Put Down the Sugary Sports Drink—These 9 Foods Naturally Replenish Electrolytes

Bet you didn't know you could refuel with these ingredients.

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When you hear the word “electrolytes,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most folks, you probably think of those neon, sugary sports drinks touted by professional athletes. But as it turns out, these popular beverages aren’t the only (or even the best) sources of electrolytes—you can get them from natural food and drink sources too.

First, a quick refresher on electrolytes. According to Casey Kelley, M.D., ABoIM, founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health, electrolytes are a category of essential minerals—including nutrients like sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and chloride—that carry a positive or negative charge. Electrolytes are well known for their role in proper hydration, but they’re also required for basic bodily processes like nerve and muscle function, hormone secretion, and blood pH balance.

We inevitably lose electrolytes throughout the day through sweating, urine, and breathing. So it’s important to fuel up and replace these minerals consistently, whether you’re recovering from an intense, sweaty workout or supporting general hydration

While an electrolyte-packed sports drink can be helpful after losing a lot of fluids in a short amount of time—from vigorous exercise (especially in the heat), a stomach bug, or a night of strong cocktails, for example—it’s not always necessary to reach for a bottle of Gatorade. 

“If you opt for sports drinks, there’s a much higher chance you’re consuming other things you might not want, [such as] added coloring or flavoring agents, and typically, a good deal of added sugar,” says registered dietitian Maddie Pasquariello, M.S., RDN. 

Instead, focus on a healthy diet rich in whole foods, fruits, and veggies, which is usually more than enough to replenish electrolytes and stay properly hydrated. Not sure where to start? These foods and drinks are easy to find at the store and natural sources of electrolytes.

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The electrolyte content of bananas is so impressive, it’s, well, bananas. The fruit offers 32 milligrams of magnesium, 25 milligrams of phosphorus, and a whopping 375 milligrams of potassium, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). What’s more, bananas are a terrific source of carbohydrate energy, which is necessary to fuel the body and brain, says Laura Wilson, R.D., registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes care and education specialist at Yale New Haven Health. Between bananas’ hydrating electrolytes and energizing carbs, they make a mighty pre-workout or post-workout snack.

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You might be surprised to learn that yogurt is a natural source of electrolytes. According to the USDA, a 5.5-ounce container of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt contains 173 milligrams of calcium, 220 milligrams of potassium, 212 milligrams of phosphorus, and 56 milligrams of sodium. It’s also packed with protein, making it filling and satisfying food. Try adding yogurt to your next smoothie or use it in parfaits, dips, or even yogurt toast.

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According to Dr. Kelley, spinach contains two important electrolytes: calcium and magnesium. The leafy green veggie also offers folate, iron, and vitamins A, B, and E, giving you a nutritional bang for your buck. Spinach is easy to incorporate into dishes, from hearty stews to warming soups. If you prefer to drink your greens, take a tip from Dr. Kelley and blend spinach, coconut water, and blueberries for a satisfying, electrolyte-rich smoothie.

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“While all fruits and vegetables contain electrolytes, watermelon is unique in that it’s also rich in water,” Wilson explains. Case in point: One cup of cubed watermelon provides 170 milligrams of potassium, along with magnesium and phosphorus in small amounts. It also offers 139 milliliters of water—over ½ cup, Wilson notes. Needless to say, adding more watermelon to your diet is an excellent way to elevate your electrolyte game.

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According to Wilson, whole grains such as oats are rich in electrolytes. Just ½ cup of quick oats contains 166 milligrams phosphorus, 146 milligrams potassium, and 56 milligrams of magnesium, according to the USDA. “Think of all the electrolytes you’d be consuming if you paired oats with yogurt and fresh fruit,” notes Wilson. Try the combo in a batch of overnight oats or baked oats, a deliciously healthy breakfast trend.

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In case you needed another reason to love guacamole, avocados make the list of foods high in electrolytes. According to Pasquarellio, they’re rich in potassium and magnesium, offering 728 and 43 milligrams per fruit, respectively. The beloved avocado also contains anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats and vitamin E, plus satiating fiber to boot. It’s the perfect excuse to chow down avocado recipes, including tasty avocado toast.

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Lemon Juice

For extra flavor and electrolytes, add a bit of lemon juice to your next meal or drink. “Lemons contain some potassium and a bit of phosphorus,” according to Pasquariello. They also offer vitamin C, a nutrient that’s essential for healthy immune function and more. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the zesty brightness of lemon juice; sprinkle it on salads, mix it into soups or stews, or squeeze over roasted veggies, suggests Pasquariello. You can also add it to water and tea, but if you’re looking for maximum hydration potential, enjoy it with electrolyte-rich coconut water.

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Coconut Water

When it comes to naturally hydrating drinks, you can’t go wrong with coconut water. According to Dr. Kelley, the refreshing drink contains potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium, making it a great option for supporting hydration. “Coconut water also decreases the risk of kidney stones due to the fact that hydration is one of the [most important] preventative measures,” she adds. Enjoy coconut water as is or add it to smoothies to get your fill of electrolytes.

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Sea Salt

“Sea salt contains magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium,” shares Pasquariello. You can use it in cooking just like you would other spices—or, if you’re feeling crafty, use it to make a DIY electrolyte drink. According to Pasquariello, all you need to do is mix a pinch of sea salt with warm water, the juice of one lemon, and a bit of honey or maple syrup. If lemon juice isn’t your thing, try grapefruit or orange juice. Don’t worry about exact ratios here; you can eyeball the amounts and adjust accordingly.

But take note: This option isn’t safe for everyone. According to Pasquariello, if you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and/or diabetes, you might need to limit your intake of added salt. In this case, chat with your doctor before trying this drink or taking electrolyte supplements.

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