What is potassium?

Potassium is an essential nutrient and the third most abundant mineral in the human body. It works with sodium as electrolytes in fluids both inside and outside of cells, making it capable of conducting electricity which is critical in maintaining water balance, proper muscle contraction, nerve impulses and heart function.

Keeping the right potassium balance in the body depends on the amount of sodium in the blood. Too much sodium, common in diets that use a lot of salt, will increase the need for potassium. Severe diarrhea, vomiting, malabsorption syndromes, and alcoholism, can also cause potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalemia.

Potassium deficiency

If you are eating a healthy diet loaded with fresh fish, fruits, beans and vegetables, you are likely covering your daily need for potassium. A deficiency in potassium has higher chance to occur in people taking diuretic drugs. While potassium deficiency is rare, low potassium levels can cause symptoms including muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, constipation, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

Typical diets today are high in salt and low in fruits and vegetables. Imbalanced potassium level in long term could lead to acidic body and result in poor digestion, frequently feeling tired, poorer heart health, and increase in the risks of chronic diseases such as stroke, osteoporosis, and kidney disease.

Potassium health benefits:

1. Supports cardiovascular health

Low potassium intake has repeatedly been linked with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease. As an electrolyte that counteracts the effect of sodium, helping to maintain blood pressure and control hypertension which is a major risk factor for the development of stroke, coronary heart disease and heart failure. Because potassium decreases intravascular volume and sodium reabsorption to maintain vascular smooth muscle health and sympathetic nervous system cell function. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium is crucial to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Maintains bone health and prevents osteoporosis

The most promoted hypothesis for a bone benefit of dietary potassium is through its effect on acid-base balance. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables are also rich in precursors to bicarbonate ions, which buffer acids in the body and balance normal pH. Increased consumption of potassium reduces the acid content of the diet, preserves calcium in bone from mobilizing to neutralize acids, and decreases urinary acid and calcium excretion. Overall, sufficient amount of potassium intake may improve bone mineral density and help lower the risk of osteoporosis.

3. Potassium and kidney health

Increased dietary acid (diets high in animal protein) load was significantly associated with increased urinary calcium excretion, which increases the risk of developing kidney stones. Consume more dietary potassium from fruit and vegetable or take potassium supplements have been found to decrease urinary calcium, and prevent kidney stones formation from calcium deposits.

Potassium health benefits, Foods are high in potassium

Intake recommendation

The Food and Nutrition Center of the institute of Medicine recommends average adult need 4,700mg intake of potassium daily for optimum health to ensure cellular functions and prevent chronic diseases. Best potassium food sources are fresh fruits and vegetables, because they have built-in acid-neutralizers unlike animal protein and grains.

If you are looking to take supplements for maintenance of optimal health, the recommended approach is to take a multi-vitamin that has the proper balance of all the necessary nutrients your body needs.

Foods are high in potassium: Banana, sweet potato, broccoli, peas, oranges, avocado, Lima beans, white beans, tomato, grapefruit, plum, spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds, salmon

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