Electrolytes 101: How much you actually need and where to find them naturally
Sodium can be a confusing nutrition topic to grasp - but a key mineral missing from any sodium conversation is its counterpart: potassium! Potassium is your body's hydration enabler, and helps to provide the health results you seek: better skin, digestion, energy and heart health. How? It works to bring water (and water-soluble nutrients like vitamins Bs, C and antioxidants) into the cells. It also works in opposition to sodium; while potassium brings water into the cells, sodium keeps it outside of your cells.
These electrolytes are both needed for the body to regulate fluid and blood volume. Balance is key, as consuming too much sodium and not enough potassium can result in health problems like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Healthy adults need about 4700 mg/day potassium and most of us come nowhere close to that daily! You can get a healthy dose of potassium from fruits and vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, beans and bananas. Dairy products such as yogurt and seafood such as salmon and clams are also good sources of potassium. The best way to assess whether or not you’re getting in the right amount of potassium is to assess with a dietitian or doctor.
Since potassium and sodium go hand-in-hand, it’s important to find out if your sodium intake is affecting your potassium needs. Surprisingly, the majority of the sodium we consume does not come from the salt shaker - most of it hides in sneaky sources like processed foods (think snacks, canned soups, frozen foods) and food prepared in restaurants.
If most of your nutrition pit stops take place out of the home, you may have an increased need for potassium. Ask for lightly salted food when you eat out and pass on adding extra salt via the shaker. For added flavor try exciting spices such as turmeric or garlic, or add fresh herbs like basil, mint or thyme. While you’re lowering your sodium intake, maintain balance by consuming potassium-rich whole foods such as greens, beans, sweet potatoes and bananas.
Lifestyle factors can also factor into your sodium/potassium balance. Heavy exercise, alcohol consumption, frequent use of diuretics, certain GI disorders and frequent flying can also lead to dehydrating situations that call for better potassium intake.
Pay attention to certain cues that may be signals as well, such as frequent fatigue, weakness, muscle cramping or constipation. These are all signs that you may need more potassium in your life. Want to learn more about nutrition pairings like these? Reach out for a complimentary 15-minute sessions with seed+season today!