There are many potassium rich foods, despite which this simple mineral is often neglected. Potassium deficiency affects the inner equilibrium which can lead to several health problems.
It is vital for healthy function of the brain, heart and kidneys as well as for the skeletal muscles, strong bones, fluid balance and blood pressure.
Diet with adequate amount of potassium may even help prevent formation of kidney stones thereby reducing the risk of kidney damage.
Although you can take potassium supplements to get recommended dose, by doing so, you are depriving your body from all the other healthy nutrients which whole, fresh, food sources of potassium provide.
POTASSIUM RICH FOODS
It is mainly found in fruits and vegetables but some foods have it more than other. They are:
Although these foods are at the top of the list, when it comes to potassium, there are many more potassium food sources.
Good example of foods high in potassium are oranges, kiwis, bananas, berries, watermelon, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, dates and turmeric. However, clams, yogurt, fish, pork tenderloin, veal, milk and chicken breast are also potassium rich foods.
POTASSIUM AND BLOOD PRESSURE
Potassium can lower blood pressure but it is a little bit more complex. High sodium intake and hormones such as aldosterone, also have an effect on potassium and blood pressure. Aldosterone is final product of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system which regulates fluid retention as well as sodium and potassium excretion.
If renin is high, angiotensin will go up thereby raising aldosterone. Aldosterone sends a signal to the body to retain sodium which in turn leads to loss of potassium.
In the mean time, sodium also attracts water which leads to water retention and thicker blood. Because of it, the heart has to pump harder, in order to transport the nutrients through the body.
End result of unbalanced diet, is high blood pressure. Even if all this ain't enough, unbalanced sodium-potassium ratio, causes loss of calcium which is essential for strong heart contractions, among other.
Daily requirement depends on the age, health status of the individual, fluid loss, hormone levels, hydration and sodium intake. More sodium you ingest, the higher your daily potassium requirements will be, in order to balance these two out.
Level of activity and workout intensity also have role in determining daily requirements.
Daily recommended intake ranges from 400 - 700 mg for newborns, 3000 - 3800 mg for children and up to 5000 mg of potassium, for adults and teenagers.
As the person grows and its number of cells multiplies, the more our body needs it since the mineral is vital for healthy cellular function. However, you don't need to count your daily intake, just make sure that you are consuming plenty potassium rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF POTASSIUM DEFICIENCY
There are several factors which can lead to potassium deficiency, besides insufficient daily intake of foods high in potassium.
This includes diuretics or water pills, dehydration, high sodium intake, excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting and frequent urination.
If you are at increased risk of deficiency, then watch for symptoms such as muscle weakness, lack of energy, slower physical and psychological reactions, irregular heart rhythm and nervousness.
Person that workout frequently and high level athletes should increase their intake of potassium, especially if working out, on high temperatures or at high intensity.
TOO MUCH POTASSIUM - SIDE EFFECTS AND DANGERS
Ingesting too much potassium can cause toxicity but this is virtually impossible to achieve with potassium rich foods.
On the other hand, high intake of potassium supplements can lead to toxicity symptoms such as low blood pressure, breathing problems, tingling sensation in the limbs, nausea, vomiting, impaired brain function and arrhythmia.
However, people with heart or kidney disease, diabetes, stomach problems, adrenal gland issues or some other health condition should consult with their doctor, before taking potassium supplements.
Although it is vital mineral for normal function of the nerve cells, transmitting electrical impulses to the human heart, healthy blood pressure and muscle contractions, including heart muscle, too much of anything can be bad.
If you are like me and you prefer getting all the nutrients through diet, which includes potassium rich foods, than you should be careful not to overcook them since cooking causes loss of potassium. This is not problem with fruits but overcooking veggies such as spinach or broccoli can cut potassium content in half.
Also, I like to add some spices such as oregano, celery, parsley and rosemary, during and after cooking which increases potassium content of my meals, thereby working around the problem.
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