Foods High in Electrolytes

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on January 23, 2024
4 min read

Electrolytes are minerals that your body needs to function. They're called electrolytes because they carry an electric charge. 

Some of the common electrolytes found in the body are:

Your body makes some electrolytes, and you get them from food. You need certain amounts of electrolytes each day for good health. 


Electrolytes have many important jobs in your body. Each electrolyte plays a different role:


  • Balances fluid levels inside and outside cells
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Helps send nerve signals
  • Helps your muscles contract


  • Helps move nutrients into your cells 
  • Helps your nerves and muscles function, especially your heart
  • Supports your metabolism


  • Builds and strengthens your bones and teeth
  • Helps muscles contract and sends nerve signals
  • Aids stable blood pressure


  • Aids muscle and nerve function
  • Builds and strengthens your bones and teeth


  • Builds and strengthens your bones and teeth
  • Aids nerve and muscle function


  • Balances fluids inside and outside cells
  • Regulates blood pressure

Not getting enough electrolytes can have negative effects that range from mild to severe, depending on what nutrient you're low on. Here's what could happen if you don't get enough of these electrolytes:


  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Coma


  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness or spasms
  • Numbness or tingling


  • Unusual eye movements
  • Fatigue
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle spasms, cramps, and weakness
  • Numbness


  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry skin
  • Nails that break easily
  • Memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Crankiness


  • Low appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Joint stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Bone pain and weakness
  • Breathing problems


Many foods are rich in electrolytes. Some of the top sources include:

Potassium: Bananas, beet greens, salmon, white beans, avocado, potatoes, milk, mushrooms

Sodium: Dill pickles, clams, table salt, cheese, dry-roasted sunflower seeds

Magnesium: Spinach, pumpkin seeds, lima beans, tuna, brown rice, almonds

Phosphorous: Yellowfin tuna, tofu, milk, chicken, scallops, pumpkin seeds, quinoa

Calcium: Milk, cheese, spinach, tofu, yogurt, okra, trout, acorn squash

Electrolytes are often measured as part of a routine blood panel that you get as part of an annual physical. Your doctor might order an electrolyte test if they think you might have levels that are too high or low. Your doctor will look for signs that your electrolytes might be out of balance, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat

Electrolyte blood test

During an electrolyte blood test, a health care professional will take a small sample of your blood. They'll insert a small needle into a vein in your inner arm and draw a small amount of blood into a vial. This is a quick 5-minute test that is not painful. You might feel a small sting when they insert the needle. 

Most people can replenish their electrolytes through foods and drinks. You might need more electrolytes than usual if you:

  • Sweat a lot
  • Are recovering from a bout of diarrhea or vomiting 
  • Do strenuous exercise for long periods
  • Have a health condition that lowers your electrolyte levels

A lot of people turn to sports drinks when they want more electrolytes. But those drinks tend to be very high in sugar. Whole foods and unsweetened beverages naturally high in electrolytes are a better choice. 

If you have very low levels of an electrolyte, you should see your doctor for treatment. 

Electrolytes are important minerals that your body makes and that you get from food. They protect the health of your heart, nerves, and muscles and build strong bones and teeth, among other things. You can most likely get all the electrolytes you need through a daily diet that includes a variety of produce, lean meats, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. 

Is it OK to drink electrolytes every day?

Many beverages, such as milk and coconut water, are naturally good sources of electrolytes that you can drink every day. Sports drinks are also high in electrolytes, but they also tend to be high in sugar, which isn't good for you. They also may be very high in sodium, which can be bad for your health if you take in too much. Sports drinks are best for when you have sweat a lot, worked out for a long time, or are recovering from a period of vomiting or diarrhea. 

What is the best source of electrolytes for the elderly?

The elderly can get electrolytes from whole foods, such as milk, lean meat, tofu, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables. A low-sugar electrolyte drink might be a good option if they are having trouble eating or need a quick source of electrolytes. Talk to your doctor about the best way to get the electrolytes you need at any age. 

Is drinking water enough for electrolytes?

Tap or filtered water does contain some electrolytes. Amounts can vary, depending on your water source. But the amounts in regular water aren't enough to help you meet your daily needs. You also need to get electrolytes through foods and drinks that naturally contain the minerals.