An essential nutrient, potassium is a mineral that your body needs to perform a myriad of important functions. Balancing the electrolytes and fluids in your body and ensuring your heart continues to pump blood depends on consuming adequate amounts of potassium.
Table of Contents
- Potassium-rich foods
- Health benefits of potassium
- Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Every day, you should consume a minimum of 4.7 grams or 4,700 milligrams of potassium to ensure optimal body function. To make sure you get the necessary amounts of this nutrient, you should add these seven potassium-rich fruits and vegetables to your daily diet:
Coconut water burst into the health and fitness industry, after the discovery that this fluid has high amounts of electrolytes. It also has medium amounts of iron, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium. From a single serving of coconut water, you will get 600 mg of potassium, which accounts for 13% of the nutrient you need in a day. Due to these reasons, consuming coconut water after a heavy workout is a great way to rehydrate your body.
As avocados are superfoods, it makes perfect sense to consume this nutrient-dense fruit on a regular basis. With a single serving of avocados, you get about 21% of the daily requirement for potassium, making it an excellent source. Along with this nutrient, you get fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, and monounsaturated fatty acids.
A study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) highlighted the health benefits of consuming avocados. For instance, it reduces the risk of suffering from metabolic syndrome and decreases the waist circumference and body weight.
An easy and healthy way to get potassium into your system is to consume bananas. When you eat one serving of this delicious fruit, you get about 422 mg or 9% of your total potassium requirement for the day. At the same time, you get antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C, manganese, making it a good all-rounder.
If you want to regulate your blood sugar levels, while improving your gut health, you can eat green bananas. Thanks to their availability throughout the year, along with their low price, bananas are a great fruit to snack on, before/after your workout.
Due to the high concentration of nutrients in dried apricots, they are a great and healthy way to consume potassium, while you are on the go. Another reason why dried apricots are better than the fresh ones is due to its longer shelf life. Also, it is quite easy to carry them, ensuring that you have access to potassium, at all times. When you eat 10 halves of dried apricots, you get 407 mg, which translates into 9% of your dietary requirements.
Sweet potatoes, while being rich in potassium, also give you other nutrients such as vitamin B6, vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, and niacin, unlike its white counterpart. As some of the potassium is available on the skin, make sure you don’t remove them while consuming sweet potatoes. On average, a single serving of sweet potatoes (at least 12 cm in size) will give you 855 mg of potassium, which is 18% of your dietary requirements.
Found mainly in Mediterranean diets, swiss chard, a green leafy vegetable, has yellow or red stalks. As it is full of nutrients, you get 21% of your daily potassium requirement from one serving of this vegetable. Fiber, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C, iron, vitamin K, and vitamin A are the other nutrients available in swiss chard. It also protects your cells, due to the presence of antioxidants.
Adding white beans to your diet will prove beneficial, as it provides 829 mg or 18% of your daily potassium requirements for every serving. They also contain manganese, magnesium, iron, folate, and thiamine. If you are looking for a way to get plant-based fiber into your diet, white beans is the answer, as it gives you 18.6 grams of this nutrient.
Health benefits of potassium
Consuming a diet full of potassium-rich foods comes with the following health benefits:
Hinder formation of kidney stones
Kidney stones occur due to the accumulation of dissolved minerals along the kidneys’ inner lining. In most cases, they are made up of calcium oxalate, but they also consist of other compounds. Due to their crystalline and sharp structure, it is quite painful when they leave the body.
Studies on ScienceDirect and NCBI have shown that potassium nitrate has the power to decrease the level of calcium in your urine. By consuming potassium, it helps prevent the formation of kidney stones. A study on The New England Journal of Medicine found that potassium lowers the risk of suffering from kidney stones by 51% in men. The chances of getting kidney stones go down by 35% in women who consume potassium-rich foods on a regular basis.
Has the potential to prevent strokes
Unlike in Western countries, the chances of suffering from a stroke in India are quite high, due to factors such as dyslipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, and smoking. When there is an insufficient flow of blood to your brain, it causes a stroke. Researchers have found out that eating potassium-rich foods in your diet can reduce the chances of getting a stroke by 24%. They analysed 11 studies, consisting of 127,038 participants.
Maintains fluid balance
60% of your body is made up of water, while 40% of it is inside the cells of your body, in intracellular fluid (ICF). The remaining amount is present in the extracellular fluid, found in blood, between the cells, and spinal fluid. The concentration of sodium and potassium, two electrolytes, determines the quantity of water in ECF and ICF. Potassium is responsible for maintaining water in ICF, while sodium does the same for ECF. If there is an imbalance, your cells can burst, swell up, or shrink, as they try to maintain the amount of electrolytes in your body. Over time, it causes dehydration, which has a negative impact on your kidneys and heart. By eating potassium-rich foods, it maintains the balance of fluids in your body.
Manages muscle and bone health
When you consume a diet with processed grains, dairy products, and meat, it creates metabolic acidosis. As a result of this, it causes excretion of nitrogen, muscle wasting, and a decrease in mineral density of your bones. However, potassium is different, as it keeps the environment in your body alkaline. Older people benefit immensely from this nutrient, as it safeguards their muscle mass. Also, there was a study which showed that participants who consumed a large intake of potassium were able to maintain more mass of lean tissue.
Helps manage blood pressure
According to the Times of India, one out of three adults in India is suffering from high blood pressure. If you consume high amounts of sodium when you have hypertension, it can increase the blood pressure.
