Eat Your Electrolytes

Summer is in full swing and the temperatures are hot! Yes in the desert it is a “dry” heat but I don’t care how dry it is, 120 degrees is hot! Fortunately we don’t have many of those 120 degree days but our summers are well known for triple digit heat. Even though we don’t suffer high humidity like I am used to in the South we still sweat.

Sweating is good in a dry heat because it acts like an evaporative cooler, drops of sweat on your skin cool your body temperature by as much as 3 degrees. That may not sound like much, but because our bodies keep a very tight rein on our homeostasis it can be the difference between being able to think clearly and having a heat stroke.

So what is in that sweat? Water of course and also some vital minerals that your body uses to function properly. You already know the importance of staying hydrated but we also need to make sure we keep a good electrolyte balance.

But don’t run out and buy that Gatorade just yet.

Electrolytes are vital to our health and survival. Water is the largest single component in the body and serves as the vehicle to get electrolytes where they are needed. Electrolytes are the charged particles that are formed when salts and minerals are dissolved in water. Those charged particles conduct electricity which is used to exchange fluid in and out of our cells. Electrolytes are responsible for keeping the body properly hydrated so the muscles and nerves can function properly. Electrolytes can be simple inorganic salts of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium or complex organic molecules.

Advertising campaigns featuring famous athletes have given us the idea that sports drinks are the only way to replenish our electrolyte supply. Studies have shown that for the average person sports drinks are not the best way to rehydrate, in fact sugary sports drinks can actually deplete the body over time. If you want a more natural electrolyte drink try putting a pinch of Himalayan salt and a teaspoon of organic raw apple cider vinegar in a quart of water.

The best and most natural way of replenishing electrolytes is from your food. Eating fresh, organic foods rich in electrolytes can keep you in balance without the added sugar. Here are some foods that can increase electrolytes naturally:

  • Bananas – this super fruit is rich in minerals and high in potassium, an important electrolyte.
  • Most fruits and vegetables – apples, corn, beets, carrots, green beans, limes, lemons, oranges, sweet potatoes, artichokes, squash and tomatoes are all good sources of electrolytes.
  • Nuts and seeds – almonds, cashews, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds or pistachios are very high in electrolytes.
  • Dark leafy greens – most green are a great source of electrolytes and spinach, in particular, is high in minerals. Chose from kale, beet greens, mustard greens, bok choy or chard and you will not only balance your electrolytes but also help your digestion.

According to Todd Caldecott’s book Food As Medicine, Greek salad is a great way to eat your electrolytes. The watery cucumbers, salty feta and tangy vinegar all help restore electrolytes on a hot day. And it tastes great! So the next time you go to the grocery store skip the sugary sports drink aisle and head straight for the produce section. Your body will thank you!

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