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ALL ABOUT ELECTROLYTES

Updated: Jan 8

Electrolytes are some little fellas with big jobs. So what are electrolytes, and what do they do?

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are essential compounds, such as potassium, sodium, chloride, bicarbonate, magnesium, and calcium, vital to human health. They are often promoted for dehydration and fluid loss from illness or working out. Without electrolytes, we would die, so you could say they are a little important.


They:

  • Regulate muscle contractions

  • Help to keep PH levels balanced

  • Used by cells and muscles to carry electrical impulses

  • And much more!

There are several possible causes of low electrolyte levels, including, but not limited to:

  • low levels of electrolytes and hydration after exercise

  • prolonged periods of vomiting or diarrhea

  • poor diet

  • severe dehydration

  • disruption of the acid-base balance

  • congestive heart failure

  • cancer treatment

  • some other drugs, such as diuretics

  • bulimia

  • kidney disease

  • age, as the kidneys of older adults become less efficient over time

A deficiency in electrolytes can cause:

  • irregular heartbeat

  • weakness

  • twitching and muscle spasms

  • changes in blood pressure

  • excessive tiredness

  • numbness

  • confusion

  • bone disorders

  • nervous system disorders

  • seizures

None of those sound like much fun.


It’s very important to get enough electrolytes in your diet. If you are working out or outside and sweating a lot, replenishing electrolytes, not just water, is essential.

cat and dog electrolytes

These two know how to stay hydrated.


Potassium:

  • Bananas

  • Avocados

  • Oranges

    • Use the fruit, not the juice

  • Squash

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Cantaloupe

  • Coconut water

    • Be careful with coconut water brands; many have unwanted additives and come from unethical sources. Here is a good brand.

      • Add some good salt to your coconut water to help give it a more balanced electrolyte profile.

  • Dairy

    • Milk and yogurt

      • Choose full-fat, plain, and unsweetened yogurt and milk from grass-fed cows. Add some fruit or a bit of honey for sweetness if desired.

  • Chicken Breast

  • Certain wild-caught fish

    • Snapper

    • Salmon

    • Halibut

    • Tuna

      • Tuna can be high in mercury, so it is best to limit consumption of it.

  • Beets

  • Cooked Chard

    • Chard powder is a great option to add to smoothies.

      • If you are sensitive to oxalates, it is best to avoid chard.

Magnesium

  • Cacao (also rich in potassium)

    • Choose cacao that is ethically produced and very low in heavy metals.

      • Click here for more information on how to source cacao.

  • Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds

    • Sprout and then roast them to increase the bioavailability of the magnesium. Raw pumpkin seeds have a lot of nutrient inhibitors. Sprouting and dry roasting them will give you the most nutritional value.

      • Or choose a roasted pumpkin seed powder.

      • Most pumpkin seeds come from China and have a lot of quality control and ethical issues around sourcing. Choose pumpkin seeds grown in the USA or Europe.

  • Avocado

  • Cashews and almonds

    • These contain a lot of omega-6, so be careful not to overdo them.

    • As with pumpkin seeds, sprouting and dry roasting them is the best way to eat them because it reduces the nutrient inhibitors.

  • Cooked spinach

    • If you are sensitive to oxalates, it is best to avoid spinach

Calcium

  • Dairy

    • Choose full-fat, plain, unsweetened, and minimally processed dairy products from grass-fed cows. Add some fruit or a bit of honey for sweetness if desired. Avoid low-fat, sweetened, ultra-pasteurized, and homogenized products.

    • Raw dairy is best if you can get it. Click here to find a source near you.

  • Canned sardines and salmon with bones

    • These are also packed with tons of other nutrients and omega-3. They are a great, inexpensive source of high-quality protein. Don’t sleep on these.

  • Cooked mustard greens

    • Fortified foods like almond milk, orange juice, and cereal are not good sources of calcium. The calcium they contain is just ground-up chalk. Please do not rely on it for your calcium. Chalk is not a good source of calcium as it is poorly utilized and absorbed by your body.

Sodium (and chloride)

Variety of salts

Salts have different tastes because of their differing mineral content.


Everyone can agree that whole foods are the best source of all nutrients, including electrolytes. However, most people do not get enough in their diet, which has caused an explosion in the popularity of electrolyte supplements.


The problem is that most electrolyte supplements are full of crap.


Refined sugars - There is no question about it; nearly everyone consumes far too much-refined sugar. A lot of electrolyte supplements contain lots of refined sugar. You will see it under a lot of different names, such as:

  • Tapioca maltodextrin

  • Maltodextrin

  • Cane sugar

  • Dextrose

  • Fructose

  • Corn Syrup

While it is true that some people do need some carbohydrate replacement after working out or illness, refined sugars are not the answer to that need.


