Potassium carries an electrical charge (hence its classification as an electrolyte) and is critical to metabolism as well as bodily functions that involve the cells, tissues, and organs.

Potassium benefits

Potassium is known for regulating the acid-base balance within the body. It also plays a role in the synthesis of protein from amino acids and carbohydrate metabolism. It is needed to build muscle and maintain a normal amount of electrical activity in the heart.

Sources of potassium

Potassium is found in both plant and animal based foods. Primary sources include:

  • All meats (beef, chicken, fish, pork)
  • Soy products
  • Broccoli, peas, lima beans, tomatoes
  • Potatoes (more so the skins), sweet potatoes, and winter squashes
  • Cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi, prunes, apricots (dried apricots contain higher amounts of potassium)
  • Milk, yogurt, and nuts

Recommended amounts

Set forth by the Institute of Medicine, the daily dietary intakes for potassium are below (some individuals may be placed on a plan that requires higher than normal amounts to manage a specific issue they may be experiencing).

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Intakes for Potassium1
Age Amount
0-6 months 0.4g/day
7-12 months 0.7g/day
1-3 years 3g/day
4-8 years 3.8g/day
9-13 years 4.5g/day
14+ years 4.7gg/day
Pregnant or Nursing Females 5.1g/day

Potassium side effects

Due to the abundance of potassium in such a large variety of foods, it is rare to suffer from a potassium deficiency. In the event one does consume too little potassium, they may experience a salt sensitivity and high blood pressure. Lowered levels of potassium may result from those taking diuretics (water pills), laxatives, and steroids. Severe vomiting or diarrhea may also result in lower potassium levels.

When too much potassium is in the blood, a condition known as hyperkalemia may surface. This is typically the result of reduced kidney function or failure.

1Potassium in diet - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002413.htm

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