Q: What are electrolytes?
The term â€œelectrolytesâ€ gets thrown around a lot in health articles without most people really understanding what they are or how they benefit the human body. Athletes and fitness buffs generally know that they lose electrolytes in their sweat, and that these must be replenished to keep bodily fluids in balance. But while many people reach for the nearest sugary sports drink to refuel, there are much healthier and more natural ways to stay hydrated and full of energy!
â€œElectrolyteâ€ is a medical term for salts that break apart to conduct electricity. Translated in terms of nutrition, electrolytes are essentially minerals that are dissolved into your body's fluids - like blood, plasma, and the fluid between your cells. Your body relies on a balance of electrolytes to function well and to have enough energy to keep you active throughout the day, and your kidneys and hormones help keep these levels in check. Electrolytes are absolutely essential because your cells, nerves, muscles, and heart use them to maintain and carry electrical impulses across themselves (aka, helping your body â€œcommunicateâ€). They also regulate your body's hydration, muscle function, blood pressure, and tissue growth.
There are seven major electrolytes found in the human body. Each one has its own specific purpose:
1. Sodium - controls the amount of water in the body; maintains muscle and nerve function
2. Potassium - regulates muscle function and heartbeat
3. Chloride - maintains balance and pressure in the blood and inside cells
4. Calcium - controls nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and blood clotting
5. Magnesium - synthesizes DNA, RNA, and biochemical reactions
6. Phosphate - produces energy in cells and helps grow and repair tissue
7. Bicarbonate - maintains pH levels in the body.
You may have heard of an electrolyte imbalances before (we're especially prone to losing sodium and potassium electrolytes when we exercise and sweat), and it's nothing to take light of. Usually, an imbalance is triggered by severe dehydration, prolonged vomiting, kidney disease, bulimia, cancer treatment, and other medical conditions. A few of the most common symptoms of major electrolyte imbalance include irregular heartbeat, weakness, twitching and muscle spasms, blood pressure changes, fatigue, and even seizures.
Luckily, there are tons of natural ways to fuel your body with electrolytes so that you maintain healthy levels! Here are some of the most common:
â€¢ Chia seeds
â€¢ Orange juice
â€¢ Coconut water
Admittedly, one of the easiest and very best sources of electrolytes is coconut water. Tropical cultures have benefited from the natural nutrition of coconut water for thousands of years, and our Coconut Water Powder is sourced from fresh organic coconuts in the Philippines. With five key electrolytes and just 35 calories per serving, our convenient powder lets you create your own natural electrolyte drink for on-the-go hydration. Just stir a tablespoon into a glass of water to create a hydrating sports drink or add to your favorite smoothie recipe.
Once you taste how delicious this coconut water really is, I challenge you to unleash your imagination and start experimenting with it in recipes! Mix 3 tablespoons coconut water powder with unsweetened coconut flakes, hemp seeds, and raw pecans to whip up a hearty breakfast of Coconut-Pecan Teff Porridge. Or for a savory treat at any time of day, try my Coconut Cornbread Muffins recipe, which contains a power trio of coconut water powder, shredded dried coconut, and coconut milk.
Here's to hydration!