and foods that many of us consume on a regular basis.
Including salt, bananas, yogurt, coconut water, fruit juice, and milk in your diet regularly will provide your body with natural, dense sources of electrolytes to help replenish your stores and get enough electrolytes daily.
Should You Use Electrolyte Drinks?
Electrolyte drinks and other electrolyte supplements serve a clear purpose. These concentrated sources of electrolytes are a great way to get a large dose of electrolytes very quickly. If you are exercising intensely and sweating heavily, choosing an electrolyte drink can be a more efficient way to replace electrolytes. Additionally, if you are sick and losing electrolytes consistently from vomiting and/or diarrhea, drinking sports drinks throughout the day can be a great way to consistently take in small amounts of electrolytes to replenish your body.
However, as with anything, there are downsides to sports drinks. Many contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and other ingredients that aren’t very natural. If you are looking for natural alternatives, the foods and beverages discussed above are some of your best options to replace sugary sports drinks. Alternatively, you can look for electrolyte options without these added ingredients.