You probably know that sodium, potassium, and chloride are electrolytes, but did you know there are other important minerals that are electrolytes? Electrolytes are key minerals that move glucose and nutrients into cells and help remove waste products and extra water from cells. They also are needed for proper functioning of the digestive, nervous, cardiovascular, and muscular systems. On top of all that, the positively and negatively charged electrolytes help balance the electrical signals that are sent from the brain to various parts of the body. Clearly, you need electrolytes to keep your body functioning. Because you lose electrolytes in your sweat, you need to be sure to replenish all of the minerals that are electrolytes. Without a proper balance of these important minerals, you can experience muscle cramps, fatigue, heart palpitations, and trouble focusing.
It is well known that sodium is one of the minerals that are electrolytes. Sodium is a positively charged ion that regulates the total amount of water in your body and helps control your blood pressure. Even though too much sodium is a bad thing and health professionals recommend reducing sodium, you still need this important mineral. Without enough sodium, your body won’t absorb nutrients or eliminate waste properly. In general, you need around 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Trace amounts of sodium are found in various foods, but you can also meet your daily value by using small amounts of sea salt, which is a healthier alternative to table salt.
Often paired with sodium as sodium chloride, chloride is a negatively charged ion that is important for proper electrolyte balance. Chloride is found in the fluid outside of your cells and it is very important for digestion. Chloride combines with hydrogen to make hydrochloric acid, which breaks proteins down into amino acids and activates enzymes during digestion. Chloride can easily be found in foods such as celery, olives, tomatoes, and even seaweed.
Potassium is the major positive ion found inside your cells. It helps convert blood sugar into glycogen, which is stored in your muscles and is needed for muscle energy. Without enough potassium, you can experience muscle fatigue and weakness because you won’t be getting the needed glycogen that potassium helps create. In addition to glycogen conversion, potassium also helps regulate your heartbeat and blood pressure. In fact, doctors often recommend that patients increase their potassium intake if their blood pressure is too high. While you can eat bananas for potassium, much better sources include potatoes, spinach, papaya, and lentils.
Calcium is an incredibly important mineral as it is the most abundant mineral your body. While calcium is very important for bone strength, it also has many other functions. Calcium regulates nerve impulse transmission, blood pressure, blood clotting, blood vessel expansion, and the secretion of hormones. It also is very important for proper muscle contraction. Without enough calcium in the bloodstream, your body will pull calcium from your bones. To make sure this doesn’t happen be sure to eat calcium rich foods like yogurt, bok choy, spinach, broccoli, sesame seeds, and almonds.
Like calcium, magnesium is a positively charged electrolyte that is needed for bone health. It is also needed for over 300 different chemical reactions that occur in your body. Because it is important for so many chemical reactions, magnesium is important for such things as maintaining muscle and nerve function, keeping the heart beat steady, normalizing blood pressure, and regulating blood sugar. It also is involved in energy production and protein synthesis. Eating nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables will help you ensure you are getting enough magnesium. You can even indulge in raw cacao to get this much needed electrolyte.
Phosphates are negatively charged ions that are bound to phosphorus, which is an important electrolyte that is not often thought of. However, phosphorus is needed for several key reasons. It builds and repairs bones and teeth, it helps nerves function, and it assists in proper muscle contraction. Your kidneys help control the amount of phosphorus in your blood, which is one reason why proper kidney function is so important. Interestingly, there is a very fine balance that occurs between phosphorus and calcium. As calcium levels in the blood increase, phosphorus levels decrease. Phosphorus is abundant in many foods including pumpkin seeds, salmon, and legumes, and it usually is easy to meet your daily need for phosphorus.
Another electrolyte that is often not thought of is bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is a negatively charged ion that is very important. Bicarbonate balances the pH of your blood, helping to make sure it doesn’t become too acidic. Having a proper pH balance in your blood is critical, because when the blood begins to become too acidic your body will pull calcium from your bones to balance the pH. Obviously, this is not good for bone health. Bicarbonate is not typically a mineral you have to worry about getting enough of. In some foods it is bound to potassium or sodium, and it is also found in spring water.
Having proper levels of electrolytes in your body is very important for your well-being. There is an intricate balance between the electrolytes that helps your body function properly. Eating a healthy diet will help you ensure you are getting all the needed electrolytes. Did you know that electrolytes are needed for so many different body systems to function properly?