Found in varying amounts in a plethora of foods, potassium is a mineral and, more importantly, an electrolyte that conducts electrical charges in the body. Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body and has several duties, the primary of which are to regulate fluid levels and heart rhythm. It is extremely feasible to obtain or exceed the recommended daily amount of potassium because of how plentiful it is in various foods.
Regulates Blood Pressure:
People who have high blood pressure are commonly told to eat potassium-rich foods to help naturally lower their blood pressure. Potassium has natural vasodilation properties, which help to relieve tension in blood vessels, i.e. one of the contributing factors to high blood pressure. Because potassium works to balance fluid levels in the body, it helps reduce sodium levels to create a more neutral pH balance. This ultimately helps to maintain normal blood pressure levels.
Because Americans fail to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and consume heavily salted and prepared foods, they often don’t get enough potassium. Recent studies show that only about 5% of Americans meet the minimum goals of fresh fruit and vegetable consumption. Failure to consistently meet these goals can make it difficult to maintain healthy potassium levels.
Potassium contributes to an overall balanced metabolism. It helps the body process nutrients like carbohydrates or fats, ultimately taking out energy from the nutrients you consume. Recent studies have also shown that potassium helps to synthesize protein, which aids with tissue regeneration and cell growth.
Too Much Potassium?
If you consume too much potassium, the kidneys typically filter it out and the body eliminates it via urine, stool, or sweat. If the kidneys aren’t filtering properly, excess potassium can accumulate in the body, also known as hyperkalemia. Symptoms of hyperkalemia can include weakened muscles, abdominal cramps, or irritability, but it can lead to heart problems.
Not Enough Potassium?
Potassium deficiency is more common than you think, but it often goes undiagnosed. Symptoms can include muscle weakness, constipation, or fatigue. The elderly, those on diuretics, or people with eating disorders are most commonly affected because their kidneys can struggle to regulate potassium levels. It can be corrected by consuming foods high in potassium, the best of which are detailed below.
Naturally sweet with a dark red pigment, beets are rich in folate, manganese, and potassium. One cup of beets contains 11% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of potassium! Additionally, the potassium in beets may help to improve blood vessel function. The pigment in beets is a natural antioxidant that helps to fight oxidative damage and inflammation in the body.
These are probably one of the best plant-based sources of potassium, containing 18% of the RDI in one cup. A large review of about 250,000 people found that increasing potassium consumption by 35% of the RDI reduced the risk of stroke by 21%. White beans are also packed with fiber and antioxidants, which can help to decrease inflammation and improve colon health.
One cup of cooked spinach contains 18% of the RDI for potassium, which makes this a great low-calorie option for people who need to consume more potassium. This single cup of cooked spinach also provides you with four times the RDI of vitamin A, ten times the RDI of vitamin K, and 30% of the RDI for calcium. These nutrients contribute to healthier bones, vision, metabolism, and immune function.
People may not view sweet potatoes as the most nutrient-rich vegetables. Well, they are full of vitamin A and one large sweet potato provides 18% of the RDI of potassium. Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamins C & B6 and manganese.
Avocados are the kings of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and they are full of antioxidants. They wouldn’t be on this list if they weren’t rich in potassium! One medium avocado contains 20% of the RDI for potassium. Recent studies have shown that avocados help to improve heart health, metabolism, and overall weight management, especially when they are consumed with a diet rich in plant-based foods. Plus, they are delicious!
Get your daily dose of potassium with these foods, but don’t overindulge. You don’t want to have too much potassium in the body.