Water insures that we stay hydrated, but electrolytes are also vital for our survival and play a huge role in the overall functioning of our bodies. Without a steady supply of electrolytes, an imbalance can occur causing symptoms like weakness, twitching, dizziness, seizures, and even heart arrhythmias.
In this article, we will explore the importance of electrolytes, and also discuss naturally occurring sources of electrolytes that are healthier than traditional, sugary sports drinks. For more information, keep on reading!
1. What are Electrolytes?
The first thing that comes to mind when we thing electrolytes is typically the image of a bottle of Gatorade, or other popular sports drink. However, they are much more than that. Electrolytes are a group of chemicals, that when mixed with water, conduct electricity in the body. Muscles and neurons, sometimes called “electric tissues” rely on the flow of electrolytes. These chemicals react with one another, and also tissues, nerves, and muscles to support healthy bodily function.
Electrolytes can be found in fruits and vegetables, added to beverages or food products, and are found in the human body. Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, phosphate, and chloride are forms of electrolytes that naturally exist within our bodies.
2. What do Electrolytes do for the Body?
When electrolytes are consumed, like calcium, magnesium, potassium, chloride, etc., they dissolve and breakdown within our bodies creating positive and negative charges. These charges then carry out two major functions: to spark nerve impulses and to control the flow of water in and out of your cells.
Your beating heart, breathing lungs, and functioning brain rely on the nerve impulses that electrolytes control. Because they also control the flow of water throughout our cells, they are also responsible for sweat. When we workout, electrolytes get deposited into your sweat glands through osmosis, and release onto the skin once the glands have filled up. This helps to cool our bodies down, but it is also another reason why it is important to consume electrolytes after a workout because your body is shedding them in the process.
Each electrolyte carries out their own set of specific functions as well. For example, sodium not only plays a major role in maintaining the balance of water in our bodies, but it can also control blood pressure when consumed properly. Potassium, on the other hand, is important for regulating your heartbeat and muscle functioning. Bicarbonate helps keep levels of acidity in the blood at normal levels.
While all electrolytes have their own set of specific responsibilities, they all are critical for normal functioning of your cells and organs.
3. How to Get Electrolytes on a Plant-Based Diet
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It is easy to reach for a sports drink when you are feeling rundown or dehydrated, but why not opt for a more natural source of electrolytes to fuel your body? These fruits and vegetables are packed with naturally occurring electrolytes!
- Collard Greens are a great plant-based source of calcium, the most plentiful electrolyte mineral. Just one cup of collard greens contains 357 mg of calcium. That’s more than a serving of milk!
- Bananas are chock-full of potassium, an electrolyte that regulates electric activity of the heart and helps breakdown carbohydrates. Just one cup of banana contains 537 mg of potassium!
- Black strap Molasses is high in magnesium, an electrolyte mineral that helps your body produce and regulate energy. Five tablespoons of black strap molasses has 38% of your DV of magnesium, and a whole lot of iron as well! It can also be used as a natural sweetener!
- Beets are naturally high in sodium, an electrolyte that regulates blood pressure and volume when consumed properly. One raw beet has 64 mg of sodium!
- Watermelon is 92% water, so it naturally hydrates the body and it is also loaded with electrolyte minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus!
- Coconut Water is an amazing alternative to sports drinks because it is high in a plethora of electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium!
4. Vegan Recipes High in Electrolytes!
After an intensive workout, it is important to nourish your body with restorative minerals. These recipes are high in natural electrolytes that will help support healthy bodily function!
Feel free to try this Green Collard Wrap, Chocolate Banana Smoothie, Blackstrap Tofu, Vinegret: Russian Beet Salad, Watermelon Gazpacho with Beet Noodles, or add coconut water to this Tropical Turmeric Smoothie in place of regular water! All of these recipes can be found on our Food Monster App.
For more like Why is Coconut Water Better Than Sports Drinks?, we recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead Image Source: epickidstoys Smith/Flickr