What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are important minerals which carry an electrical charge and help the body to produce energy by promoting cell function. They also play a key role in nerve and muscle function, blood pressure, hydration and regulating the blood pH.
In food and drink, electrolytes are present in the form of essential minerals, the most important of which are:
- Potassium (K)
- Calcium (Ca)
- Magnesium (Mg)
- Phosphorus (P) and
- Chloride (Cl)
What are the foods high in electrolytes?
Being such vital nutrients, necessary for maintaining the proper balance of water and pH in the body, electrolytes are typically found through foods and drinks. Here is a list of top 10 drinks and foods high in electrolytes:
1. Prickly Pears - The prickly pear fruit growing on the pads of the opuntia cactus is a not only an excellent source of electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium, but is also rich in antioxidants. If you’re not sure how to consume this superfood, you can also go for prickly pear cactus water, a natural, energizing and hydrating drink that will keep electrolyte levels in check.
2. Spinach - Spinach definitely tops the list. It’s a phenomenal source of both Magnesium and Calcium, as well as vitamin A and vitamin K.
3. Kale- Just like spinach, lettuce and other leafy greens, kale is an excellent choice if you need to replenish your electrolytes, especially calcium and magnesium.
4. Dairy (milk and yogurt)- Both milk and yogurt are rich in calcium (just one cup contains between 300 and 450 mg) and sodium. They also contain a naturally perfect mix of good carbs, protein and electrolytes. This makes them a perfect post-workout snack (add them to a smoothie or a shake and mix them with spinach and banana for better results), especially because they’re full of protein too.
5. Avocado - Who doesn’t love a good avocado? They’re bursting with electrolytes like potassium (950 mg) and magnesium (58 mg), while also being high in healthy fats. Naturally low in sodium (14 mg), avocados enable the electrolytes to restore naturally, without the need to eat extra salt.
6. Broccoli - Broccoli is naturally high in calcium and potassium (288 mg per cup), so make sure to include it in your electrolyte-rich diet, alongside other green vegetables like arugula, spinach, kale and romaine lettuce.
7. Watermelon - Just like cucumber, watermelon in 90% water, which, mixed with natural sugars and potassium, makes it one of the best electrolytes-rich foods to include in your diet.
8. Bananas - Bananas are potassium queens. One banana can contain a 422 mg of potassium! Since potassium controls muscles, it’s no wonder that professional athletes often eat bananas during breaks and before/after workouts.
9. Butternut squash - If you’re wondering which other non-green vegetables contain electrolytes, one of the first to come to mind is the butternut squash, which is rich in three main electrolytes – magnesium, calcium and potassium. A perfect source of electrolytes in those gloomy winter months!
10. Celery - Like prickly pears, celery can be eaten raw, mixed in salads or squeezed into a juice which has amazing health benefits.
Final verdict – it’s difficult to say what is the best source of electrolytes, but the key lies in a balanced diet which includes at least some of the foods high in electrolytes and then adding electrolytes-infused drinks to your diet too. You can find the detailed nutrition facts for top foods high in electrolytes in this article by MyFoodData.
When do you need to replenish electrolytes?
Electrolytes are not made naturally in the body and you need to get them through food and drink. The problem with electrolytes is that we lose them together with fluid every time we sweat and consistently throughout the day.
Here’s how you lose electrolytes faster, which can lead to electrolyte imbalance and cause health issues:
You spend a lot of time in the sun without drinking the recommended daily intake of water and other fluids.
You’re a professional or recreational athlete who exercises strenuously.
You’re ill, have high fever or are sick with vomiting and diarrhea.
You’re not eating or drinking enough.
You drink alcohol, coffee and soda, which are all diuretics and remove water (together with electrolytes) from the body.
- You’re taking certain types of medications like steroids, diuretics, laxatives and certain antibiotics.
In all these situations, it’s best to replenish electrolytes continually by eating foods high in electrolytes and taking electrolytes drinks.
How do you know if your electrolytes are low?
So what happens when your body is low on electrolytes and how to recognize the symptoms? Here are some of the most common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance:
Dehydration – dizziness, fatigue, extreme thirst and dry mouth
Muscle issues – muscle weakness, cramps, twitching and spasms
Irregular heartbeat and change in blood pressure
- Confusion and/or disorientation
If you experience any of these symptoms, the fastest way to replenish your water and electrolytes levels is to grab one of the drinks with electrolytes.
A note of caution – not every sports drink that’s advertised as “rich in electrolytes” is a good option here. Remember that many functional drinks contain huge amounts of sugar and artificial ingredients. So here’s a couple of healthier options to replenish electrolytes and energy stores lost during exercise or after a long day under the summer sun.
So what drink is high in electrolytes? If anything hydrates better than plain water, that’s fruit infused water or a superfruit drink with little added sugars. As more and more people are becoming ready to admit they hate coconut water and milk, here’s our top three electrolyte water drinks:
- Cactus water - Cactus water is here to conquer coconut water! Remember prickly pear cactus? Cactus water is a natural, caffeine-free, non-carbonated drink which is extremely low in calories (only 35 cals per serving), it uses natural sweeteners like agave (a hint of sugar helps to speed up the hydration process and increase the rate of absorption of electrolytes!). It also contains massive amounts of antioxidants. You can now try Pricklee electrolyte water in three different flavors.
- Any fruit-infused water, including lemon water - It's super easy to make! Just add your favorite fruit into plain water (mind the sugars!), add ice and enjoy the hydration with an extra flavor. Our favorites are cucumber water, lemon and ginger water, orange and berry-infused water. Adding a few leaves of mint, lemon balm or hibiscus for garnish will take your hydration to a whole new level.
- Chia water - Making chia water is even easier than making chia pudding! Just soak a teaspoon of chia seeds into a glass of water and wait a few minutes before drinking to allow the seeds to absorb the water. To add a bit more taste to it, just squeeze in a lemon, orange or a lime for the ultimate refreshment and your daily dose of electrolytes.'
We hope you loved our list of foods high in electrolytes and some of our favorite electrolyte drinks. Before you go, make sure you check out the Pricklee shop for premium cactus water, a perfect choice to replenish your antioxidants and electrolytes for the beach or the gym this summer. Bottoms up!