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Blog Nutrition Top 10 Foods Highest In Electrolytes: Eat These To Prevent Imbalances

Top 10 Foods Highest In Electrolytes: Eat These To Prevent Imbalances

top 10 foods high in electrolytes

Electrolytes are substances found in the body that affect its electrical balance. Electrolyte imbalances can lead to life-threatening health conditions, especially for people with chronic kidney disease or heart failure. Fortunately, eating foods high in electrolytes is an easy way to maintain a healthy balance of these essential elements. In this article, we’ll cover  the top 10 foods highest in electrolytes, along with their benefits for promoting good health.

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Why Are Electrolytes Important?

An electrolyte is a substance that separates ions when dissolved in water that carries current in solution. Your brain, heart and muscles function because of electrolytes.

Ions are minerals that carry either a positive or negative charge which enables them to conduct electricity when dissolved in water. The most common electrolytes include:

  • Sodium (Na+)
  • Potassium (K+)
  • Calcium (Ca2+)
  • Chloride (Cl-)
  • Bicarbonate(HCO3-) 
  • Magnesium (Mg2+)
  • Phosphate (PO4 3-). 

Electrolytes are mainly regulated by the kidneys. They keep an optimal balance between the ions for homeostasis. Sodium is one of the primary electrolytes that causes many health problems if levels get too high or low (12).

The good thing is that your body can easily handle high levels of sodium as long as you have enough potassium and magnesium. However, the biggest risk is when sodium rises rapidly, lowering blood pressure and causing water retention. Excessive water retention leads to swelling of hands, face and legs which then becomes oedema (22). If left untreated, electrolyte imbalance can lead to hypertension and increase your risk of heart diseases such as (9):

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) 
  • Heart attack and stroke 
  • Heart failure 
  • Kidney disease or failure 

It’s important to be aware if you start experiencing any of the symptoms whether they are mild or severe.

Electrolytes help regulate the amount of water and other fluids in and around cells, as well as maintain the normal function of nerves and muscles. They also play a role in proper digestion and muscle contractions, including those that occur during exercise or periods of intense activity (10).

Read More: Detox Tea Facts, Health Benefits And Side Effects

Since electrolytes are found naturally in our bodies and the foods we eat, it’s important to maintain a sufficient supply of these substances. One way to do this is by eating foods that contain electrolytes, such as the top 10 listed below:

top 10 foods high in electrolytes

List Of Top 10 Foods Highest In Electrolytes

The following foods contain high levels of electrolytes and should be eaten if you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms of an imbalance. 

Spinach

With a high concentration of sodium, calcium and magnesium, spinach is an electrolyte powerhouse. Since it’s also high in vitamin K and choline, it can help to reduce the risk of various cancers as well as osteoporosis (14).

Beets

High in potassium and with a moderate amount of sodium, beets are great for heart health and reducing the risk of stroke (27). If you don’t like beets, try making beet juice or toss them in a salad.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with potassium, calcium and magnesium and contain smaller amounts of sodium and phosphorus. They also contain vitamin C for immune health, A  and B  complex vitamins for various metabolic actions, antioxidants to fight cancer and heart disease, lycopene to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lycopene to improve skin health, flavonoids  for eye health and iron for oxygen transport (15).

Bananas

A great source of electrolytes are bananas. They have a high potassium content as well as some sodium and magnesium. Since they also contain vitamin B  6 for energy production, biotin for metabolism and hair health, try eating a banana if you feel tired or fatigued during the day (1).

top 10 foods high in electrolytes

Coconut

Coconut contains a moderate quantity of potassium and is high in calcium and magnesium as well. It’s also rich in electrolytes, including sodium, phosphate and chloride. Coconut water can help to restore lost fluids during exercise or heat exposure, so it’s a great drink after strenuous activity or when you’re suffering from the effects of hot weather (4).

Almonds

Almonds are packed with minerals, including calcium for bone health, potassium for heart health and magnesium for energy production and electrolyte balance. Almonds also contain iron, B  complex vitamins for metabolism as well as vitamin E to fight disease and inflammation (13).

