Electrolytes are a group of minerals essential for all forms of life and include potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate and sodium. They are in all fluids in your body, including blood, urine and cellular fluids. Electrolytes get their name from the electrical charges they carry, which support all your body's systems. Your body works hard to balance electrolytes, since having too much or too little leads to problems with normal electric conductivity. Most foods in your diet provide several types of electrolyte minerals, but some natural foods are especially rich in certain ones.
Potassium has a positive charge and resides primarily in the fluid inside of cells. It passes through cell membranes as needed, to keep an even flow of electrical current and balance fluids. You need 4,700 mg of potassium each day, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Fresh produce and nuts are your best options for getting your daily potassium requirement. A medium-size baked potato with skin contains approximately 925 mg, 1/2 cup of steamed spinach offers 420 mg, 1 oz. of sunflower seeds has 240 mg and a medium banana provides around 420 mg.
While about 99 percent of the calcium in your body goes to support bone structure, the remaining 1 percent is involved with several biochemical reactions. A portion of calcium remains in the intercellular fluid, which is the fluid around cells. As a healthy adult, make sure you get the recommended 1,000 mg of calcium every day, advises the Office of Dietary Supplements. Dairy foods are your best option for calcium intake, with a 1-cup serving of yogurt having 415 mg and an 8-oz. glass of milk providing nearly 300 mg. Spinach, kale, tofu and fortified orange juice are additional sources of this electrolyte.
Magnesium is a highly important electrolyte since it helps keep your heart rhythm steady. Trace amounts of magnesium circulate in your bloodstream, but your body works hard to maintain steady levels. Women require 320 mg of daily magnesium, while men need as much as 420 mg, notes the Office of Dietary Supplements. A 3-oz. serving of halibut offers 90 mg, 1 oz. of roasted almonds has 80 mg, 1/2 cup of cooked spinach provides 75 mg and 2 tbsps. of peanut butter contains 50 mg.
Chloride is a negatively charged ion that comes mainly from salt and resides in the fluid outside cells, which helps to maintain normal fluid balance and is also a component of stomach acid. Making sure that you ingest your daily 2 g of chloride helps to keep you properly hydrated. Seaweed, rye bread, tomatoes and olives are all full of chloride. Most of your chloride intake probably comes from regular table salt.
Phosphate is a natural electrolyte found in almost all foods, but too much can have a laxative effect. According to MedlinePlus, you need 700 mg of phosphate daily. Carbonated cola beverages contain large amounts of phosphate in the form of phosphorous, which can deplete normal fluid balance if you consume too much. Phosphate from meat and dairy is easier for you to absorb than that found in whole grains and cereals.
Most of the sodium in your body is in the fluid around cells. Sodium and potassium work side-by-side, going through cell walls and conducting electricity. This process is necessary for heart beats, nerve transmission and muscle contraction. You need 1,500 mg of sodium daily, which is equivalent to 3,800 mg of table salt. Few foods provide high amounts of natural sodium. A medium carrot offers 42 mg, an 8 oz. glass of tomato juice contains 24 mg and 1 cup of brown rice has 10 mg. The majority of sodium in your diet comes from salted foods, such as bread, ham, pretzels and potato chips.