Who else is MELTING this summer season?! It’s beautifully sunny and hot, and we’re all a little (or a lot) sweaty. While a quick blast of the AC or a cold shower might do the trick to cool ya down, it’s much more important that we hydrate ourselves from the inside out! Hydration is more than simply just drinking water. In fact, nutrient superstars called electrolytes play a key role in making sure fluid levels stay balanced in our body. Most of us probably know electrolytes as the mysterious in the sugary blue, red, or orange “power” drinks we all drank growing up, after playing sports, or like me, dancing. But what are they exactly?
Electrolytes are minerals in our body that have an electrical charge. What are minerals, you ask? Think potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium! Electrolytes help manage fluid levels and are crucial to so many of our bodily functions working optimally. They are essential to proper hydration, brain clarity, energy production, and muscle contraction. Too few electrolytes can result in headaches, dizziness, nausea, muscle spasms, and cramps. Anyone else remember their coach (or dance teacher) telling them to eat a banana when they were getting calf/foot cramps?
If any of you play or have been involved in dance or sports before, you’ve probably heard about the importance of electrolytes to fuel your game. Maybe you recall your coaches telling you to drink sports beverages like Gatorade. While these drinks have some eye-catching colors and claim to boost performance and recovery; Gatorade, and other drinks like it, are NOT the way to go! They are loaded with refined sugar (it’s usually the second ingredient), amounting to at least 8 1/2 teaspoons of it in one bottle. In addition, they contain chemical additives like binders and artificial colors.
There are tons of natural and delicious ways to get your electrolytes such as: Dark leafy veggies, full-fat organic dairy, nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin and flax seeds), organic meat and fish, legumes, potatoes, and bananas. If you’re an athlete or someone who is spending lots of time outside this summer, you’ll need more electrolytes than most people and you’ll need them more often! Lemon/lime water or coconut water are great drinks for your workouts or practices.
Let’s also touch on salt for a second because it’s much more important than many of us realize! We need salt for survival and optimal well-being, but not the salt that we consume from processed foods. Salt is an important part of proper hydration, but the quality and source of the salt are what make a difference. Opt for Himalayan salt or sea salt over regular table salt, due to it being highly processed, containing anti-caking agents, and lacking in natural minerals. Sodium is naturally found in meat, seafood, dairy, celery, and carrots. Unless you have a condition that requires you to pay extra close attention to your sodium intake, in general, you do not need to watch your salt levels as long as you are staying active and getting it from the right sources.
You’ve probably realized by now that by eating a variety of whole, natural foods you will automatically fill your body up with electrolytes. I didn’t mention the vitamin and mineral content of all these fruits and veggies; but trust me, they are there in abundance! Among those I already mentioned, watermelon, strawberries, melon, pineapple, cucumber, and celery are all incredibly hydrating snacks that are equally as nutritious! Eat the rainbow friends, fuel up with whole foods for those long summer days, and embrace the heat through nutrition! Don’t forget sun protection! Much love.