The Importance Of Electrolytes In Your Diet
There are many substances we consume, and each is playing its unique part in helping us to be healthy. Simply put, all foods contain a certain amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These are your macronutrients, and you need a large number of them to give you energy and help support your system. There also are vitamins and minerals referred to as micronutrients. You only need a small number of micronutrients to help your body function properly, but their importance to our overall health cannot be underestimated.
Electrolytes are a great example of micronutrients, and we would not be able to live without them. In this article, we will take a close look at what electrolytes are. We will cover the essential electrolytes you need to stay healthy as well as their sources. We will also talk about specific groups of people that are at higher risk of developing an electrolyte deficiency.
What Are Electrolytes
Electrolytes are natural minerals. When these minerals are dissolved in water, they conduct electricity and create electric currents in your body. These currents are very small, yet they play a critical role in many important bodily functions. Our brain, muscles, and even our hearts are all greatly influenced by electricity because that's how all signals between our organs and different body parts are transmitted! You've probably seen this electricity first-hand whenever a doctor uses a defibrillator on a patient's failing heart in the movies or on TV. When your electrolytes tank is low, it could lead to headaches, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, and even heart palpitations.
Types Of Electrolytes Your Body Needs
There are 15 essential minerals that we all need in various degrees. The top 6 that we need the most of (more than 100mg/day) all happen to be the same ones that become electrolytes. Those 6 top minerals are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphorus. And while you should typically receive an adequate amount of these electrolytes in food, you need to pay close attention to the following four key electrolytes because their deficiencies are the most common in modern society:
This electrolyte can be found mostly in your bodily fluids. Sodium attracts and holds water, and it allows the electrolyte to help in regulating your blood pressure and maintaining appropriate blood volume. The transmission of impulses between nerve cells also relies on sodium presence as well as cellular osmotic pressure - the pressure needed for fluids to pass in and out of cells in your body.
There are over 300 different biochemical reactions in your body that depend on magnesium. This makes it an especially important electrolyte. Muscle and nerve function depends on magnesium. The electrolyte also keeps your immune system healthy and helps your heart beat at a normal rate. Magnesium is essential for your bones' health. Additionally, it helps in the production of protein and energy, and it's involved in blood glucose regulation.
Potassium helps with the regulation of fluids in your body, nerve signals, and muscle contractions. It's is also known to assist in blood pressure regulation. By getting enough potassium, some people experience a reduction in water retention and blood pressure. A proper balance of potassium may help to protect you against kidney stones, osteoporosis, and reduce the risk of stroke.
Another critical mineral is calcium. It's most known for the role it plays in keeping your bones strong and healthy, but it also helps nerves to transmit signals throughout your body, and assists in the release of certain chemicals and hormones. Calcium is also involved in the maintenance of a normal heartbeat.
How Do You Know If You Have An Electrolyte Deficiency?
An electrolyte deficiency simply means your body is lacking one or more of these essential minerals. When this happens, you may experience a few unpleasant symptoms. Being able to recognize these symptoms is crucial, so you could take action before they turn into more severe problems.
Symptoms that may signal a deficiency in electrolytes include muscle cramps and muscle weakness, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, mental confusion, diarrhea or constipation, vomiting. If you experience these symptoms without an obvious reason, we strongly recommend that you see your healthcare professional for appropriate testing.
Sources of Electrolytes
A lot of foods that we consume contain electrolytes. That's why most people can obtain enough through their daily diet. However, if you see any signs of electrolytes deficiency, you may need to revisit what you eat or use a supplement. Here is a short list of sources that can help you restore the electrolytes balance naturally:
The best source of Sodium is your saltshaker. Yes, table salt is at least 97% sodium. This electrolyte is also present in most cheese varieties and pickled food.
If you want to increase your intake of Magnesium, your best option is to have more nuts and seeds, most of them are extremely rich in this mineral. Do you like dark chocolate? When it comes to magnesium deficiencies, that's just what the doctor ordered. Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, are generally high in magnesium too, as well as avocados, bananas, and figs.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our entire body, and there are plenty of natural calcium sources around. It can be found of most dairy products, canned fish such as sardines, dark leafy greens, soybeans, almonds, tofu, chia, and sunflower seeds.
When we talk about Potassium sources, most people think of bananas right away. But there are many potassium-rich fruits and vegetables around – most leafy greens, potatoes and sweet potatoes, avocados, black and white beans, eggplant, peas, zucchini, and broccoli, to name a few. Don't forget to drink a glass of coconut water after your meal – it contains a lot of potassium, and it's a great source of sodium, calcium, and magnesium as well.
Who Are At Risk?
Most people get enough electrolytes through the food they eat daily. However, some circumstances can pose you at a higher risk of developing an electrolyte imbalance. Let's look at some scenarios when you'd need to pay close attention to your electrolyte levels or even start supplementing them. In some cases, supplementation is a must to sustain the normal functioning of your body.
Dehydration is a common cause of electrolyte deficiencies, and it doesn't always happen only because you are not drinking enough water. Dehydration is often caused by excessive exposure to the sun or intense physical activities. Even if you enjoy long outside walks, which is an excellent exercise for you, don't forget to drink plenty of liquid and hydrate your body.
An illness may drain your electrolytes tank, especially if it comes with a loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. Such cases may call for short-term use of electrolyte supplements. There are also a few respiratory problems associated with an electrolyte imbalance. Emphysema is one example.
Your diet is what determines your intake of electrolytes, but certain diets may put you at a higher risk of experiencing a deficiency. The ketogenic diet is an excellent example. It limits the number of carbs you consume, but many of those carb-containing products and foods are also high in electrolytes. What's left on the table may not always offer you an adequate amount of the electrolytes needed for your body to function properly, and supplementation could be a good idea.
When it comes to dieting and lifestyles, Intermediate Fasting needs to be mentioned explicitly in relation to electrolytes. While there are benefits to it, and it does help many people to reach their many goals, your body is getting zero micronutrients while fasting. If you are practicing Intermediate Fasting regularly, you must supplement your electrolytes to avoid deficiencies and prevent related health issues.
Even though the amounts of electrolytes we need are calculated in fractions of a gram, they play a critical role in our bodies and influence our overall health. To maintain proper electrolytes balance, you should always stay hydrated and pay close attention to your diet as the primary source of electrolytes intake. If you require supplementation, we recommend KEYTO Electrolytes - it's designed to make sure your body gets the essential micronutrients it needs.
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