Potassium is an important micronutrient for the body. Potassium is also known as an electrolyte, along with other minerals in the body like sodium, calcium, chloride and magnesium. For men and women who are 19-years old and older, the recommended amount of potassium intake is 4700 mg everyday.
Too much or too little potassium in the body is not recommended, as with all other micronutrients. A medical condition called hyperkalemia means there is too much Potassium in the blood. A medical condition called hypokalemia means there is too little Potassium in the blood.
What Potassium Does for the Body
Potassium helps keep the balance between water and electrolytes in the body. It helps control heart activity, muscle activity and the activities of the nervous system.
It has already been confirmed by health and nutrition experts that potassium helps lower blood pressure. Results of studies have shown that enough intake of potassium from natural food sources significantly lowers blood pressure. In relation to this, people who have enough potassium in their bodies have a lower risk of getting a stroke.
Food Sources of Potassium
Potassium can be found in almost all plant and animal foods. Fresh foods and unprocessed foods are particularly good sources of potassium. Examples of food sources for potassium include vegetables, meat, bananas, tofu, legumes, fruit, milk products and grains.
Although potassium is abundant in vegetables and fruit, it can also just easily disappear, especially when vegetables are cooked. For instance, potassium in potatoes disappear when the potatoes are boiled. It is recommended that vegetables be baked, steamed or roasted.
Although it is recommended to get your potassium from food, potassium can also be taken through supplements found in the market. It is important to take note though that you should be careful in taking potassium supplements, as there are potential side effects that could be risky to your health.
Potassium Deficiency in the Body
There are many factors that can result in a deficiency in potassium . Having a diet that is rich in sodium will increase the need for potassium. This type of high-sodium diet usually leads to potassium deficiency. Loop diuretics also cause potassium deficiency. Other causes of potassium deficiency include diarrhea, excessive sweating, Crohn’s disease and other malabsorption syndromes, vomiting and malnutrition.
Hypokalemia, a condition wherein the blood has little to no potassium, can become a serious health risk if left untreated. Symptoms of hypokalemia include weakness, muscle cramps, an irregular heartbeat, a lack of energy, stomach disturbances and an abnormal electrocardiogram (EKG). In hypokalemia, the deficiency in potassium is usually not from eating foods that lack potassium. Rather, potassium is lost in the intestines or urine.