Chef Ellen


The Value and Beauty of Hydration, and Why are Electrolytes All the Buzz?

While I often stress the importance of a balanced diet, it’s crucial to recognize the transformative power of proper hydration. Just as we derive nutrients from our food, maintaining a well-hydrated body is equally vital for our everyday functions.

These days, being glued to our ever-popular water bottle seems like a must. I always leave home with two filled with water as I go about my daily routines. However, water is no longer the end-all-be-all for appropriately nourishing and the only source for reaping benefits from quality hydration practices.

We lose vital electrolytes daily from daily activities, movement, heat, normal kidney functions, illnesses, medications (diuretics, antibiotics, laxatives, chemotherapy drugs), and poor dietary habits.

Adequate hydration affects both physical and mental well-being. I recently had a firsthand experience of this while hiking the Grand Canyon. It was undoubtedly challenging but one of the most rewarding adventures I have crossed off my bucket list. While in the canyon, I noticed the water was not quenching my thirst, which irritated me. A guide made me stop and noted that I must either take a salt pill or eat an orange. I picked the orange, and my mood instantly picked up as I felt the thirst instantly satisfied. This personal experience made me realize the importance of electrolytes and how plain water alone would not have been sufficient. As much as water is essential, the additional nutrients make for more effective hydration.

Many think that seltzers, coffee, or tea are adequate sources of hydration for their bodies, but they need to include beneficial compounds that whole foods can also provide. Many also do not realize that coffee and tea are diuretics, meaning instead of holding on to the positive effects of hydrating, those drinks will cause your kidneys to make more urine, and you will lose that vital fluid and salt more quickly.

Let’s examine the role of electrolytes in our body. These minerals carry a charge and are essential for a wide range of physiological functions, including maintaining fluid balance, supporting nerve and muscle function, aiding in detoxification, regulating blood pressure, and promoting bone health. In other words, they are crucial for our overall well-being and hydration.
The main minerals electrolytes provide are as follows:
o Sodium
o Potassium
o Calcium
o Magnesium
o Chloride
o Bicarbonate
o Phosphate

Whole-food sources play a crucial role in hydration. They include table salt, bananas, oranges, potatoes, spinach, dairy, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. By incorporating these foods into your diet, you can ensure more balanced and effective hydration.

When an imbalance occurs, look for the following warning signs:

o Muscle cramps
o Irregular heartbeat
o Thirst
o Decreased urine output
o Fatigue
o Dry skin
o Headache
o Dizziness
o Constipation
o Confusion
o Low blood pressure

Complementing the wide range of benefits both hydration and nutrients offer comes with awareness and your frame of mind to make your best effort. A sufficient intake of liquids, even from fresh fruits bursting with natural juices, aids in balance. Intact sources are better choices, so be wary of pre-packaged smoothies, sweetened teas, or juices. Most store-bought versions contain added sugars up to 50+ grams per serving. To calculate how teaspoons of added sugar go into your favorite beverage, divide the grams of added sugar by 4. The numbers can be staggering, but it is an eye-opener when you become more mindful.

Shifting those choices and giving significant purpose to your personalized journey requires one day at a time and minor improvements leading to significant strides. Water is essential, as it makes up about 60% of the human body, but the appropriate nutrients are a super-power not to be dismissed.  Please work with your body, not against it, to ensure an adequate intake of both.

In good health!

Grand Canyon