Electrolytes are critical for the balance of fluids in your body. You can end up with too many electrolytes or too few. Both situations are risky for your health, leading to problems like dehydration or fluid retention. If your electrolyte levels are on the low side, then electrolyte rich foods and drinks are the best way to get more electrolytes into your body.
Basically, electrolytes are charged minerals. Many of them are common parts of our diets, like sodium, potassium, calcium, and chloride. But, while electrolytes might be common, we don’t always have the right balance of them in our bodies.
Your balance of electrolytes can change for various reasons, including the loss and intake of water. You lose some electrolytes through sweat too, which is why athletes often need electrolyte drinks, rather than just rehydrating with water.
Your diet can lead to an electrolyte imbalance too, especially if you are cutting down key food groups or compounds. For example, even on a low sodium diet, you need some sodium or you risk an electrolyte imbalance and other health problems. Medications and some health conditions can lead to electrolyte imbalances too.
So, getting enough electrolytes is clearly important. These foods all help you to do just that. They offer many other important nutrients at the same time.
Table of Contents
Electrolyte Rich Foods
- Whole Milk
- Butternut Squash
- Soy Milk
- Other Dark Leafy Greens
- Sports Drinks
- Coconut Water
- Chia Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Nuts and Seeds
- Sweet Potatoes
- Salty Foods
Milk isn’t nearly as popular as it once was, but don’t write off dairy products just yet. Milk does provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other compounds.
We’re not just talking about calcium either. Instead, you’ll find other key electrolytes in milk too, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. The nutrient balance does vary depending on the fat content of your milk, but you’ll still get plenty of electrolytes either way.
Plant-based milks can seem like an easy alternative if you don’t drink milk, but be sure to check the nutrient balance first. Some plant-based milks, like almond milk, end up being mostly water and don’t offer as many nutrients as you might expect.
Anyone lactose intolerant could also turn to lactose free milk. This type of milk has the same nutrient balance as regular milk. The difference is that the lactose in the milk is broken down by the lactase enzyme, which makes the milk much easier on your body.
Butternut squash is a powerful source of many plant-based compounds, including beta-carotene. The electrolyte profile of the vegetable is notable too.
This time, potassium and magnesium are the main electrolytes present. There is some calcium and phosphorus present too, although the amounts are much lower for these.
You’re not getting much sodium with butternut squash, but that’s not really a bad thing. After all, sodium is one of the easiest electrolytes to get in your diet.
We mentioned milk earlier, so the electrolytes in yogurt shouldn’t be any great surprise. Yogurt often contains probiotics too, making it an easy way to support your digestive health.
You will, however, need to choose your yogurt carefully. Many brands rely heavily on additives and sugar. You can easily end up with a high sugar product that isn’t any better for you than a candy bar.
When possible, look for natural unflavored yogurt. This has the fewest additives. You can easily flavor the yogurt yourself, perhaps by using a little honey or some berries. By doing so, you get full control over the nutrients in your snack.
As a milk-based product, cheese is another easy choice for electrolytes. However, there are many types of cheese out there and the production methods can vary dramatically from one type to the next. This means that the electrolyte balance varies as well.
In Swiss cheese, for example, calcium and phosphorous are the main electrolytes present, along with a tiny amount of magnesium and sodium. Parmesan cheese is another powerful option for calcium, with more of the mineral than most other types of cheese. Of course, you probably aren’t using all that much parmesan cheese at one time.
Soy milk is a common plant-based alternative to dairy milk, but its nutrient profile is notably different. For example, soy milk doesn’t naturally contain calcium. It even has a compound that may inhibit calcium absorption.
Still, soy milk does contain some electrolytes, including magnesium, sodium, and potassium. It is often fortified with calcium and other nutrients too, in an attempt to make it more similar to regular milk.
Of course, soy is controversial. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens, phytate, and lectins, which could all have some negative effects on health.
The evidence for such negative effects in humans is very limited. Nevertheless, soy is a very common part of modern diets and there’s much that we don’t know about long-term effects, especially at our current consumption levels. Because of this, it may be best to watch your soy intake and try not to rely too heavily on the legume.
