Potassium is one of the many minerals that the human body needs to function properly. It is considered to be an electrolyte because it creates positively charged ions when dissolved in water, and this is a property that is vital to various bodily processes. There are also many health benefits associated with diets rich in potassium, which is why it is worth learning about this important mineral.
The Role of Potassium in the Body
Potassium has a few different functions in the body, such as helping it retain fluid, controlling muscle contractions, and sending nerve signal. It is a crucial mineral for maintaining normal levels of cellular fluid and also supports healthy blood pressure. There have been research studies conducted to learn about potassium’s connection to osteoporosis, strokes, kidney stones, and water retention. It is important to have a balance of potassium and sodium in the body, which is something that you can do by avoiding processed foods and focusing your diet on more fresh fruits and vegetables.
How Much Potassium You Need
Many people do not get enough potassium in their diets; however, potassium deficiencies are uncommon in typical American diets. If your body is running low on potassium, you may have more muscle cramping and weakness. A severe potassium deficiency can cause irregular heartbeat and even paralysis. The most common causes of having low potassium levels are chronic vomiting and diarrhea, as well as taking diuretic medications that work to eliminate water from the body.
The National Academy of Medicine has determined that adult women need 2,600 milligrams of potassium each day, while adult men need 3,400 milligrams of this mineral daily. Teenage women and men need slightly less potassium per day, while pregnant and lactating women need slightly more than the adult standard.
Foods That Contain Potassium
Although many people associate potassium with bananas, there are many more foods that contain this mineral and in even greater amounts than bananas. For example, fish, legumes, vegetables, and dairy products all contain high amounts of potassium to provide the nutrients your body needs.
Some types of lean and fatty fish contain significant levels of potassium, such as cod, haddock, salmon, and tuna. White beans and lentils are excellent sources of potassium and offer other nutrients too, including calcium, iron, and fiber. Some of the best vegetables to eat for potassium are Swiss chard, spinach, sweet potatoes, and bok choy. Good fruits to eat to boost your potassium intake are bananas, of course, as well as cantaloupe and oranges. You can also eat more Portobello mushrooms, kale, peas, beets, raisins, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocados, and yogurt to get more potassium in your life.
People with severe potassium deficiencies may need to get a higher-dose supplement in a prescription from a doctor. Yet for most people, focusing on a wide array of whole, natural foods is the best way to increase the amount of potassium in the body and support overall health and optimal bodily functioning.