Wondering exactly how potassium benefits your health and wondering what foods, other than bananas, can give you your daily dose?
... You've come to the right spot.
Potassium is a dietary mineral, essential for nerve and muscle function as well as fluid balance. The problem is that we often don’t get enough.
In fact, researchers at University of London estimate that potassium consumption in developed countries is only one third of our evolutionary intake! This is mainly because of increased intake of processed foods combined with a dearth of potassium-rich fruit and veg in the typical Western diet.
No wonder that the typical developed-world-diet is potassium deficient and that many of use aren’t getting the potassium benefits we might.
Potassium Benefits: Other than not enough fruits and veggies, why are we so potassium defiicient?
The problem of too little potassium is exacerbated because of our passion for salted foods and food manufacture’s penchant for putting sodium chloride (and oodles of it) in so many packaged products.
The trend has gotten worse with the surfeit of “low fat” grocery items on offer that are marketed as heart healthy. Often, salt merely replaces the tasty fat, lest the food taste like a dishrag.
The result of all this extra salt can be high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease. So much for how a low fat (but high salt) diet can lead to health problems! Enough potassium rich fruits and veg could help.
Another piece in the potassium deficiency
story is magnesium. If you’re not eating enough magnesium rich foods, you won’t
be able to retain the potassium you get.
Spotlight on Potassium Benefits: So what are they?
Key potassium benefits include:
Potassium Benefits: Signs you are potassium deficient and who is at risk for deficiency
As mentioned, potassium is essential for nerve and muscle function as well as fluid balance including calcium and sodium balance. Not surprisingly, symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle weakness, heart arrhythmia, low blood pressure, fainting and bone fracture as well as insulin resistance. Whoah!
I don’t know about you but I’m for making sure I get enough potassium?
Aside from low intake of potassium foods, dehydration including vomiting and diarrhea can cause potassium deficiency.
Because of this, people with digestive conditions like crohn’s, colitis and IBS are at risk for potassium deficiency.
A magnesium deficiency can contribute to low potassium levels and make it hard to boost your potassium. Untreated diabetes can lead to potassium deficiency through urine excretion.
Spotlight on Potassium Benefits: How much do you need to get potassium benefits.*
Recommended potassium intake for kids
Recommended potassium intake for adults
*Source: University of Maryland Medical Center
Spotlight on Potassium Benefits: What are the best dietary sources of potassium
In short the best food sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables, especially sea vegetables like dulse and kelp. Use the below list to help get your potassium intake to where it should be.
Spotlight on Potassium Benefits: Normal range
Potassium is a mineral in which balance is key. Too little (hypokalemia), as seen above, is bad; too much (hyperkalemia) can have negative health consequence too and suggest underlying disease or nutritional problems.
Kidney disease can reduce your ability to excrete potassium leading to high levels that can do further damage, so be careful of potassium supplementation when you are older or at risk for compromised kidney function.
If you need a boost to your potassium intake, consider taking potassium supplements. Many multi-vitamins contain potassium. As well you can supplement separately. The most common forms are potassium acetate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, potassium chloride, and potassium gluconate.
Nutritional potassium supplements often contain dulse or kelp or other sea vegetables, which are available in powder and pill form. This is a relatively safe way to get potassium but, like with mineral source supplements, don’t overdo it.
If you are older, have compromised kidney function or on certain meds, you should check with your doctor before supplementing potassium or any mineral for that matter.
Remember, whenever we’re talking about minerals including electrolytes we’re talking about balance. Excess intake of any mineral, including potassium, can play havoc with your health.
Spotlight on Potassium Benefits: Downside of too much potassium – Conditions in which potassium plays a role
High potassium levels (hyperkalemia), even with normal potassium intake, are the sign of several conditions including kidney disease, certain kinds of adrenal gland dysfunction (the adrenals produce a hormone that regulates electrolytes), certain low blood pressure conditions and for some individuals taking ACE inhibitors or particular kinds of diuretics. A low potassium diet may be necessary in these situations, so check with your doctor if needed.
If you suffer kidney disease your doctor will test your urine potassium levels. For more info on how a heart healthy diet is a kidney disease diet and can help slow kidney disease progression, press here.
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For more on Potassium Benefits and related topics…
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