9 Benefits Of Potassium

Potassium is an electrolyte and one of the seven essential macrominerals that assists the body in a variety of physiological functions, such as bone health, cognitive function, and cardiovascular health. This key electrolyte also regulates fluid balance and controls electrical activity of the heart and other muscles. Potassium, the third most abundant mineral in the body, is required for several key organs, such as the kidneys, brain and heart.

Potassium Deficiency

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported that fewer than two percent of people in the U.S. consume enough potassium daily, which should be around 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. Being deficient in potassium can lead to anything from mild issues such as fatigue, weakness and constipation to more serious issues such as respiratory failure, paralysis and gut issues.

Hypokalemia (potassium deficiency) occurs when potassium levels fall below 3.5 mmol/L, and can be diagnosed using a blood test. Low levels of potassium can be regulated through diet and supplements.

Experiencing increased levels of stress, over exercising, and eating a diet that is low in fruits and vegetables can all contribute to potassium imbalances throughout the body.

9 Health Benefits of Potassium

Blood Pressure

Studies found that the higher the sodium to potassium ratio, the higher the risk of developing hypertension, death and disease. Potassium has been useful in managing blood pressure as it helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, as well as lessen the effects of sodium.

Adrenal Support

When we are under a lot of stress, our bodies excrete potassium, as well as other electrolytes, in order to increase the production of electrical currents that help our body run. Our cells are electrically charged by minerals such as potassium. Potassium is found inside of our cells, while sodium is found outside of our cells. If there is excessive sodium and deficient potassium in our cells, excess adrenal activity can take place, which can lead to adrenal insufficiency. Replacing potassium and other electrolytes in the diet can support adrenal gland functioning when we are unable to keep up with the high stress demands we place on them on a daily basis.

Cardiovascular Health

Studies found that increasing potassium intake reduces cardiovascular disease mortality. This is mainly attributable to the blood pressure-lowering effect and may also be partially because of the direct effects of potassium on the cardiovascular system. Having low or reduced serum potassium levels may increase the risk of ventricular arrhythmias in those with ischaemic heart disease, heart failure and left ventricular hypertrophy. Research found that increasing potassium intake may prevent this and support cardiovascular health.

Calcium Balance

Potassium may prevent vascular calcification, or the buildup of calcium in the smooth muscle cells within arteries. Research shows that low potassium can increase the calcium levels within smooth muscle cells. High levels of calcium can lead to the activation of a protein called CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein). CREB is a critical part of the calcification process when potassium levels are low.

Bone Health

Potassium balances pH,neutralize and buffer acids, which is vital in reserving the alkaline state of our bones. Our bones store a backup reserve of alkaline materials (such as potassium) to maintain pH homoeostasis throughout the body. Potassium salts can neutralize bone-depleting metabolic acids, which can essentially eat away at our bone integrity. It can conserve calcium within the body as well and reduce urinary calcium loss, which is essential for bone health.

Blood Glucose Support

Low serum potassium is strongly related to glucose intolerance, and increasing potassium intake may prevent the development of diabetes. Certain diabetes medications can affect potassium levels throughout the body, and taking insulin can also cause your potassium levels to drop.

Improved Muscle Strength

When individuals are dehydrated due to imbalances in key electrolytes such as potassium, they might experience decreased athletic performance and recovery. Potassium can decrease muscle weakness and improve overall muscle strength. Roughly 9 percent of our body’s potassium is stored within our body’s cells, making it important for cellular contraction as well as regulating nerve and muscle function in the body.

Muscle Cramping

Cellular and circulating concentrations of potassium are required for systemic electrolyte balance, which can affect muscle spasms and cramping. If you experience cramping frequently, this could be a sign of low potassium levels. Studies even found potassium to beneficial for PMS cramping.

Brain Support

Potassium plays a role in stimulating neural activity, which is important for keeping brain functioning at optimal levels. Potassium can increase oxygenation of brain tissues, as it acts as a vasodilator, helping to relax the blood vessels and optimize blood flow to the brain.

Top 8 Potassium-Rich Foods

• Sweet Potato (1 cup) 950 mg

• Salmon (1/2 fillet) 772 mg

• Watermelon (2 wedges) 641 mg

• Coconut Water (1 cup) 600 mg

• Butternut Squash (1 cup) 582 mg

• Spinach (1 cup) 540 mg

• Beets (1 cup) 518 mg

• Avocado (1/2) 488 mg

The Bottom Line

The adequate intake recommendation for potassium is 4,700 milligrams per day for adults. While supplementing with potassium can be an easier option, deriving potassium through the diet from whole, organic real foods is ideal. Fruit and vegetables are among the richest sources of dietary potassium. 

Peggy Van Cleef