Monday, July 30, 2012

Dietary Sources of Electrolytes

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty
School of Health Sciences

We think of electrolytes as the things that we get when we guzzle a sports drink, but what can we eat to get them?

In nutrition, the term electrolytes, refers to sodium, potassium, and chloride. Electrolytes are important for fluid balance and for allowing nerve impulses to travel throughout the body. Sodium is most commonly found combined with chloride, in what we call table salt. Generally speaking, our bodies are very good at regulating our electrolyte balance and most people need to decrease their dietary sodium and increase their potassium intake. Including even a few processed foods can mean that you will exceed your daily recommendations for sodium. But conversely, most people fall short on meeting potassium needs. With that said, if you are exercising in the heat on a daily basis it is a good idea to take a look at your diet to be sure you are meeting your needs.

The Daily Value for sodium for adults is 2400 mg, about the amount in one teaspoon of table salt. Take a look at your food labels to gauge your intake. You can also check to see if you are a heavy sweater by looking at your workout clothes for some white lines which are actually the salt from your sweat If you aren’t getting enough your body will trigger a salt craving. The Daily Value for potassium is 4000 mg and one banana has 400 mg, which means you need to be diligent about getting your fruits and vegetables every day. Good sources of potassium include fresh fruits and vegetables like spinach, kale, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, dried beans, honeydew, bananas, and cantaloupe.

Make sure you are getting at least the minimum amount of sodium in your diet and to increase your potassium aim for at least 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.


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