Excuse me while I chew on this rock

Have you ever experienced one of those obsessive, “I’m not going to be able to sleep, work or play until I satisfy my craving for a Twinkie” kinds of moments? Except instead of a small snack cake, your craving may be for chocolate, potato chips, ice cream, broccoli, bananas, or just about anything?

The need for salty, sweet, and wet isn’t just compulsive longings; it’s often driven by our bodies’ need for essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Many psychologically or pleasure-derived cravings are short-lived. We can always be disciplined, demonstrating restraint until the craving passes, eating small portions of whatever’s calling to us, or substituting healthier options. But the cravings we should heed are those that close a nutritional gap or replace critical chemicals such as electrolytes or salt, which we lose through heavy perspiration and physical activity, or potassium and magnesium, which help regulate metabolism, blood pressure, heart function, anxiety and much more.

An electrolyte is a food item that contains an electrical charge when consumed, making the solution itself electrically conductive. Electrolytes are highly important in our diet; they aid in helping us to maintain hydration, regulate muscle and nerve function, and help improve acid-base balance. It is important to consume foods that are high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium.

Sodium is found in most processed foods, snacks and drinks, but too much isn’t good for your heart and blood pressure, so finding a balance is important. You can replace sodium and electrolytes lost to physical activity by drinking sports drinks; too much water “flushes” sodium and can leave you with a deficiency.

We get calcium, which is critical for healthy bone growth and strength, from milk and other dairy products, as well as from fortified cereals, beans, vegetables such as asparagus, and fruits such as figs.

Potassium can be found in many foods, including bananas, kale, tomatoes, oranges, melons and soy products. Milk and yogurt, as well as nuts, red meat, fish and an enormous variety of vegetables (it’s often found in the skin of veggies like sweet potatoes and squash) also are excellent sources of potassium. Fruits that contain significant sources of potassium include citrus fruits, cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi, prunes, and apricots.

Magnesium is equally critical, though doesn’t get as much attention, typically, in articles and on television. Magnesium helps regulate your metabolic rate, heart rate and blood pressure, and helps keep bones healthy and strong. Magnesium deficiency can be found in many forms. If you are suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, stress, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle spasms, insomnia, osteoporosis, or cardiovascular disease, there could be a magnesium deficiency in your diet.

Foods rich in magnesium include green vegetables, nuts, beans, fish, bananas, avocados, tomato, certain spices, whole grains, and chocolate.

Eating at least three or four of these foods each day will ensure that you are meeting your magnesium requirements and need for other essential nutrients. There also are supplements available at health-food stores, though you should consult with your physician before adding supplements to your diet, especially if you take medication or suffer from chronic diseases.

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. Employees in this program have access to tools and information that can help improve their overall physical and mental well-being. The program is free to both you and your employees as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!