E is for Electrolytes

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Randi Karlinsky MS, RDN, LDN, CHC, NASM-CPT

Electrolytes are minerals we consume through food that become electrically charged when dissolved in the body’s fluid. Each electrolyte carries a positive or negative charge and keeps our body alive and well through important functions such as sending electrical signals throughout the body, operation of the brain, nerves, and muscles, and even the creation of new tissue. Some of the most important electrolytes in the body include Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Magnesium, Calcium, and Phosphorus. The following are examples of just how essential this electrolytes are to our health.

Sodium and Potassium play an essential role in muscle contraction, nerve function, and the regulation of fluid balance in the body. Together, they benefit our cardiovascular health through their influence in blood pressure and overall heart health. Potassium also plays an important role in bone health.

Generally, Americans consume plenty of sodium, In fact the main concern is consuming too much of this mineral rather than not enough. The reason is because sodium is found in the majority of our packaged foods, processed foods, and all fast food restaurants. The USDA recommends keeping sodium intake to about 2,400mg per day, while the American Heart Association recommends dropping it down to only 1,500mg per day.

Examples of where Potassium is found include most of our leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, summer squash, and of course the most commonly known, bananas.

Chloride maintains our body’s acid/base (pH) levels and aids in digestion.

Chloride is typically found in similar foods to sodium since they both often exist together as Sodium Chloride (NaCl). Other examples of chloride sources include lettuce, olives, tomato juices, sauces, and soups.

Magnesium plays an important role in our genetics through the production of DNA and RNA. It also helps our heart maintain proper rhythm, helps regulate blood glucose levels, enhance our body’s immune system, and contributes to both nerve and muscle function.

Food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, summer squash, soybeans, sesame seeds, black beans, quinoa, cashews, and many more.

Calcium is commonly known for being a key component of both bones and teeth in the body. As an electrolyte, calcium is important to the movement of muscle nerve impulses throughout the body. Finally, calcium also contributes to the process of blood clotting.

The most commonly known source of calcium is dairy. In addition, calcium is found in, but not limited to, tofu, sardines, leafy greens, cinnamon, and broccoli. Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium, which is why dairy ends up being such a powerful source due to its high content of both nutrients.

Phosphorus strengthens the bones and teeth in the body while also helping the cells to produce energy needed for tissue growth and repair.

Food sources of phosphorus include, but are not limited to, scallops, sardines, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, tuna, chicken, yogurt, salmon, and lentils.