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Electrolytes Part 2: Electrolytes Explained

Electrolytes are salts and minerals that are important for many functions in the body. There are seven electrolytes in total. The five core electrolytes include: sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. There are two other electrolytes you may have heard of, which include bicarbonate and phosphorous. Bicarbonate is an electrolyte, which is naturally produced in the body. Phosphorus is unique as it becomes an electrolyte when combined with oxygen, creating phosphate. Electrolyte balance is essential, although an electrolyte imbalance in healthy adults is quite rare. Let’s take a closer look at the function of each electrolyte and their food sources.

  • Sodium is a mineral and its main purpose is to maintain fluid balance. Sodium can be found in table salt, condiments, processed foods, salted snacks (pretzels, crackers), pickles, olives, canned foods, vegetable juices, and smoked, cured and processed meats, fish and cheeses. Salt adds up fast, so be mindful of daily intake. About 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 milligrams of sodium.
  • Chloride is a mineral, which works with other electrolytes to help regulate fluid balance. It is found in combination with hydrogen to create hydrogen chloride (HCL). Chloride can be found in table salt, sea salt, and vegetables such as celery and tomatoes.
  • Potassium is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apricots, bananas, oranges, dried fruits, raisins, prunes, spinach, peaches, tomatoes, wheat bran and potatoes. It’s also found in eggs and dairy products (yogurt, milk).
  • Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It’s required for many physiological reactions that take place in the body. It’s involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. In fact, nearly half of the magnesium in the body is found in bone. That’s not all. Magnesium also helps to regulate other nutrients such as calcium, potassium, zinc and vitamin D. This incredible mineral can be found in cocoa, coffee, tea, lima beans, Swiss chard, spinach, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and the key structural component of bones and teeth. About 99% of calcium is actually stored in bone. It’s commonly known for bone health, but it’s also required for muscle contraction, and helps regulate the body by activating key enzymes. Calcium can be found in food sources such as dairy products (yogurt, cheese, milk), fortified soy products, tofu, almonds, dried beans, leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, and legumes.
  • Phosphorous is the second most abundant mineral in the body next to calcium. It works very closely with calcium to help support bone health. About 85% of the body’s phosphorus can be found in bones and teeth. Phosphorous can be found in all animal-based sources such as eggs, chicken, beef, turkey, salmon, and dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt). It’s also found in plant-based sources; however, the phosphorous is less absorbable in plant-based foods and fruits and vegetables do not contain very much phosphorous.

All electrolytes can be consumed through the diet and they are found in a variety of whole foods. Many healthy adults tend to consume sufficient amounts of sodium and chloride through their daily diets. However, ensure you are consuming a nutrient-rich diet with adequate amounts of all the electrolytes on a daily basis.