Pumpkin Seeds

Loaded with minerals such as magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, pumpkin seeds are a great way to increase your intake of electrolytes. They’re also high in zinc for prostate health and vitamin K, which can reduce the risk of various forms of cancer (21).

Milk

Milk is high in electrolytes like calcium, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. It’s also packed with B vitamins for energy metabolism as well as A and D vitamins to improve immune health (19). Note that non-fat milk is lower in electrolytes compared to whole milk.

chocolate

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Cocoa

Chocolate might cause problems for some people, but it can be a healthy choice if you get dark chocolate or cocoa powder. These are high in calcium, magnesium and potassium as well as various antioxidants that can fight heart disease, cancer and other forms of disease (3).

Seaweed

Rich in iodine, seaweed or kelp can help to promote thyroid health. It also contains various minerals, including calcium, magnesium and iron. Since it’s rich in various antioxidants, seaweed is great for heart health as well (20).

top 10 foods high in electrolytes

Cilantro

This herb is packed with nutrients like magnesium, manganese and potassium. It’s also a great source of calcium as well as vitamins A and C.

What Causes Electrolyte Imbalances?

Dehydration

The most common cause of electrolyte imbalances is dehydration (6). If you don’t drink enough water, your levels of sodium and other minerals can drop to dangerous or even fatal levels. If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. 

Kidney Function

Another common cause of electrolyte imbalances is kidney function. If your kidneys aren’t working properly, you may lose excess sodium, potassium, phosphate or other minerals (6).

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia can lead to problems with electrolyte balance as well. Since these conditions often involve vomiting after eating, the body loses important minerals that are needed for cellular structure and function.

top 10 foods high in electrolytes

Age

As you get older, your body becomes less efficient at maintaining electrolytes in the blood. This means that elderly people should be especially careful about their intake of salt as well as foods high in sodium (9).

Type 1 Diabetes

If you have type 1 diabetes, your body is less able to absorb nutrients from food. This means that electrolyte imbalances can be a problem if you eat too much salt or certain foods high in potassium and not enough healthy foods (5).

Medications

There are a number of medications that can cause problems with electrolytes. Kidney problems, heart failure and other conditions may require people to take diuretics, which make the kidneys release more water into the urine. Those who use these medications should limit their intake of salt as well as potassium-rich foods like bananas. Laxatives and other medications can cause problems with electrolyte balance as well (7).

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What Are The Signs Of Electrolyte Imbalance?

When the level of electrolytes in your body is too low or high, it causes symptoms such as:

Fatigue And Weakness

Common symptoms of low sodium levels are fatigue and weakness (12). When your body can’t produce enough energy due to an imbalance of electrolytes, it will try to preserve its resources by slowing down metabolism which then makes you feel fatigued all day long. 

Muscle Cramps Or Spasms

Electrolytes also play a vital role in muscle contraction and nerve impulses. This is why having optimal levels maintains strength and flexibility. If there’s a lack of electrolytes, your muscles will either cramp or spasm due to the lack of hydration (12).       

Heart Palpitations And Irregular Heartbeat

When levels of potassium, calcium and magnesium decline rapidly it can lead to heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat which then causes shortness of breath and fainting. These symptoms are very similar to a recent myocardial infarction (heart attack). However, if you feel them after exercising for more than an hour they’re likely caused by electrolyte imbalance (12).

top 10 foods high in electrolytes

Seizures And Fainting

Excessive water retention and sodium levels increase the risk for seizures or loss of consciousness as well as fainting. Usually, these symptoms appear when there’s a rapid decline or increase of sodium levels (12).   

Nausea And Vomiting

When the stomach can’t digest foods properly due to low electrolytes it might lead to vomiting, nausea and appetite loss. The lack of these nutrients causes an imbalance that makes you feel dizzy, weak and tired throughout the day (8). 

Diarrhoea Or Constipation

Electrolytes also play a major role in absorbing water from food which then affects bowel movements, hence causing diarrhoea or constipation (8). Usually, you’ll experience one of them but sometimes both together.   

