Monday, August 23, 2010

Electrolytes and hydration

This post is about electrolytes, roughly how they work, and why they are important. This is dedicated to my good friend who asked me if I could explain to her about how electrolytes relate to hydration. I bowed my head and told her I could not explain it and it has been bugging me ever since.

The body loses salt through sweat. Foods we eat contain mineral salts, which form electrolytes. These electrolytes dissolve in the bodies fluids and become present in urine, blood, and the fluid inside and around our bodies cells. They are essential for the bodies nerve, muscle, and heart functions (which is why muscle cramps are associated with loss of electrolytes).

Electrolytes are actually electrically charged and cause electrical pulses that make the bodies cells contract. Kidneys filter electrolytes from the blood and keep the levels at a constant. Hormones also keep electrolytes in balance. The electrical charges go through compounds such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride and these charges support your heart and blood vessels. The sodium controls the amount of water in our bodies, potassium controls nerve and muscular systems, and calcium builds bone frame and teeth.

The most common electrolyte imbalances are in sodium and potassium. Both conditions can result in an array of serious health conditions such as; kidney disease and dangerous changes in heart function. In a nut shell, to minimize stress on your body it is wise to replace your electrolytes when you are in situations that cause you to sweat a lot. Symptoms of electrolyte loss include muscle and/or abdominal cramps, light headedness, nausea, and confusion.

What are the best ways to replace your sodium and potassium? Two of my favorites are coconut water and mineral broth. Coconut water is nature's Gatorade. 10 ounces of coconut water contains 650 mg of potassium (15 times more than a banana), 25 mg of magnesium, and 35 mg of sodium. Read more about the history and benefits of coconut water here.

Looking for a boost of energy? Try this amazing mineral broth recipe from Recipes & Remedies for Rejuvenation Cookbook by Dr. Edward Bauman.

Wash and scrub and cut into 1" chunks (leave skin on):

2 cups yams
1 medium potato
1 cup zucchini
1 cup cabbage
1 cup green beans
2 cups celery

Slice into strips:

1 cup collard greens
1 cup onion

Coarsely chop:

1/2 tsp fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dill weed
1 clove garlic

Add whole:

1/2 cup flax seed

Place ingredients in a large pot with a lid. Cover with filtered water, just to the level of the vegetables and add:

6 slices fresh ginger root
1/4 cup or more of seaweed (dulse, nori, wakame, hiziki, kombu)

Bring the water to a boil, then turn down and let simmer for 3-5 hours.

You will be amazed at the energy boost you get from a mug of this delicious broth, enjoy!

Sources:; Discovery Health; Bauman College Forum; Running Times Magazine, November 2009.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cocounut Flour

I have recently discovered the amazing taste (and benefits) of using coconut flour. This may not be new for some of you, but I am pretty excited about it. I have been trying to reduce my gluten consumption due to it's inflammatory properties. I do not have a sensitivity that I am aware of, but I do find that eating less gluten means less useless carbs and more useful carbs, more energy, and overall better food choices. By eating less gluten, I naturally eat more whole (less processed) foods resulting in more nutrient-dense food choices. For more on eating an anti-inflammatory diet, check out this great book by Jessica K. Black, N.D., The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book.

I have replaced a lot of my wheat-based flours with other types of flours that don't always produce the same results. However, this past weekend I experimented on my family with gluten-free coconut pancakes. I just used the basic recipe from the back of the Bob's Redmill Coconut Flour and combined it with Brown Rice Flour, added a mashed banana, and fried the pancakes in pancakes in coconut oil.

Coconut flour is the fiber from the coconut meat after the oil has been extracted. It is high in dietary fiber and protein, and gluten free.

If you have questions about the benefits of using coconut products, gluten, or inflammation, please contact me directly.

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Coconut Banana Pancakes -- yum!
1 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon raw, organic sugar (or substitute, I think honey would work fine)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk, plain yogurt
1/2 to 1 whole banana mashed (depending on your taste)

Mix together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add oil, eggs, banana, and yogurt, blend with a hand beater until just blended. Texture will be a little thicker than regular pancake batter, but cooks up fluffy, I promise. Pour batter onto medium hot griddle sprayed with coconut oil cooking spray or butter. Cook until underside is nicely brown, flip, and brown the other side.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! It was a huge hit in my (somewhat skeptical) family.