Potassium is an essential dietary mineral that plays an important role in muscle contraction. This includes the heart, nerves, acid-base balance, kidney function, and your digestion of carbohydrates. Here is a three-part article in which I’ll lay out exactly what it does for you, including the prevention of disease.
If you don’t get enough potassium, you can develop high blood pressure, stroke, and other heart diseases. A dietary survey showed that daily intake in adult women was 2,300 milligrams (mg) and 2,100 mg for men.
In 2004, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine published the daily adequate intake levels for potassium. It went like so:
Infants and Children
- Infants (0-6 months): 400 mg
- Infants (7-12 months): 700 mg
- Children (1-3 years): 3,000 mg
- Children (4-8 years): 3,800 mg
- Children (9-13 years): 4,500 mg
- 14-18 years: 4,700 mg
- 19 years and over: 4,700 mg
- Breast-feeding: 5,100 mg
They set such recommended levels because potassium serves in several important bodily functions:
- Nerve impulse conduction
- Muscle contraction
- Stomach acid secretion
- Kidney functions
- Synthesis of various tissues
- Synthesis of carbohydrates
Now, where can you obtain potassium? The foods with the highest potassium contents include fruits (especially bananas, dried apricots, and avocados), vegetables (especially potatoes), meats, fish, citrus juices, whole grains, and dairy. Individuals who consume large amounts of vegetables and fruits can reach a daily intake of between eight to 11 grams.
Multivitamin-mineral supplements in the U.S. contain no more than 99 mg of potassium per pill. In view of the potential serious side effects, the use of potassium supplements should be under the care of your doctors; he/she needs to monitor your blood potassium on a regular basis.
The term “hypokalemia” means low blood potassium levels. It is mostly caused by increased loss of potassium due to prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, kidney diseases, and drugs (e.g. diuretics or laxatives). Eating too much licorice and guarana (a caffeine-containing nut), can also be to blame. Symptoms can include muscle weakness and cramps, fatigue, bloating, stomach pain, constipation, abnormal heart rhythms, or complete muscle paralysis in severe cases.