Heart Palpitations

If there’s a sudden decline in any level of calcium, potassium or magnesium, it can lead to heart palpitations which is one of the most common symptoms. Also, this is what happens when electrolytes are regulated too rapidly or they’re depleted quickly (12).

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Irritability

When levels of magnesium are low you might feel more irritable or anxious due to lack of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and this decline then causes anxiety and depression (25).

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Headaches

Electrolytes are able to regulate fluid balance in your brain which then reduces headaches. However, if there’s a rapid decline the headache might cause the vision to blur and become sensitive to light (12).     

Changes In Blood Sugar Levels

When levels of magnesium drop it affects insulin production which controls blood sugar levels. This increase or decrease can cause fluctuating energy levels, irritability, nausea or fatigue throughout the day (12).          

Memory Loss

Low levels of potassium might trigger memory loss due to neurotransmitters that govern cognitive functions such as decision-making, memory retention and learning abilities (26).

top 10 foods high in electrolytes

How To Keep Your Electrolytes In Balance

The importance of electrolytes in the human body cannot be overemphasized. A number of common health problems are directly related to electrolyte imbalances. Additionally, the endocrine system relies on proper electrolyte balance for optimal function. Here are a few things you can do to ensure consistent balance:

Be Well-Hydrated

Drink at least six glasses of water per day. Water helps maintain proper hydration and prevents electrolyte imbalances by providing adequate minerals needed for reactions involving enzymes.

Don’t Drink Too Much Water

Drinking too much water in a short period of time may also cause electrolyte imbalances. This condition, known as hyponatremia, is caused by an overabundance of water relative to the amount of salt in the body. Too much fluid dilutes essential minerals and can lead to dangerous or even fatal consequences if countermeasures are not taken (17).

Eat Foods Rich In Electrolytes

It’s best to get your minerals from food whenever possible. Electrolytes found in whole foods have been paired with cofactors that help them function properly within the body.

Increase your intake of potassium-rich fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds or nuts daily (23). These foods are also high in B vitamins—particularly folic acid—and vitamin C which are essential cofactors responsible for protein metabolism and energy production.

Bananas are an excellent source of potassium as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate calcium levels in the body. Vitamin B6 is necessary to convert tryptophan into niacin (vitamin B3) which enhances metabolic function and supports healthy bowel elimination (1).

Cut Back On Caffeine

Reduce sources of caffeine intake in your diet. Caffeine causes loss of water and important minerals through increased urination, therefore, decreasing electrolyte concentrations (2).

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Cut Back On Alcohol

Reduce sources of alcohol intake in your diet. Alcohol causes loss of water and essential minerals through increased urination resulting in decreased electrolyte concentrations (24).

Cut Back On Salt

Avoid salty foods such as salted popcorn, chips, sausage, ham, corned beef, bacon and the like which are high in sodium chloride (salt). When combined with high carbohydrate snacks or beverages—like sugar or caffeine-containing soft drinks—this results in an accelerated loss of potassium that may induce hypokalemia which can lead to muscle weakness/cramps and slow reflexes (16). 

Don’t Overuse Diuretics Or Laxatives

Many over-the-counter medications, including diuretics and laxatives, can induce electrolyte imbalances. Consult  your healthcare professional before using any medications to determine safe dosages and associated side effects.

Herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA which means that it is possible they may interact with prescription medication or cause adverse reactions when taken together. It’s best to avoid any herbal supplements until you’ve talked with your healthcare provider.

Don’t Do Strenuous Exercise In Hot Weather

When you are dehydrated, your blood becomes more concentrated which increases the risk of developing hyponatremia (17). Strenuous exercise in hot weather can cause body fluid loss through perspiration. Ensure that you drink plenty of fluids before and after strenuous physical activity to prevent electrolyte imbalances due to dehydration or excessive salt loss. 

