While sports drinks may be the first thing to come to mind when you think of electrolytes, your diet actually supplies the majority of your daily intake. Electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride and magnesium occur in most balanced diets, and are generally maintained at healthy levels for many adults. Electrolyte deficiency may sometimes occur in individuals who experience dehydration as a result of vomiting, diarrhea or extreme exertion.
Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that inhabit your blood, urine and other bodily fluids. According to MedlinePlus, your electrolytes are primarily responsible for maintaining a proper blood chemistry and muscle action, and generally occur in the foods and fluids you consume. If the amount of water in your body changes, your electrolyte levels can increase or decrease to unhealthy levels. While all electrolytes are needed to a certain degree, most weaknesses and health problems occur with changes in your levels of calcium, potassium and sodium.
Electrolytes in Food
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, chloride is an essential electrolyte that can be found in table salt or sea salt as well as foods such as seaweed, lettuce, olives, celery, rye and tomatoes. Many fruits are naturally high in potassium, including dried plums, nectarines, oranges, pears, bananas and melons. The electrolyte magnesium is commonly found in grain products such as breakfast cereals, although many other foods also offer substantial quantities, including dried beans, cashews, peanuts, bananas, apricots, almonds and leafy green vegetables. Finally, calcium is primarily found in dairy products such as cheeses, milk, butter and yogurt, although some vegetable sources include spinach, kale, bok choy, collards, mustard greens and Swiss chard.
Sports Drinks and Other Beverages
Sports drinks are beverages designed to replenish fluids and resupply sugars and carbohydrates. Although some sports drinks can be considered sugar-water, the Washington State Office of the Attorney General website distinguishes hypertonic beverages for their high electrolyte content. These beverages are ideal for individuals who have lost electrolytes due to strenuous exercise or dehydration caused by vomiting, diarrhea and some medications.
While athletes may be concerned with replenishing their electrolytes, other individuals, such as kidney disease patients, may need to limit their intake of electrolytes such as potassium. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your current electrolyte levels, and always try to maintain a balanced diet to ensure you receive an adequate supply of electrolytes.