The rich coloring of beets makes them stand out and is an indication of the plant-based compounds that are present. This is another choice that is rich in potassium and magnesium. There is some sodium present too, but not an excessive amount.
Beets are also notable for their nitrate content, which is actually a good thing. When you get them from food sources like beets, nitrates tend to offer health benefits. Just be wary of processed foods where nitrates are used as additives. In that context, nitrates aren’t a good idea at all.
It’s not surprising that spinach is often found on lists of healthy foods. The dark leafy green contains many important nutrients, along with plenty of plant-based compounds.
The electrolyte profile is another reason for eating spinach regularly. It has notable amounts of magnesium, calcium, and potassium, along with some sodium and phosphorus as well.
Spinach also happens to be very low in calories. It’s very easy to add some spinach into your diet, even if you’re closely watching your calorie intake.
There’s just one limitation – oxalates. Eating too many oxalate rich foods may contribute to kidney stone development and spinach is one of the highest oxalate foods that there is. If you’re worried about kidney stones, you may want to focus on other types of dark leafy greens instead.
Other Dark Leafy Greens
Each type of leafy green has its own nutrient balance. Spinach and collard greens are some of the best choices for calcium and offer a decent amount of magnesium too. However, you’ll be getting some electrolytes from whatever leafy green you choose, so there’s no need to be picky.
In fact, the best possible choice is to vary the types of leafy green that you eat. This way you get a broad array of nutrients. You’re likely to get a good balance of electrolytes this way too, especially as some leafy greens excel in different areas.
While we don’t recommend sports drinks, they’re the most well-known way to increase electrolyte intake, so we need to talk about them. The idea is simple. These drinks should all help athletes rehydrate and remain energized, as they provide the electrolytes that were lost during sweating.
One problem is that most sports drinks heavily rely on additives. You’ll often find artificial colors and flavors, along with far too much sugar.
The sugar and the flavorings help make the drink enjoyable. It’s easy to see why companies do this, as drinks that just focus on electrolytes often don’t taste all that good. Still, you end up with an unhealthy drink.
The marketing for these drinks is an issue too. Many people drink them casually, much like a bottle of juice. But, you shouldn’t be drinking electrolyte rich drinks unless you’re losing a lot of electrolytes. Even then, the foods and drinks on this list are better options for increasing your electrolytes.
Coconut water is sometimes called a natural sports drink, largely because of the electrolytes that it contains. It is high in potassium and sodium, along with natural sugar, which provides you with a boost of energy. The sugar content is much lower than in most sports drinks and there aren’t any additives to worry about.
While you can get coconut water from coconuts themselves, most people end up buying coconut water products off the grocery store shelves. There’s nothing wrong with doing so. However, the electrolyte balance will vary from one brand to another.
Pay close attention to the ingredients list too. You want a product that is as natural as possible. Some brands manage this well, while others use a variety of additives. It’s also best to look for unsweetened coconut water. After all, added sugar is never a great health choice.
Chia seeds have developed a well-deserved reputation as a superfood. The tiny little seeds are packed with many important nutrients and are also easy to include in your diet. You can simply sprinkle them on top of a meal or perhaps use them to make chia pudding or overnight oats.
Magnesium and calcium are the key electrolytes here. There are plenty of other beneficial compounds present too, including iron, zinc, and fiber. This makes chia seeds a valuable addition to any diet.
Seeds tend to be healthy, regardless of the type that you choose. They all contain some nutrients for the developing plant and these nutrients can help you too.
Pumpkin seeds can be particularly relevant when you’re looking for electrolytes due to their magnesium content. It’s also very easy to add the seeds to your diet. Try scattering them on top of a meal or eating roasted pumpkin seeds as a snack.
Nuts and Seeds
We’ve talked about pumpkin seeds and chia seeds already, but really any type of nut or seed is going to provide some electrolytes. You’ll often be getting a decent amount of magnesium. Some options, like cashews, provide phosphorous too.
Nuts and seeds have plenty of advantages too. They tend to offer plenty of protein and healthy fats, while also being easy to snack on.
Of course, you’re not limited to using nuts and seeds as snacks. They can also be used as ingredients in many recipes. Why not turn to nut butter or seed butter as an alternative approach? Such products often rely on the nuts with few other ingredients, so you’re getting a very healthy product.
