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Why Would One Want to Include Electrolytes in Their Diet?

Electrolytes are minerals, such as sodium, calcium, and potassium, that are necessary for a variety of bodily functions. They're frequently linked to dehydration and highlighted in advertisements for sports drinks that claim to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Some other electrolytes in your body include chloride, magnesium, phosphate, and bicarbonate. 

So what exactly do electrolytes do for us? 


  • Regulate the fluid levels in your blood plasma and your body.
  • Keep the pH (acid/alkaline) of your blood in the normal range (7.35-7.45, slightly alkaline).
  • Enable muscle contractions, including the beating of your heart.
  • Transmit nerve signals from heart, muscle and nerve cells to other cells.
  • Help blood to clot.
  • Help build new tissue.

Simply put, electrolytes are essential for your body to function. When one or more electrolytes become too low or too high, an imbalance occurs, which can result in anything from minor symptoms to major long-term health concerns.

Calcium deficiency, for example, weakens bones over time and may lead to osteoporosis. High calcium levels, on the other hand, might cause kidney failure, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), mental confusion, and even coma.

The good news: most healthy people don't need to be concerned about electrolytes. Your levels should be fine if you receive enough electrolytes from your food and stay well hydrated.

With that being said, these are some common causes of electrolyte spikes or dips that you should look out for:

  • Taking diuretics
  • Prolonged vomiting, diarrhea or high fever, such as from a virus
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Hormonal or endocrine disorders, such as primary hyperparathyroidism
  • Certain cancers, including breast cancer, lung cancer and multiple myeloma
  • Eating disorders
  • Drinking too much water, which can cause overhydration
  • Kidney disease

So how can you get electrolytes from your diet to avoid these severe electrolyte spikes or dips?

Here’s a list of the most common electrolytes and foods that contain them: 

  1. Calcium – Milk and milk products (including plain, nonfat yogurt), meat, fish with bones (e.g., sardines), eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, beans, certain fruits and vegetables (e.g., asparagus, collard greens, dried apricots and figs)
  2. Chloride – Olives, seaweed, rye, tomatoes, lettuce and celery
  3. Magnesium – Leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, kale), whole grains, nuts, peanut butter, dried beans and lentils
  4. Potassium – Cooked spinach, sweet potato, plain nonfat yogurt, bananas, avocado, peas, beans, tomatoes, oranges, melons, prunes and raisins

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