Potassium is a critical nutrient that assists the body in a variety of physiological functions. Among these include its ability to improve bone health, sustain brain health and prevent cognitive decline, maintain cardiovascular health, decrease the risk of kidney stones and many more benefits. Potassium is important because it helps your body maintain the hydration it needs. Your body needs many minerals, and potassium is one of the most essential. Some of your most important organs, kidney, heart and brain, rely on potassium to work properly. Symptoms of low potassium hypokalemia are highly undesirable and can include severe headaches, dehydration, heart palpitations and swelling of glands and tissues.
Your body needs potassium to maintain an adequate balance of electrolytes. Potassium is important because it helps your body maintain the hydration it needs. Your body needs many minerals, and potassium is one of the most essential. Electrolytes are minerals that have an electrical charge. They will separate into negatively and positively charged ions when dissolved in water. The major electrolytes in your body include calcium, magnesium, sodium and, of course, potassium. They exist in bodily fluids like blood, sweat, and urine but are not produced in the body. They must be obtained through what you eat and drink. Electrolytes also help with blood clotting, bone building, maintaining a steady heart rhythm and muscle contraction. Unless you are on dialysis or have a special condition, an overdose of potassium from natural sources is nearly impossible. However, it is possible to consume too much potassium via potassium salts which can lead to nausea, vomiting, and even cardiac arrest.
Causes of Low Level Potassium
High salt consumption, kitchen full of processed foods, diet containing minimal fruits and vegetables and frequently find yourself eating food outside the home, you may be silently destroying your body. Many people, even young and seemingly healthy people, have mild potassium deficiency, yet most don’t show any symptoms or have any problems at least not obvious ones that doctors relate to low potassium levels. Low potassium can be caused by a combination of factors. Sweating from intense exercise can cause potassium levels to fall. Dehydration from illnesses like diarrhea or vomiting can also cause your potassium levels to be low. If you are taking any form of diuretic, this can also result in low potassium levels. Some of the common symptoms of potassium deficiency are fatigue, weak muscles, slow muscle reflexes, severe headaches, high blood pressure, intestinal pain and abnormal heartbeats. The current recommended dietary intake for male and female adults is 4,700 mg/day of potassium and 3,000 mg/day for children. Anything below that could result in a deficiency.
Using the potassium rich foods, you can learn what kinds of food you need to eat regularly to meet your requirements and avoid a deficiency. As both an alkaline mineral and an electrolyte, you really don’t want to miss the mark when it comes to your potassium intake. Since potassium is a water soluble vitamin and gets excreted into the urine and stool, you must get potassium every single day in your food in order to meet your needs.
Sometimes the reason you may be low on potassium is if you are an endurance athlete, you don’t hydrate properly, vomiting, diarrhea, or a diet low in fruits and vegetables. Some medications can also deplete potassium stores within the body. It is better to get potassium from foods rather then just take a potassium supplement. Potassium can cause stomach pain and nausea and even heart palpitations if you take too much of it in pill form at once. In fact, each potassium supplement pill only contains 99 mg, or just 3 percent of the recommended daily allowance by law, to prevent overdose from taking too much at once.
Potassium Rich Foods
1 whole: 1,067 milligrams (30% Daily Value)
Avocados are one of the best sources of healthy fats, and they contain fiber too. Overall, researchers found that people who eat avocados tended to have healthier diets overall, as well as an increased nutrient intake and a decreased likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome. They are much more than just guacamole.
1 cup: 1,004 milligrams (29% Daily Value)
White beans are also high in magnesium (another essential mineral), folate. White Beans are rich in fiber along with being a good source of potassium. Fiber is great for the gut flora and proper bowel movements.
1 cup: 896 milligrams (26% Daily Value)
Acorn squash is a vegetable source of potassium that really should be more popular than it is because it also contains high levels of antioxidants. Most impressively are the carotenoids contained in just one serving of acorn squash. Not only is it rich in potassium, it contains high levels of Vitamins C, A, thiamine, B and many minerals such as magnesium which most people also need more of. This type of antioxidant is well-known for helping prevent and fight various types of cancer, including skin, breast, lung and prostate cancer.
1 large: 855 milligrams (24% Daily Value)
Sweet Potatoes are more nutrient-dense than regular white potatoes, plus contain a good source of potassium. Sweet potatoes are also high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin B 6. Plus, sweet potatoes have been shown in scientific animal research to exhibit anti-ulcer activity and are likely helpful in the successful treatment of peptic ulcers. Make sure to consume some quality fats with the sweet potato to fully absorb all the beta-carotene.
1 cup cooked: 839 milligrams (24% Daily Value)
Not only is spinach a potassium-rich food, but scientific research has shown that spinach contains plant chloroplast glycoglycerolipids, which are believed to act as cancer-fighting agents. Spinach has a high density of a lot of vitamins and minerals, and also contains lots of antioxidants.
½ filet: 772 milligrams (22% Daily Value)
In addition to potassium as well as other vitamins, minerals and protein, wild-caught salmon is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The benefits of these essential fatty acids include decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke while also helping reduce symptoms of depression, high blood pressure, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, joint pain and chronic skin ailments like eczema. Make sure to get your salmon from quality sources as these fats can be contaminated with toxins.
½ cup: 756 milligrams (22% Daily Value)
Dried apricots provide a quick and easy way to add potassium to your diet. Epidemiological studies have actually shown that people who consume dried apricot and other dried fruits tend to have healthier overall diets with more nutrients as well as a lower body weight. In moderation, dried fruit can be a healthy, and in this case a potassium rich snack choice.
1 whole: 667 milligrams (19 percent DV)
Pomegranate seeds and their juice are awesome fruit sources of potassium. They’re also loaded with fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K, among other nutrients and have been shown to help with cancer and Alzheimer’s prevention. In addition this potassium-rich foods list, the pomegranate also lands on other lists like the top 10 aphrodisiac foods due to its ability to reduce cortisol levels in the body. Pomegranate juice has also been found to be the healthiest fruit juice in the world.
1 Cup= 600 milligrams (17% Daily Value)
Coconut Water is a fantastic way to increase your overall hydration because of its electrolyte balance. Studies have shown that people rehydrate faster using Coconut Water than other electrolyte-rich drinks. Coconut water has even been used in emergency situations as an IV hydration fluid.
1 large: 487 milligrams (14% Daily Value)
Bananas are an easy fruit to like, but the downside is that they contain a fair amount of sugar (14 grams each) and carbs. They are a great way to restore potassium after an intense workout or a post-workout, nutrient-rich recovery food to help repair muscle and balance water retention. Scientific research has also shown that bananas are rich in dopamine, a major mood-enhancing hormone.
Elderly people and anyone with kidney disorders, diabetes, chronic renal insufficiency, severe heart failure or adrenal insufficiency are more at risk for having high potassium. People with kidney problems, especially those on dialysis, should definitely be careful not to take potassium supplements or even to eat too many potassium-rich foods without speaking with their doctor.