Potassium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. It is a naturally occurring mineral that our bodies require to function properly.
Most of our metabolic processes need electricity to occur. Since potassium is positively charged it is considered an electrolyte. Thus it can provide the electric charge needed for the body to perform the processes needed to survive.
Electrolyte imbalance can occur when potassium levels are too high or too low. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue.
It is therefore very important to keep electrolytes in balance.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF POTASSIUM?
Potassium health benefits include the support of the following:
- Muscle growth
- Healthier bones
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Regulates fluids in the body
- Regulates blood pressure
- Improved kidney functions
Potassium is a key player in the central nervous system as it acts as a signal to regulate communication throughout the body. It communicates to the nerves to send impulses to the muscles, and the muscles will then contract or relax accordingly.
Your heart is a major muscle in your body and potassium helps to regulate its rhythm, which drives the transportation of necessary nutrients to the cells and tissues throughout the body.
Our bodies use potassium to build proteins, build muscle, and maintain normal growth.
If you do not get enough potassium in your diet, you may experience muscle spasms, headache, and dehydration since the flow of communication throughout the body is slowed or blocked.
In addition, potassium is used in the breakdown of carbohydrates, control of electrical activity of the heart, and the maintenance of the acid-base balance.
When someone has a potassium deficiency, they may experience weakness or fatigue, muscle cramps or spasms, digestive issues, irregular heartbeat, circulatory problems and numbness, difficulty breathing, and changes in mood. Dehydration can exacerbate these symptoms.
When doctors discover low potassium levels in the blood, it is termed hypokalaemia.
This is a common side effect for patients using diuretic drugs. Since potassium levels are regulated in the kidneys, diuretics may cause excessive excretion of potassium in the urine resulting in a deficiency.
On the other hand, if potassium levels are too high in an individual, it’s called hyperkalemia.
Too much potassium can be deadly. This typically occurs due to poorly functioning kidneys such as found in those who may have Addison’s disease.
The symptoms of hyperkalemia are may be similar to those of hypokalaemia; such as irregular heartbeat and weakness. A doctor should be able to diagnose you with a quick blood sample analysis.
Foods high in potassium are easily found at the local supermarket. Bananas are usually the most generally known source. Since bananas can range in size it can be difficult to determine how much potassium in a banana. However, it’s safe to estimate that a medium sized banana will contain around 422 milligrams of potassium.
Other great sources of potassium include spinach, muskmelon, avocados, potatoes, prunes, wild caught salmon, and coconut water.
You can even find high levels of potassium in orange juice.
FOODS LOW IN POTASSIUM
If you are monitoring your potassium intake, you may need to look out for foods low in potassium from this list. Some vegetables that are known to contain only small amounts of potassium are alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery and corn.
Fruits low in potassium include apples, strawberries, raspberries, grapes and grape juice, blueberries, and pineapples and pineapple juice.
If you are cooking, and you need to steer clear of high potassium foods, you can lower the amount by a process called leaching.
Leaching is the process of soaking a food in water in order for the potassium to be “pulled” out of the food and transferred into the water. Please note that leaching will not remove all of the potassium present, so if you need low to no potassium foods you still may risk ingesting more potassium than desired.