It’s easy to assume that potatoes are unhealthy. They don’t have the same vibrant colors that you see in many other fruits and vegetables, and they are high in carbs too.
But, skipping out of potatoes entirely would be a shame, as the humble potato still offers plenty of nutrients (especially if you’re eating the skin too).
Magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium are the key nutrients here. You’ll probably get a decent amount of sodium too, as most people serve potatoes with salt.
The bright orange color of sweet potatoes comes from the pigment molecule beta-carotene. This compound is an antioxidant, one that has been linked to various important health benefits.
There are other important nutrients present too, including potassium and some natural sodium. Once again, you’ll get more nutrients if you’re eating the skin too, so don’t skip the skin.
It’s hard to go past watermelon when you’re looking for a delicious and refreshing snack. And, as the name suggests, watermelon contains a decent amount of water, which makes it perfect for keeping you hydrated.
The fruit is also relevant for its electrolytes, particularly potassium. There are natural sugars present too, just like with coconut water. These sugars can help with hydration as well, to some degree.
Bananas are famous for their potassium content, which is also why they make this list. Potassium is an important electrolyte, one that is essential in muscle function. Having a banana every so often is an easy way to boost your potassium levels.
Of course, bananas aren’t always a good choice. They’re higher in sugar than most other types of fruit, which can be a problem for diabetics. Thankfully, there are other potassium rich foods to choose from. Many of these are lower in sugar and some offer other electrolytes as well.
Avocados aren’t your typical type of fruit. They’re rich, creamy, and are high in fat. They also tend to be lower in sugar than other types of fruit, which is why they often feature as part of a low carb diet.
When it comes to electrolytes, avocados are most notable for their potassium content. A whole avocado actually contains much more potassium than a banana. They offer some magnesium too.
Avocados also happen to be low in sodium too. While sodium is an important electrolyte, it’s easy to end up with too much sodium in your diet and not enough of some other electrolytes. As such, a low sodium choice like avocado could be a very good thing.
Tofu might be a surprising entry to the list, but it does offer electrolytes. You’ll often be getting a decent amount of calcium per serving, along with magnesium and zinc.
Tofu can also be useful as a plant-based source of protein. However, because it is made from soy milk, it’s worth paying attention to the amount of tofu that you eat.
You’ll also need to check the calcium content, as the calcium in tofu generally comes from using calcium sulfate for coagulation. Because of this, some tofu products may contain much less calcium than others.
Soybeans aren’t the only legume that provides electrolytes. You get various important electrolyte compounds from other legumes too, including beans.
Beans are a fantastic part of your diet, as they are nutrient packed, but are still fairly low in calories. They’re an easy plant-based choice for protein, especially as beans tend to be inexpensive and shelf-stable.
It’s best to soak beans before you use them. Some people choose to soak the beans overnight or perhaps for 12 hours. Soaking helps to make the beans more digestible by reducing antinutrient levels.
Lentils are another useful legume. They’re often more practical than beans, as you don’t need to soak them before use.
Lentils don’t take long to cook either. You can even just throw them into a soup or a stew if you want a fast and easy approach.
Table salt is simply sodium chloride, so it’s an easy source of sodium and chloride. This makes salt an easy way to increase your intake of these two important electrolytes.
The same is true for any food that uses salt as a key ingredient. Pickles and olives are two examples of salty foods that are also very good for you.
Salt is often used in processed food and snacks too, many of which aren’t very healthy. While having processed food every once in a while might be okay, it’s best to stick to healthy options whenever you can.
You’ll also need to pay attention to your sodium intake. While the mineral is important for our bodies, modern diets tend to be laden with sugar and salt. As such, many of us end up eating too much sodium, rather than not enough.
Broccoli is the final entry on our list and well-known for being packed with nutrients. Calcium is one important electrolyte present. You’ll find potassium and magnesium too.
Besides, broccoli tends to be inexpensive. It’s also easy to cook and most people are already familiar with it. Getting more broccoli in your diet is as serving cooked broccoli as a side dish or including the green as part of a stir fry or similar meal.