Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. The body needs electrolytes to regulate nerve and muscle function, maintain acid-base balance and maintain fluid balance. Electrolytes such as chloride, potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium can be lost through sweat and need to be replaced through the diet.
Sodium and Chloride Foods
Sodium and chloride -- the two electrolytes that make up table salt -- are present in foods together and work in the body to maintain fluid balance for proper cell function. Foods containing sodium and chloride include table salt, beef, pork, sardines, cheese, olives, corn bread and sauerkraut. All processed and canned foods made with added salt, such as deli meats, chips and other snacks, nuts, butter, margarine, mayonnaise and many condiments, have sodium and chloride. However, because most Americans already get more much sodium and chloride than they need, you should try not to consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily, recommends the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Potassium is in a multitude of fruits and vegetables especially leafy green vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens, collard greens and kale, bananas, tomatoes, oranges, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes, prunes, raisins, peas and beans. Potassium is also in milk and salt substitutes made from potassium chloride. Potassium supports normal cell function, regulates blood pressure and prevents bone loss and kidney stones. Consume 4.7 grams of potassium daily to maintain your health.
Magnesium supports bone and teeth development, nerve and muscle function and enzyme activation. Getting enough magnesium in your diet also protects you from high blood pressure, a factor that increases your risk of heart disease, and combats osteoporosis. It is in leafy green vegetables, nuts, cereals, beans and tomato paste. You need a small amount of magnesium daily -- 420 milligrams for men and 320 milligrams for women.
The body uses calcium for bone and teeth formation, blood clotting, muscle and enzyme function and normal heart rhythms. Calcium is most commonly found in milk and milk products. It is also in meat, fish with bones such as sardines, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, beans and certain fruits such as dried apricots and figs, and vegetables such as asparagus and collard greens. Aim for at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Medline Plus: Electrolytes
- Merck: Mineral and electrolytes
- National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Americans Consume Too Much Sodium (Salt)
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- Linus Pauling Institute: Magnesium
- Linus Pauling Institute: Calcium
- Nephrology Channel: Electrolyte imbalance