Another additive that nearly all electrolyte products contain is some type of no or low- calorie sweetener. These include:

  • Artificial

    • Splenda (sucralose)

    • Aspartame

    • Acesulfame K

    • Saccharin

  • Sugar Alcohols

    • Xylitol

    • Maltitol

    • Sorbitol

    • Erythritol

  • “Natural sweeteners”

    • Stevia

    • Monk Fruit

    • Allulose

All of these sweeteners have significant drawbacks and are best to be avoided. The stevia added to electrolyte products (and many foods) is not what people think it is. Most people believe that it is just some ground-up stevia leaves. When you see stevia listed in the ingredients, nearly all of the time, it is some isolated compounds called steviol glycosides, not whole stevia leaf. Whole stevia leaf powder is green and has a very strong aftertaste. Any white stevia powder is a heavily refined product, nothing like stevia leaves. In addition, there are several health concerns related to the consumption of isolated steviol glycosides. As with other no-calorie sweeteners, it can increase sugar cravings.


Monk fruit has similar issues to stevia. Despite its natural, whole-food product image, it is anything but. The process of making monk fruit sweetener purifies and isolates several compounds. It is nothing like eating whole food, despite the marketing of it. As with other no-calorie sweeteners, it can increase sugar cravings. There are also ethical issues with the labor used to harvest much of it.


Artificial Food Dyes - Many electrolyte products contain artificial food dyes, like red 40 and yellow 5, associated with significant health concerns. It is best to avoid products containing these ingredients.


Stimulants - Many electrolyte products contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants. Most people are getting more than enough of these; you don’t need them added to your electrolytes. Also, stimulants dehydrate, which is the opposite of what you want to happen when you need electrolytes.

  • Caffeine

  • Yerba Mate

  • Guayusa

  • Kola Nut

  • Green Coffee Bean

Synthetic vitamins and minerals - Most products use synthetic vitamins and minerals to supply the nutrients and electrolytes needed. This is a poor replacement for nutrients found in food, but they are much less expensive and more profitable for companies to use. Nutrients in food are better utilized by the body and contain value compounds not found in isolated and synthetic vitamins and minerals. Whole foods have a complexity that cannot be duplicated in a lab.


Gums and thickeners - These are used to improve mixability, but they can irritate the gut.

  • Carrageenan

  • Guar gum

  • Xanthan gum

  • Cellulose gum


Flavorings - Nearly all electrolyte products contain artificial and “natural” flavorings. Most people do not understand that “natural” flavors are anything but natural. Often companies will claim that it is made from the fruit that the flavor claims to be, but this is nothing but marketing speak. Companies that develop and sell “natural” flavorings are not required to list the ingredients that go into making the flavorings. There are over three thousand that can be used.


The FDA defines flavors as:


Now you would think that the FDA regulates natural flavors and decides which ones are safe. Unfortunately, as with most things in our government, corporate interests decide that.


A trade group, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, serves as the de facto regulator. I’m sure you can imagine where their funding comes from. This group operates with the blessing of the FDA. How has letting corporations decide what is safe worked out for us in the past? In Europe, corporations must have their flavors and other ingredients reviewed by an independent agency; their word is not just accepted. Here, we let them decide, and the FDA accepts their recommendations.


The organization does not make the vast majority of its research publicly available.



Gee, I wonder why they might not want to publicize their research.



So basically, they are saying, no, you cannot see the ingredients, no, you cannot see the research, you should just trust us.



Letting corporations decide what is safe, with little to no oversight, always works out great, right? It’s not like any of these companies have a long history of doing horrible things, right?

Another issue with flavorings is that it allows companies to use cheaper, inferior, and poor-quality ingredients, and the flavors cover it up. Why pay the money for real fruit powder when you can spend next to nothing on Frankenstein “fruit” flavoring? The next time you see a product with “natural” flavorings, be aware that you can never really know what is in it and if it was adequately tested to be safe.

Say No To Natural Flavors

Just say no to "natural" flavors.


So what is a better option?


If whole foods are the best way to get electrolytes, then a whole-food electrolyte supplement is the answer.


A whole-food electrolyte supplement would have no added sweeteners, fillers, flavorings, and questionable ingredients. It should only contain properly dried whole foods and high-quality salt.


We have searched for a whole-food electrolyte supplement for a long time but could not find one. Recently, while working on another project, we stumbled upon one, and to a supplement nerd like me, it was a huge find!


They contain only freeze-dried fruits, freeze-dried coconut water, and super pure, mineral-rich Redmond Real Salt and come in a variety of delicious fruity flavors. It even comes in a pineapple version for kids, a great, whole-food alternative to Pedialyte. They supply valuable electrolytes in the best way, via whole foods.


So the next time you need to replenish your electrolytes, you can reach for products with sketchy ingredients or give your body the nourishment it needs in the way it was meant to, with whole foods.


Start tomorrow with a serving of whole food electrolytes in twelve ounces of water and a walk in the sunshine instead of reaching for coffee. You will feel one thousand times better and have a lot more energy!

If you have questions about our electrolyte supplements, email us at info@rooted-nutrition.com, and our superstar staff will be happy to help!

What to look for in an electrolyte supplement

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