When you think of potassium
, you probably think of bananas. You might not know what purpose potassium serves in your body, but you probably understand that it's important. Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that plays a crucial role in regulating and maintaining many essential processes in your body, like building protein
and muscle, regulating your heart's electrical activity, the proper utilization of carbohydrates and maintaining regular body growth, according to Medline Plus
. While most people receive sufficient potassium levels through their daily diet, others may not and need to take potassium supplements. Healthy potassium levels can provide many benefits for your health, and likewise, a potassium deficiency can cause health problems. Let's examine some of the benefits, negative effects of low potassium and sources of potassium that can help you to experience improved health.
Potassium plays an essential role in your overall wellbeing, as it is a major contributor to maintaining the health and function of your heart, kidneys and many other organs. Sufficient potassium levels can improve your blood pressure
, cholesterol levels and aid with regulating your heartbeat, according to a health article reviewed by James Beckerman, M.D., FACC
. By lowering your blood pressure, potassium can also play a part in reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke. In addition, healthy potassium levels may be able to improve bone health and reduce your risk of osteoporosis, control acidity and even enhance your digestion.
Signs of Potassium Deficiency
Potassium deficiencies can manifest in your health through numerous ways. Since diet is the best way to receive potassium, if you have an eating disorder or don't typically consume a healthy diet, you have a good chance of being potassium deficient. In addition, diuretics, smoking, kidney problems and other health disorders can contribute to potassium deficiencies. Some signs that your body is lacking in potassium are fatigue, constipation and muscle cramps or spasms. Extremely low levels of potassium can cause irregular heart rhythms and even paralysis.
Food Sources of Potassium
Most people maintain their potassium levels through diet, which is the most effective way of receiving the nutrient. While bananas are one of the most common choices in potassium-rich foods, there is also a multitude of other fruits, vegetables and other foods that can help elevate your intake. Here is a list of some potassium-rich foods and beverages to add to your diet if you're deficient but should avoid if you have excess potassium.
If you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet regularly, you're probably receiving enough potassium and don't need to try supplements. Though the best way to receive potassium is through your diet, sometimes supplemental potassium is required for those struggling with deficiency. The FDA has strict regulations on the dose of potassium that can be sold because excess potassium can exacerbate and worsen conditions like diabetes, kidney problems and heart failure—therefore, if you have any of these illnesses, DO NOT take supplemental potassium. On the other hand, potassium supplements can be beneficial when you take caution not to exceed the recommended dose. Supplemental potassium can help you reach the daily recommended dose of 4,700 mg, according to Dr. Oz
. Don't use potassium supplements if you have any of the health conditions mentioned above, and always make sure that before you try potassium supplements you talk to your doctor first to find out if they are appropriate for you.
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