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Potassium Packs A Punch

Potassium is needed to build muscle, use carbohydrates effectively, and facilitate normal body growth.

It’s critical for muscle control, blood pressure regulation, and nerve function, and it may play a role in the prevention of a variety of illnesses.

There is evidence that not getting sufficient dietary potassium in relation to sodium may trigger high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Severe potassium deficiency is uncommon, though it can be caused by poor control of diabetes, very low-calorie diets, overuse of certain laxatives or diuretics (including caffeine), some medications, intense exercise, alcoholism, and severe vomiting or diarrhea.

However, many people suffer from a mild deficiency because they don’t take in enough potassium day to day, and the fact that sodium is often added to processed foods can upset the body’s sodium-potassium balance.

Signs of insufficient potassium include chronic diarrhoea; confusion; fatigue; heart problems; irritability; muscle cramps; and muscle weakness. It should be noted that these symptoms can indicate many different illnesses or dietary insufficiencies, so checking with a doctor is necessary before assuming that the problem is low potassium.

It’s always better to get nutrients through natural sources because ingredients in foods work synergistically to promote health.

As a general rule, eliminating or reducing processed foods from your diet and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables will help to maintain a good potassium-sodium balance.

Food sources of potassium rated excellent or very good by the George Mateljan Foundation (2012) include green leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, and turnip greens; Crimini and shiitake mushrooms; Winter and summer squash; Other vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, fennel, celery, cauliflower, asparagus, eggplants, and carrots; Fruits such as cantaloupes, tomatoes, and papayas; Legumes such as green beans and blackstrap molasses.

Potassium is also found in all animal products (red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy), nuts, soy, potatoes (particularly the skins), yams, peas, citrus fruits, bananas, kiwi fruits, and lima beans. Although they are often advertised as electrolyte replacers, sports drinks are not good sources of potassium.

Cooking foods can reduce their potassium content, so eating vegetables such as spinach raw will increase your potassium intake.

Anderson, J.; Young, L.; & Long, E., “Potassium and Health,” Colorado State University Extension, August 2008.
The George Mateljan Foundation, “Potassium,” World’s Healthiest Foods, 2012.
U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Potassium in Diet,” MedlinePlus, 23 June 2012.

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