What is potassium and what does it do for you?
Potassium is an essential mineral found in every cell in the body. It has a strong relationship with sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Maintaining a balance between all of these minerals is important for good health. Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body. It is an electrolyte that regulates the proper function of every cell in your body. It is often referred to as the wonder mineral and, when you read the list below, you can see why!
When most people hear about potassium they usually think about eating ‘bananas‘. Bananas are a good source of potassium, but they’re not a great source as they are a high sugar food–so no more then one a day. You should also make sure you want more potassium!
Potassium helps your body:
- keep your heartbeat regular
- makes sure your muscles work right
- aids rheumatic or arthritic conditions by causing acids to leave the joints, thus eases stiffness
- maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body
- transmit nerve impulses
- regulate your fluid and electrolyte balance, keeping you hydrated
- maintain healthy, strong bones
- maintain blood pressure
- regulate the transfer of nutrients into cells
- eliminate wastes
- control convulsions, headaches and migraines
- in the healing of cuts, bruises and injuries faster
- promote balanced pH levels
- decrease bone loss associated with aging
- reduce kidney stone risk
- increase energy
Keeping the right amount of potassium in your body is a balancing act made possible by healthy kidneys. If your kidneys are not healthy, it may be beneficial to limit high-potassium foods so the potassium in your blood is doesn’t reach dangerous levels.
Next page: Symptoms of potassium deficiency and top potassium foods.
Deficiency in potassium symptoms:
- muscle spasms and fatigue, leg cramps, and ‘restless leg syndrome’
- hypertension (increased blood pressure)
- can cause kidney stones
- in the most severe cases, heart attacks
What causes potassium deficiency?
- people eating mostly processed foods
- consuming excessive quantities of licorice
- severe vomiting or diarrhea
- anorexia or bulimia
- excessive salt intake
- magnesium deficiency
- certain medications (diuretics, laxatives, cortisone, aspirin, cardiac drugs, steroids)
Rare: Too Much Potassium
Although having ratio of potassium too high is rare, it is possible. It is usually due to other medical conditions such as diabetic kidney disease and Hypokalemia which is the inability of the kidneys to filter out excess potassium from the body. The consequences can be fatal. If potassium becomes too high one may feel some weakness, numbness and tingling and can cause an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack. Again, this is rare.
If this is your condition, limit foods that are high in potassium. Here is a List of Food Very Low in Potassium.
Caution: If you think you have a medical problem, consult your physician. There is as simple blood test to detect low or high levels of potassium.
Most people eat way too much salt, sugar, and fats–which are the only food substances with no potassium in them. The no-potassium foods are table salt, sugar, pancake syrups, hard candies, cornstarch, baking powder, shortening, and salad oils (peanut, olive, sesame, sunflower, safflower, corn, soybean and canola). So, if your diet is full of these, then you may be potassium deficient.
Fortunately most real foods contain potassium so being deficient does not have to be a problem.
My thoughts are that unless you do have a serious medical condition as talked about above, this need not be a problem if you eat a wide variety of whole foods, not stuff out of packages. This real food video and article explains real foods.
Top 5 High Potassium Foods
Out of that whole list of foods, these 5 are what I would consider the healthiest choices. You can easily eat lots of them; none of them are fattening!
To help you and make it easy I have made a 3 page list of the Highest Potassium Foods with two categories:
- 20 Highest Potassium Foods
- 34 Second Highest Potassium Foods
Recipes High in Potassium:
Power Spinach Salad: You just HAVE TO know how to make a good spinach salad. This one is great and the spinach with give you a potassium boost.
Immune Booster Fruit Salad: Lots of high potassium kiwi fruit in this yummy fruit salad.
Bean Vegetable Stew: This recipe is full of three very high potassium foods. Potassium is just one of the ways this stew is good for you.
Baked Squash with Vegetables: This meal with high potassium squash and potatoes is so so tasty.