When you think about electrolytes, those old Gatorade commercials probably come to mind. (That can't be just me.) Yes, Gatorade and other sports drinks contain electrolytes, but you don't need a special beverage to get your electrolyte fix. Certain foods—likes the ones below—are packed with these essential minerals.
"Electrolytes are minerals that create electrically charged ions when mixed with water or when dissolved in our body's fluids," explains chef and nutritionist Serena Poon, creator of Culinary Alchemy. "They do everything from hydrating our body and balancing the pH levels in our body, to regulating our muscle and nerve function and rebuilding tissue."
So, you know, some pretty important things. Poon says that the most important electrolytes are potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, and phosphate. Read on to get the scoop on the best foods that contain electrolytes.
Bananas and coconut water are two of the most well-known foods that contain potassium, but Poon says that watermelon, pomegranates, spinach and white beans are also great sources.
Another place to get potassium is via root vegetables. Poon recommends beets, parsnips, and both regular and sweet potatoes.
Magnesium has been shown to have a calming effect on the body (yes, please) and to help promote better sleep. Poon says you can find magnesium in dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans, whole grains, and dark chocolate.
"For those who enjoy animal protein, fatty fish like salmon offer high levels of magnesium as well," she says.
You've probably heard that calcium is good for building strong bones, but it's also important for a healthy heart. "High levels of calcium are available in dairy products and eggs for those of us who are not vegan," Poon says.
"For people with plant-based diets, dark leafy greens such as kale, bok choy, and collard greens are calcium-rich, alongside almonds and figs," she adds.
We're often told to limit our sodium intake, but that's because the CDC recommends eating no more than 2300 milligrams—and 71% of most people's sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods. But if you cut out processed foods to limit your sodium intake, you still need some of this mineral for your body to function optimally. "Celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and seaweed are good go-tos for sodium," Poon says.
Good news: You can find phosphorus—a mineral that can help lower blood pressure—in many of the foods already mentioned. Nuts, dairy, beans, and meats all contain good amounts of phosphorus.
"Keep in mind that with some of these foods, such as beans, seeds and nuts, the bioavailability of the electrolytes are best when pre-soaked before consumption," Poon adds.