Low- Sugar Ways to Re­plen­ish Elec­trolytes

Cac­tus wa­ter, co­conut wa­ter, and other novel ways to re­plen­ish lost flu­ids.

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - BY MELISSA DIANE SMITH

Q : My el­derly mother has be­come de­hy­drated a few times re­cently, and I give tours outdoors in the sum­mer­time and sweat a lot. Our physi­cian rec­om­mended com­mer­cial electrolyte re­place­ment drinks for both of us. I am look­ing for some ideas of health­ier electrolyte re­place­ment drinks with­out all the sugar, ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, ar­ti­fi­cial col­ors, and ad­di­tives found in the com­mer­cial types. Could you fill me in a lit­tle about elec­trolytes and why the el­derly are more likely to be­come de­pleted, and offer sug­ges­tions on bet­ter- for- you ways to re­place these im­por­tant min­er­als, es­pe­cially on hot sum­mer days? — DeeDee R., Philadel­phia

a: Elec­trolytes are min­er­als, in­clud­ing sodium, chlo­ride, potas­sium, mag­ne­sium, and cal­cium, that as­sist in proper mus­cle func­tion, main­tain­ing fl uid bal­ance, and sup­port­ing nerve ac­tiv­ity. When you lose a lot of fl uids in a short pe­riod of time, you can be­come defi cient or im­bal­anced in these nutri­ents.

De­hy­dra­tion

De­hy­dra­tion— a con­di­tion that oc­curs when more fl uid leaves the body than en­ters— can aff ect the con­cen­tra­tion of the body’s elec­trolytes, lead­ing to electrolyte im­bal­ance. In­tense sweat­ing in the sum­mer heat, as well as med­i­cal con­di­tions such as di­ar­rhea, vom­it­ing, blood loss, and di­a­betes, can cause de­hy­dra­tion and electrolyte im­bal­ance. Some med­i­ca­tions, es­pe­cially di­uret­ics, can also lead to de­hy­dra­tion. The el­derly are at higher risk of de­hy­dra­tion and electrolyte im­bal­ance be­cause they are more apt to de­velop med­i­cal con­di­tions that put them at risk, or to take med­i­ca­tions that in­crease their risk. Signs and symp­toms of de­hy­dra­tion in adults and the el­derly in­clude fa­tigue, dizzi­ness, con­fu­sion, headache, ir­ri­tabil­ity, dis­ori­en­ta­tion, thirst, dark urine, and sunken eyes. Es­pe­cially in older adults, weak­ness and dizzi­ness can pro­voke falls, a com­mon cause of in­jury in the el­derly. De­pend­ing on what type of electrolyte im­bal­ance de­vel­ops, a num­ber of symp­toms can re­sult, in­clud­ing mus­cle aches, spasms, twitches, and weak­ness; heart pal­pi­ta­tions or ir­reg­u­lar heart­beat; blood pres­sure changes; fa­tigue; con­fu­sion; and even ner­vous sys­tem dis­or­ders. Moder­ate de­hy­dra­tion and electrolyte im­bal­ance are of­ten treated with in­tra­venous hy­dra­tion in ur­gent care, the emer­gency room, or even the hospi­tal. Mild de­hy­dra­tion and electrolyte im­bal­ance can usu­ally be treated sim­ply by drink­ing more fl uids.

Healthy Ways to Re­place Elec­trolytes

In­stead of drink­ing com­mer­cial electrolyte re­place­ment bev­er­ages packed with sugar, ar­tifi cial sweet­en­ers, ar­tifi cial col­ors, and ad­di­tives, try these health­ier ways to in­crease your in­take of elec­trolytes.

CO­CONUT WA­TER— Co­conut wa­ter is a clear liq­uid in the fruit’s cen­ter that is tapped from young, green co­conuts. It con­tains eas­ily di­gested car­bo­hy­drates and is rich in an­tiox­i­dants and min­er­als.

Some­times dubbed “Mother Na­ture’s sports drink” by mar­keters, unsweet­ened co­conut wa­ter has fewer calo­ries, less sugar, less sodium, and more potas­sium than com­mer­cial sports drinks. Ounce- per- ounce, most un­fla­vored co­conut wa­ter con­tains 5.45 calo­ries, 1.3 grams of sugar, 61 mg of potas­sium, and 5.45 mg of sodium. In com­par­i­son, Ga­torade has 6.25 calo­ries, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potas­sium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

The health­i­est brands of co­conut wa­ter are made from young co­conuts that are sus­tain­ably grown and har­vested; con­tain no ad­di­tives, preser­va­tives, or added sug­ars; and aren’t made from con­cen­trate. Brands to look for in­clude Taste Nir­vana and Har­vest Bay plain va­ri­ety. For an 8- oz. serv­ing, these brands of co­conut wa­ter sup­ply 40– 50 calo­ries and 6– 9 grams of sugar.

