Do you get enough Potassium?

Written by Veronica Yoo

Simply put, Potassium is one of the minerals that you can’t live without!

Potassium is essential for the proper function of cells, tissues, and organs in the body.

It is also an electrolyte – a substance that conducts electricity in the body, along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium.

Potassium is very important for digestive and muscular function as well.

Certain conditions can cause potassium deficiencies or ‘hypokalemia’

  • Kidney disease
  • Overuse of diuretics
  • Excess sweating, diarrhoea, and vomiting
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • Use of antibiotics – carbenicillin and penicillin

What is Hypokalemia?

Hypokalemia happens when the body loses too much potassium in the urine or intestines, not from a poor diet.

Symptoms of low potassium are:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of energy (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
  • Insomnia
  • Intestinal pain
  • Hypertension
  • Poor circulation
  • Muscle cramp
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Edema
  • Headaches
  • Swollen glands
  • Tissue anaemia
  • Water retention
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Prolapsed uterus
  • Irregular heartbeat (hearing a heartbeat while resting…)
  • Abnormal Electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG)

Health Benefits of Potassium

  • Bone Health: Some studies show that increasing the consumption of foods rich in potassium can prevent osteoporosis. Therefore, eating high levels of potassium results in higher mineral density in bones, further strengthening and prolonging the life of your bones.
  • Blood Pressure: Studies show that increasing potassium intake reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Potassium is helpful in reversing the role of sodium in rebalancing normal blood pressure. Thus, it acts as a vital component that maintains the normality of blood pressure in the human body. This further reduces the risk of heart disease and hypertension. In addition, Potassium has properties that help to decrease blood pressure by working to relieve the tension of blood vessels, which is one of the main causes of high blood pressure.
  • Normal Water Balance: Potassium regulates the water balance of the body and also maintains the body’s natural fluid levels. This is one of the greatest benefits of this mineral as body fluid level plays a crucial role in the performance of several functions. Potassium also maintains the pH balance of the body.
  • Nerve Impulses & Digestion: Potassium works with sodium in all cells including at nerve synapses to maintain or restore membrane potentials and to assist in metabolic processes.
  • Muscle Contractions & strength: Potassium helps in the proper growth of the muscle tissues of the body. It also aids in correct utilization of energy that is released during various metabolic processes and thus adds to the muscular strength of the body.
  • PH Balance: Potassium neutralizes acids and restores alkaline salts to the bloodstream.
  • Heart Rhythm: Potassium enables your heart to beat. So, if you have heart rhythm problems, potassium may be key.
  • Heart Disease: An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium is the most important dietary change a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies show that heart attack patients who have moderate potassium levels between 3.5-4.5mEq/L have a lower risk of death.
  • Stroke: People who eat foods that are rich in potassium have a lower risk of stroke.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): People suffering from IBD have trouble absorbing nutrients from the intestines, and may have lower levels of potassium and other important nutrients.

Apart from the above benefits, Potassium also helps to reduce mental stress and anxiety. It also helps in controlling headaches and migraines. In other words, excess adrenal hormones deplete potassium. It helps in the faster healing of bruises and cuts, and also helps to heal burns.

I always suggest clients get potassium from a healthy diet rich in vegetables, organic meats, and wild fish because potassium supplements (other than the small amount included in a multivitamin – no more than 99mg) should be taken only under a doctor’s supervision to avoid the risk of potassium overdose or side effects.

Keeping the right potassium balance in the body is extremely important, and greatly depends on the amount of sodium and magnesium in the blood.

Foods that rich in potassium

  • Beet Greens
  • Swiss Chard
  • Spinach
  • Bok Choy
  • Beets
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Eggs
  • Other Meats and fruit…

Note: I don’t suggest a lot of fruit to get potassium, because fruit can be high in sugar (fructose – even though it’s a natural sugar, too much is still a bad thing. Please, don’t forget that sugar depletes potassium and spikes insulin. If you have too much insulin for long periods of time, this will cause insulin resistance and you won’t be able to achieve your goal of losing belly fat (body fat).

The right dose of potassium/day 

  • Birth to 6 months; 400mg/day
  • 7 – 12 months : 700mg/day
  • 1 – 3 years : 3,000mg/day
  • 4- 8 years: 3,800mg/day
  • 9- 13 years; 4,500mg/day
  • 19 years and older: 4,700mg/day
  • Pregnant: 4,700mg/day
  • Breastfeeding female: 5,100mg/day

*You are an adult, eat 9-13 servings of vegetables to meet your daily requirement of potassium.

Veronica Yoo

Veronica is dedicated and experienced nutritionist and certified health coach who specializes in functional medicine, She's a published author, nutritional instructor, WBFF professional figure athlete, and both the brains and beauty behind all that Makeover Nutrition offers.

Veronica is also the President & CEO of a BC based health and wellness association; Pacific Alliance of Body Care.