However, the mineral can eliminate excess levels of sodium in your body, which decreases blood pressure. Studies have shown that consuming supplements of this mineral decreases the blood pressure in your arteries, especially if you are suffering from hypertension. On average, it reduces the diastolic blood pressure by 4 mm Hg and systolic blood pressure by 6 mm Hg.
Reduces risk of osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a problem where the bones become porous and hollow. The main reason for osteoporosis was due to lack of calcium, which is important to maintain the health of your bones. Potassium-rich foods such as vegetables and fruits, increase the mineral density of your bones, which prevents osteoporosis.
Also, when you consume potassium supplements, it improves bone formation and reduces bone degradation. Women who are in the menopausal stage have higher bone mass in the hip bones and lower back if they add potassium to their diet.
Regulates nervous system
The nervous system is extremely important, as it is the mode of transportation for the messages from the brain to the body and vice-versa. The nerve impulses are responsible for controlling body functions such as reflexes, heartbeat, and muscle contractions, to name a few. The generation of nerve impulses depends on the movement of sodium and potassium ions, in and out of your cells. The movement changes the cells voltage, which activates these impulses.
However, if there is a lack of potassium in your blood, your body won’t be able to generate the impulses. Potassium-rich foods keep the functionality of the nerves healthy.
Even though low levels of this mineral won’t result in a deficiency, it can be dangerous if you suffer from chronic diarrhea or vomiting. Due to this deficiency, there will be symptoms such as muscle cramps, and weakness, constipation, abdominal pain, and fatigue.
Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
The consumption of fewer potassium rich foods can lead to potassium deficiency, which can be problematic for the human body. Here are a few signs and symptoms of potassium deficiency.
1. Weakness and Fatigue
One of the first signs of potassium deficiency is fatigue. The mineral helps regulate muscle contractions. When blood potassium levels are low, the muscles tend to produce weaker contractions.
Another way potassium deficiency affects the body is how it uses nutrients, resulting in fatigue. For example, the shortage of the mineral could disturb insulin production, and this in turn, results in high blood sugar levels.
2. Digestive Problems
Potassium deficiency is one of many causes of digestive problems. The nutrient helps relay signals from the brain to muscles in the digestive system. These signals stimulate contractions, and thus, helps the digestive system digest food.
At low blood potassium levels, the brain cannot relay signals as effectively. Contractions in the digestive system may become weaker and therefore slow down the movement of food. This can lead to digestive problems like constipation and bloating.
3. Heart Palpitations
While heart palpitations are commonly linked to stress, they could also be a sign of potassium deficiency. The flow of potassium in and out of heart cells helps regulate the heartbeat. Therefore low potassium levels can alter this, and result in palpitations.
Heart palpitations can also be a sign of arrhythmia, which has also been linked to potassium deficiency. Arrhythmia, however, has also been linked to serious heart problems.
4. Breathing Difficulty
Potassium helps relay the signals which stimulate the lungs to contract and expand. Therefore, a severe shortage of blood potassium levels can cause lungs to not expand or contract properly. This can result in shortness of breath.
Low blood potassium levels can alter the flow of blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Since blood delivers oxygen to the body, an altered blood flow can cause shortness of breath. A severe potassium deficiency can stop the lungs from working, which can be fatal.
Potassium deficiency can lead to persistent tingles and numbness. This is called paresthesia and usually occurs in the hands, arms, legs, and feet.
Potassium plays a major role in healthy nerve function. Low levels of the nutrient in blood can weaken nerve signals, that can lead to tingling and numbness.
Occasionally experiencing these symptoms is harmless. However, persistent tingles and numbness may be a sign of an underlying condition. If you experience persistent paresthesia, it is ideal to consult a doctor about it.
6. Muscle Stiffness
Muscle aches or stiffness can also be a sign of severe potassium deficiency. These symptoms may also be an indication of rapid muscle breakdown, a condition also known as rhabdomyolysis.
Blood potassium levels help regulate blood flow to the muscles. When these levels are extremely low, the blood vessels contract and restrict the flow of blood to muscles. Thus, the muscles receive less oxygen, causing them to rupture and leak. This results in rhabdomyolysis, which is accompanied by muscle stiffness and aches.
7. Muscle Spasms and Cramps
Sudden, uncontrolled contractions of the muscles are known as cramps. They generally occur when the potassium levels in the blood are low.
Potassium helps relay signals from the brain to stimulate muscle contractions. It also helps end these contractions by moving out of the cells. When blood potassium levels are low, the brain cannot relay these signals effectively. This leads to prolonged contractions, resulting muscle cramps.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A: Yes, consuming potassium rich foods can help lower blood pressure by eliminating excess levels of sodium in the body.
A: Eating foods rich in the mineral, such as bananas, sweet potato with skin, green leafy vegetables, and lentils can help raise one’s potassium levels quickly.
A: Eating foods like bananas, sweet potato with skin, and green leafy vegetables will help you ensure that you receive your daily requirement of potassium.
A: There are a few foods that contain higher amounts of this nutrient than bananas, including avocado, spinach, sweet potato, and white beans.
A: Since most fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, they are all easily digestible.
By consuming these potassium-rich foods, along with a healthy lifestyle, you will notice a considerable improvement in your well-being. Get creative while adding these fruits and vegetables, so that your body gets the essential potassium requirements. Also, you should avoid taking supplements from the medical store, as they don’t provide adequate amounts of potassium.