CAC­TUS WA­TER OR CAC­TUS NEC­TAR— The peo­ple of the Sono­ran desert have long used prickly pear cac­tus, also called nopal, for medic­i­nal and nu­tri­tional pur­poses. They be­lieved prickly pear cac­tus was an es­sen­tial el­e­ment to their health and sur­vival. That may be for good rea­son: Re­search has found that prickly pear cac­tus is a good source of nutri­ents, in­clud­ing elec­trolytes and an­tiox­i­dants.

True Nopal Cac­tus Wa­ter is a con­ve­nient, ready- to- drink bev­er­age made from wa­ter, prickly pear con­cen­trate, and nat­u­ral fla­vor. It has a re­fresh­ing fruit taste and no added sug­ars or sweet­en­ers. It con­tains about half the calo­ries and sugar as the lead­ing brand of co­conut wa­ter while still pro­vid­ing elec­trolytes, es­pe­cially potas­sium and mag­ne­sium, and an­tiox­i­dants.

An­other op­tion: Ari­zona Cac­tus Ranch makes Prickly Pear Nec­tar, or 100% pure prickly pear con­cen­trate. As a source of elec­trolytes and an­tiox­i­dants, take 1 tsp. per day. Or make Prickly Pear Electrolyte Wa­ter by ad­ding 2– 4 tsp. of Prickly Pear Nec­tar to a 16 oz. bot­tle of wa­ter.

Both co­conut wa­ter and cac­tus wa­ter are lack­ing in sodium. If you think you could be de­fi­cient in sodium, which is com­mon dur­ing electrolyte de­ple­tion, add a pinch of high- qual­ity salt to a meal, or eat a salty snack, such as salted nuts, fer­mented raw sauer­kraut, or a pickle, in ad­di­tion to drink­ing these health­ier electrolyte bev­er­ages.

Make a Homemade Electrolyte Drink

There are cre­ative ways to make your own “electrolyte re­place­ment” bev­er­ages that nat­u­rally sup­ply potas­sium, sodium, mag­ne­sium, and cal­cium. Here are two ideas for low- sugar, electrolyte- con­tain­ing com­bi­na­tions to try:

* Juice 6 stalks of cel­ery ( a nat­u­ral source of sodium, potas­sium, mag­ne­sium, chlo­ride, and phos­pho­rus), one ap­ple, and one lemon. * Blend 1 ba­nana, 1 cup al­mond milk, and 1 cup kale. The ba­nana and al­monds are rich in mag­ne­sium and potas­sium. Kale is a su­per­food and an ex­cel­lent source of cal­cium and mag­ne­sium.

Sip on Bone Broth

An an­cient South Amer­i­can proverb says “bone broth can res­ur­rect the dead.” That may be a bit of a stretch, but 100% or­ganic chicken and beef bone broths do have in­cred­i­ble heal­ing prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing be­ing great sources of bioavail­able min­er­als such as phos­pho­rus, sodium, mag­ne­sium, and cal­cium. Sip­ping on bone broth is a de­li­cious and easy way to re­plen­ish lost elec­trolytes. One well- known brand that you can find in many nat­u­ral food stores is Bon­afide Pro­vi­sions.

Use a Pow­dered Electrolyte Sup­ple­ment

You can also mix a pow­dered electrolyte di­etary sup­ple­ment into wa­ter and drink it as needed. Try Vega Sport

Electrolyte Hy­dra­tor di­etary sup­ple­ment, which is sweet­ened with ste­via ex­tract, not sugar. It comes in two yummy fla­vors ( Lemon Lime and Berry) and has zero calo­ries.

Eat Min­eral- Rich Foods & Drink Wa­ter

Mar­keters have done an ef­fec­tive job of mak­ing you think that you need a bev­er­age to re­place elec­trolytes. But you can ob­tain the crit­i­cal min­er­als from many foods too. In most cases, you don’t re­ally need a spe­cial drink. You can re­plen­ish elec­trolytes sim­ply by eat­ing foods that are rich in ap­pro­pri­ate min­er­als, and drink­ing pure wa­ter. For snacks or when mak­ing meals, in­clude:

* Real salt, Hi­malayan salt, or Celtic sea salt to pro­vide sodium and chlo­ride. * Fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles to load up on potas­sium. * Pro­tein- rich foods, such as meat, poul­try, fish, nuts, and beans for phos­pho­rus. * Dark- green leafy veg­eta­bles and nuts to sup­ply mag­ne­sium. * Dairy prod­ucts, nuts, and greens for cal­cium.

Do you have a ques­tion for the nutritionist? We would love to hear from you. Please email your ques­tions to bnask­thenu­tri­tion­ist@gmail.com.

Melissa Diane Smith is an in­ter­na­tion­ally known jour­nal­ist and holis­tic nutritionist who has more than 20 years of clin­i­cal nu­tri­tion ex­pe­ri­ence and spe­cial­izes in us­ing food as medicine. She is the cut­ting- edge au­thor of Go­ing Against GMOs, Go­ing Against the Grain, and Gluten Free Through­out the Year, and the coau­thor of Syn­drome X. To learn about her books, long- dis­tance con­sul­ta­tions, nu­tri­tion coach­ing pro­grams, or speak­ing, visit her web­sites: melis­sa­di­ane­smith. com and again­st­the­grain­nu­tri­tion. com.

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