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Winter squash
Ralph Teller

Potassium Natural Food Sources for Optimum Health and Performance
by Ralph Teller

1

Potassium Facts and Health Benefits

Potassium is an essential mineral micronutrient in human nutrition. Potassium is also the eighth or ninth most common element by mass (0.2%) in the human body. Only the major minerals calcium and phosphorus are more abundant.

Potassium plays these key roles to optimum health:

Body Water Balance. Potassium is a key factor in influencing osmotic balance between cells and the interstitial fluid by the so-called Na+/K+-ATPase pump.

Neuron and Brain Function. Our brain contains tens of billions of neurons, each forming connections. The action potential of these neurons connections depends on electrolytes, mainly sodium and potassium. Potassium plays a key role in Low levels of potassium can interrupt electrical signals that drive the brain, causing confusion, sluggish thoughts and brain fog.

Prevent and Control Hypertension and High Blood Pressure. High sodium intake is a major contributing factor to high blood pressure and hypertension. A diet low in potassium and high in sodium may be a factor in high blood pressure. Increasing Potassium in the diet may protect against hypertension in people who are sensitive to high levels of sodium as Potassium helps flush the body with excess sodium. One possible explanation for potassium's protective effect against hypertension is that increased potassium may increase the amount of sodium excreted from the body.

Muscle Function and Contraction. Potassium's role in transmitting electrical impulses gives Potassium an important role in muscle contractions. The balance between sodium and Potassium creates an electrical and chemical gradient that functions to transport molecules in and out of the cell and transmit nerve signals that induce muscle contraction.

Athletes Need More Potassium. For optimum performance, athletes, especially endurance athletes, need more Potassium to replace Potassium lost from muscle during exercise and the smaller amount lost in sweat. Low Potassium can cause muscle cramping and cardiovascular irregularities. Eating foods high in Potassium can prevent these symptoms. Eating foods high in Potassium prior to an athletic event will improve athletic performance. See also Articles on Hydration and Electrolytes

The best source of Potassium are natural food sources. Potassium is found in milk, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and meat. Taking Potassium supplements is generally not recommended for people with high blood pressure. Instead, a variety of Potassium-rich foods should be eaten daily.

Natural Food Sources of Potassium

In general, it is best to obtain Potassium from natural food sources. Here is a list of natural food sources of Potassium.

Estimates of Potassium in Certain Natural Foods
Food Serving size Potassium amount (milligrams)
Winter squash 1 cup 896 mg
Cooked spinach 1 cup 840 mg
Sweet potato 1 medium 695 mg
Potato 1 medium 610 mg
Plain nonfat yogurt 8 ounces 579 mg
Banana 1 cup 540 mg
Orange juice 8 ounces 496 mg
Halibut 3 ounces 490 mg
Cooked broccoli 1 cup 460 mg
Cantaloupe 1 cup 430 mg
Tomato 1 cup 430 mg
Pork tenderloin 3ounces 382 mg
Fat-free milk 8 ounces 380 mg
Lentils 1/2 cup 366 mg
Salmon farmed 3ounces 326 mg
Lamb loin chop 3ounces 320 mg
Strawberries 1 cup 255 mg
Raisins 1/4 cup 250 mg
Chicken Breast 3 ounces 218 mg
Tuna, light, canned 3 ounces 201 mg

Potassium Recommended Daily Intake

Most people do NOT get enough Potassium. Here is a list of the daily recommended dietary intake of Potassium from the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine.

Recommended Potassium by Age
Age (years) Recommended potassium intake (milligrams a day)
1-3 3,000
4-8 3,800
9-13 4,500
14 and older 4,700
Women who are breast-feeding 5,100

Potassium Supplement Toxicity

Potassium Supplements Toxicity. Potassium supplements, other than the small amount included in a multivitamin, should be taken only under your doctor's supervision. Large doses of supplemental potassium can cause dangerous side effects. Potassium supplements side effects can include diarrhea, stomach irritation, and nausea. At higher doses, muscle weakness, slowed heart rate, and abnormal heart rhythm may occur. There are many medications that impact negatively with potassium supplement or cause problems with potassium levels. You should not use potassium supplements without first talking to your health care provider if you are taking certain medications.

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Articles on Potassium

PublicationGetting Enough Potassium: Topic Overview, WebMD

Publication Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011)

PublicationUSDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, USDA

PublicationPotassium and Health, J. Anderson, L. Young and E. Long, Colorado State University

PublicationBrain Fog and Potassium Deficiency, Daniel Smith, Livestrong

PublicationPotassium, University of Maryland Medican Center

 

   
 
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