Symptoms of potassium deficiency and how to increase potassium levels naturally by eating healthy food. What is the recommended daily dosage of this mineral and why is potassium so important for our health. We will try to explain all of these here.
What Does Potassium Do for the Body?
Potassium is involved in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction and growth, fluid regulation, acid-base balance, and carbohydrate metabolism, among other important functions. It may even reduce kidney stone recurrences.
Potassium is also a key mineral when it comes to blood pressure and heart health; while sodium is associated with a higher risk of hypertension, potassium is thought to act as a vasodilator, lessening the tension within your blood vessel walls. Research shows that people who consume plenty of potassium (through their diet, not just supplements) have a lower stroke risk, too.
For elderly women, studies have shown that consumption of potassium-rich foods may help prevent osteoporosis.
What Causes Potassium Deficiency?
Despite the many vital functions of potassium, most people only consume about half of the recommended 4,700 milligrams (mg) per day, and only 3 percent of older adults meet the adequate intake (AI) for this mineral.
In addition to low daily intake, what else can cause hypokalemia, a shortage of potassium in the blood? As an electrolyte, potassium works with sodium, magnesium, chloride, and calcium to conduct electricity in the body.
Your potassium balance depends on the levels of these other minerals in the blood, which means a person who consumes a diet high in sodium (which is quite common in today’s typical diet) may need more potassium to balance out these mineral levels.
Unlike sodium, for which the body has conservation mechanisms in place, potassium continues to be excreted by the kidneys even if there is a shortage. Certain medications (such as diuretics), as well as conditions involving malabsorption, malnutrition, vomiting, diarrhea and excessive sweating, can also cause low potassium levels.
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Additionally, tobacco and caffeine can reduce potassium absorption in the body, which can lead to a deficiency. Other people at increased risk for hypokalemia include crash dieters, substance abusers, and alcoholics.
What Are the Symptoms Of Potassium Deficiency?
1. You’re always tired
Since so many things can cause fatigue, a sudden onset of exhausted might seem like a mystery. But if you’re getting enough sleep, taking good care of yourself, and you’re still always tired, try increasing your potassium levels. A deficiency could be the culprit.
2. You feel faint or dizzy
Low potassium levels can leave you feeling dizzy and light-headed. While feeling this way can also be a symptom of other issues, you should first rule out hypokalemia, a low level of potassium in your blood. This can be done with a simple blood test.
3. Muscle cramps
Were you told to eat a banana for muscle cramps as a child? That was probably good advice. Potassium is vital to smooth muscle contraction and growth, and when your levels are too low, you may experience spasms, cramps, and aches.
4. You feel sluggish and bloated
When you’re low on potassium, your body struggles to regulate its sodium levels, so you can feel bloated constantly, according to Health Magazine. It also slows down your digestions, so you may experience constipation and an upset stomach.
5. You’re experiencing heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat
Did you know low potassium levels can cause the blood vessels in your body to narrow? This can lead to hypertension or high blood pressure, according to Eating Well. When the potassium-sodium balance is off, your heart’s muscles may also have a harder time pumping, which is why you’ll have an irregular heartbeat or palpitations.
If any of these symptoms apply to you, trying adding some potassium-rich foods to your diet. Bananas are an obvious and tasty choice, but these 10 foods also deliver a healthy dose of this essential mineral.
Top 10 Foods Rich In Potassium
Not only are avocados delicious and heart-healthy, but they’re also an excellent source of potassium. One serving of avocado (which is about 1/5 of a large one) contains 140 mg of potassium, and you’ll get 700 mg if you eat the entire thing.
Read Also: Why You Should Eat Avocado Every Day
Spinach serves up a healthy dose of many vitamins and minerals, including plenty of potassium. The potassium works with the other nutrients in spinach necessary for staying healthy, so if you haven’t learned to love this leafy green, you should try.
3. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses, and that includes potassium. A medium baked sweet potato has 542 mg, which is about 12% of your recommended daily dose. They’re also rich in Vitamin A.
4. White potatoes
As a starchy carb, sometimes white potatoes get a bad reputation. But they’re very healthy, and according to research from the University of Washington, they’re the most affordable source of potassium of any vegetable or fruit. So buy a bag of potatoes for your health.
5. Dried apricots
Need a quick and easy boost in potassium? Just eat a small handful of dried apricots. Dried fruits are healthy in moderation, and some studies show that those who consume dried apricots have healthier overall diets and lower body weight than those who don’t.
6. Tomato sauce
This perfect pasta topper is surprisingly high in potassium — one cup has about 728 mg. Make sure you go for a low sugar version that comes in BPA-free packaging.
7. Wild-caught salmon
Wild-caught salmon is loaded with healthy nutrients, and that includes potassium. The combination of vitamins, nutrients, and healthy fats earned it a place on the list of superfoods.
According to Prevention, a cup of cooked, sliced beets contains 518 mg of potassium, and a one-ounce serving of beet chips has 90 mg. Considering beets are very versatile and can be used in salads, juices, soups, and more, it may be time to add more of them to your diet.
9. Lima beans
In the days of exotic superfoods like acai berries, lima beans don’t exactly have a lot of prestige. But all beans are high in potassium, and since one serving of lima beans has 508 mg, it’s safe to say they’re underrated.
10. Butternut squash
According to Prevention, one cup of this slightly sweet squash has 582 mg of potassium. It’s also packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate, calcium, and magnesium. Enjoy it in hearty amounts.
How Much Potassium Do I Need Every Day?
After the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans highlighted the underconsumption of potassium as a public health concern, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires food manufacturers to include potassium on their Nutrition Facts labels to make consumers more aware of its importance.
The recommended Daily Value (DV) was also increased from 3,500 mg to 4,700 mg.
So how can you make sure you’re getting enough potassium? The good news is, it’s easy. Start displacing some of the processed, high-sodium foods in your diet with fruits and veggies; potassium is readily available in most of them, and they’re naturally low in sodium.
Not to mention, fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber and other vitamins and minerals. You don’t have to go completely plant-based, but adding another one to two servings of fruit or vegetables to your meals can make a difference over a day.
Though bananas have a stellar reputation when it comes to potassium, plenty of other options are even richer in this mineral. As examples, one medium baked potato with skin contains 930 mg (though this doesn’t make french fries the best source to up your potassium). One cup of cooked spinach contains 840 mg, and 1 cup of chopped carrots contains 410 mg.
Potassium can also be found in almost all the other food groups, such as dairy (about 350 mg per 1 cup of low-fat milk), grains (1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 320 mg), nuts, beans, meat, poultry, and fish. Boiling, processing or canning foods can lower potassium levels, so fresh or frozen is usually a better option.
Many different types of potassium supplements are available for purchase (it’s also in multivitamins), but make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, as hypokalemia and hyperkalemia are serious medical conditions. Additionally, many salt substitutes can raise potassium levels, so check with your doctor before reaching for those as well.
Conclusion: Symptoms of potassium deficiency can be an alarm that you must listen It is not very hard to increase potassium levels because this mineral is present in many foods. There is no need to worry just change your diet and add these healthy foods mentioned above.