Be Aware Of Certain Medical Conditions

A number of medical conditions may increase your chances of developing an electrolyte imbalance. These conditions include: diabetes, Addison’s disease, kidney disease, liver cirrhosis, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, certain endocrine disorders, wasting syndromes, malnutrition, metabolic alkalosis (low levels of chloride in the blood) and certain cancers (8).

Consider Electrolyte Supplements

These supplements can help replenish essential minerals during times of increased loss due to vomiting, diarrhea, excessive perspiration or malabsorption. Electrolytes can also assist in restoring mineral balance following strenuous exercise (18). The best forms are those derived from whole food sources such as sea vegetables (kelp), algae (chlorella) and organic fruits and vegetables.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a specific electrolyte imbalance or medical condition, seek advice from your healthcare provider to determine whether using electrolytes supplements is right for you. 

The Bottom Line

Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge. They’re vital for health and survival. If you are experiencing any symptoms of electrolyte imbalance, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider for advice on how to keep your electrolytes in balance.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Bananas (n.d., harvard.edu)
  2. Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review (2003, pubmed.gov)
  3. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease (2011, nih.gov)
  4. Coconuts: Are there health benefits? (n.d., webmd.com)
  5. Diabetes mellitus and electrolyte disorders (2014, nih.gov)
  6. Electrolyte Disturbance and Acute Kidney Failure (n.d., medical.net)
  7. Electrolyte disturbance associated with medications in the critically ill (2012, researchgate.net)
  8. Electrolyte Imbalances + Normal Ranges and DIsturbances for Common Electrolytes (2021, ausmed.com)
  9. Electrolyte imbalances in an unselected population in an emergency department: A retrospective cohort study (2019, plos.org)
  10. Electrolytes (2021, medlineplus.gov)
  11. Fluid and Electrolyte Balance (2021, medlineplus.gov)
  12. General characteristics of patients with electrolyte imbalance admitted to emergency department (2013, nih.gov)
  13. Health benefits of almonds beyond cholesterol reduction (2012, pubmed.gov)
  14. Health Benefits of Spinach (2020, webmd.com)
  15. Health Benefits of Tomatoes (2017, psu.edu)
  16. Hypokalemia: A clinical update (2018, nih.gov)
  17. Hyponatremia: A practical approach (2014, nih.gov)
  18. Influence of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps (2005, nih.gov)
  19. Milk and dairy products: good or bad for human health? An assessment of the totality of scientific evidence (2016, nih.gov)
  20. Nutritional and Digestive Health Benefits of Seaweed (2011, pubmed.gov)
  21. Nutritional and Therapeutic Effects of Pumpkin Seeds (2019, biomedres.us)
  22. Pathophysiology of water and sodium retention: edematous states with normal kidney function (2006, pubmed.gov)
  23. Potassium and Health (2013, nih.gov)
  24. The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverages In Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial (2017, nih.gov)
  25. The Expanded Biology for Serotonin (2018, nih.gov)
  26. The Link Between Potassium and Mild Cognitive Impairment in Mexican-Americans (2018, nih.gov)
  27. The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroots Supplementation in Health and Disease (2015, nih.gov)
Eve Chalicha

Eve is a freelance writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She has a passion for promoting good health and well-being and believes that education is the first step towards changing lives for the better.
For the past few years, Eve has been writing about topics such as nutrition, fitness, natural remedies, and more.
Thanks to her background in Legal studies, she has a knack for research and always prioritizes scientific facts over hearsay. She is also very socially conscious and ensures that her pieces inform and empower readers.
When she's not writing, Eve enjoys watching documentaries, going on nature walks, or just hanging out with friends.

J. Paul

Jovial is from Dubai, and is a Head EMS Instructor/Fitness Manager/Nutrition Consultant for REMS Fitness. He is certified by the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and Registered as a Gym Instructor.
Jovial specialises in HIIT training, Rehabilitation/injury recovery, Strength and Conditioning, Kickboxing, Body Weight Training and Weight Training, and practices each discipline himself. His approach is to focus on improving his clients’ lifestyle by motivating them and setting an example.

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