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Potassium-Rich Foods - An Overview

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Potassium-Rich Foods - An Overview

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Potassium is one of the seven essential minerals the human body needs for proper functioning. Read the article to know it in detail.

Medically reviewed by

Sumiya Sulthana

Published At August 19, 2019
Reviewed AtDecember 14, 2023

Introduction:

Potassium is an electrolyte (minerals in the body fluids that carry an electric charge) that helps in normal body function by maintaining adequate fluid and blood volume in the body. Potassium is an essential mineral for the human body that has to be taken from outside sources, and it is the third most abundant mineral present in the body. Almost 90 percent of potassium is present in the cells of the body, and out of this, 80 percent can be seen in the cells of the muscles, and the rest 20 percent can be seen in bones, red blood cells, and the liver. It helps maintain blood pressure and can be obtained from natural food items and supplements. Apart from bananas, many other foods are good sources of potassium. Some foods specifically provide this mineral, and this article mentions those food items.

The recommended quantity of potassium per day is 4,700 mg. It can differ for various people with different conditions. For people with kidney disease, it is advisable to get less than the recommended quantity as the improper functioning of the kidney can lead to the retention of potassium in the body and thus can cause nerve and muscle problems. Hence, consult the physician regarding the recommended quantity of potassium in exceptional circumstances.

What Are the Low Signs of Potassium?

If the potassium intake is inadequate, the patients may have the following symptoms:

  • Cramps in the muscles.

  • Being worn out.

  • Weakness.

  • An irregular cardiac rhythm.

  • Diarrhea.

If the low potassium is more severe, it might have:

  • Low pulse rate.

  • Dizziness.

  • Muscle spasms and twitches.

  • Severe weakening of the muscles, perhaps paralysis.

  • Severe thirst.

What Results in a Potassium Deficit?

Lack of potassium can have a variety of reasons. The following factors impact the body's potassium levels:

  • The weather.

  • The degree of exercise.

  • When using diuretic medications (often known as "water tablets").

  • The amount of sodium (found in table salt) you eat.

Low potassium levels might potentially occur if:

  • Become dehydrated, as in the case of persistent vomiting, diarrhea, or profuse perspiration.

  • Use some medications, such as diuretics, which cause your urine to have more potassium loss.

  • Possess long-term renal disease.

  • Possess certain hormonal or metabolic issues.

  • Possess low magnesium levels.

  • Lack sufficient potassium in your diet (though this is extremely uncommon).

Why Is Potassium Important for the Human Body?

Potassium is essential for the human body due to the following reasons:

1. Lowers Blood Pressure: Mainly, it is associated with maintaining blood pressure in the following two ways:

  • Potassium helps in the removal of extra sodium from the body via urine. This is beneficial as too much sodium in the body can lead to an increase in high blood pressure.

  • Potassium helps in the relaxation of the walls of blood vessels. When the walls of blood vessels are tight, it can lead to an increase in blood pressure, which in turn can cause heart problems. Hence, potassium is good for the heart.

2. Maintains Proper Nerve Function: Even nerves need potassium for proper functioning to give away signals, as there has to be a migration of sodium and potassium in and out of the nerve membrane.

3. Maintains Muscle Function: The nervous system helps in regulating muscle contractions. Abnormal potassium levels in the blood can affect nerve signals, weakening muscle contractions. It also helps in maintaining muscle tone as it makes the muscles contract and relax the way they are supposed to.

4. Regulates Fluid Balance: It is the other main action as an electrolyte, and potassium, in close association with sodium, determines the amount of water inside the cells. Therefore, it helps to regulate fluid balance in the body, which is crucial for optimal health, as poor fluid balance can cause dehydration resulting in heart and kidney problems.

5. Prevents Stroke: A stroke occurs due to a lack of blood flow to the brain. It can prevent stroke, as studies show that those who ate potassium the most were at a lower risk of stroke.

6. Prevents Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a condition that causes porous and hollow bones. Potassium can be useful in preventing osteoporosis, as studies show that a potassium-rich diet can reduce the amount of calcium the body loses via urine.

7. Prevents Water Retention: Water retention occurs due to the build-up of excess fluid in the body. Potassium can be used as a treatment to reduce the retention of water. High potassium intake helps in reducing water retention by increasing urine production and reducing sodium levels.

8. Prevents Kidney Stones: Kidney stones are clumps of material present in concentrated urine. Calcium is commonly present in kidney stones, and potassium lowers the calcium levels in the urine, preventing kidney stone development.

What Are the Reasons for Abnormal Levels of Potassium in the Body?

A decrease in potassium levels in the body can occur in situations like chronic vomiting or diarrhea or in situations when a person loses a lot of water from the body. Excess potassium can occur when the body cannot excrete potassium, like in cases of kidney diseases. Hence, patients suffering from kidney diseases should be cautious with potassium intake. However, since potassium is one of the important minerals in the body, it is mandatory to take it in adequate quantities.

Which Food Items Are Rich in Potassium?

Potassium can be obtained from food items, supplements, and salt substitutes. Potassium is found in a wide variety of animal and plant foods and beverages. Dietary supplements are a good source of potassium. In supplements, it is present as potassium chloride, potassium citrate, phosphate, bicarbonate, aspartate, and gluconate. Many salt substitutes are also good sources of potassium as they contain potassium chloride as a replacement for sodium chloride in salts.

Many daily food items contain potassium, but a lot of people do not consume them in adequate amounts to maintain normal levels of potassium. Hence, to boost potassium levels, some specific foods are a comprehensive list of high potassium-rich foods.

1. The following fresh fruits and vegetables are a comprehensive list of high potassium-rich foods:

  • Oranges, bananas, dry fruits like dates, and raisins.

  • Spinach and broccoli that are cooked.

  • Sweet potatoes.

  • Peas.

  • Mushrooms.

  • Cucumbers.

  • Pumpkins.

  • Green leafy vegetables.

2. Some juices like the following are a comprehensive list of high potassium-rich foods:

  • Orange juice.

  • Grapefruit juice.

  • Tomato juice.

  • Apricot juice.

3. The following dairy products are also amazing sources of potassium:

  • Milk and curd or yogurt (low-fat or fat-free are advisable).

4. The following fishes can also be taken as good sources of potassium:

  • Tuna.

  • Cod.

  • Rockfish.

  • Halibut.

5. The following beans and legumes can also be good sources of potassium:

  • Kidney beans.

  • Soybeans.

  • Lentils.

  • Lima beans.

  • Pinto beans.

6. Apart from all the above, the following is also a comprehensive list of high potassium-rich foods:

  • Nuts.

  • Molasses.

  • Poultry.

  • Meat.

  • Brown rice.

  • Wild rice.

  • Bran cereal.

  • Pasta.

  • Whole-wheat bread.

Conclusion:

Potassium is an essential mineral that the human body requires for normal functioning. A potassium deficiency can cause many health issues, such as high blood pressure, bone turnover, kidney stones, salt sensitivity, etc. Everybody needs to take a proper diet, including potassium-rich food items and supplements if needed to maintain recommended potassium levels in the body.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Which Foods Are Rich in Potassium?

Food rich in potassium includes green leafy vegetables and fruits. These include-
- Foods like swiss chard and mushrooms.
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, brussels sprouts.
- Vegetables - peas, avocado, pumpkin, broccoli, and cucumbers.
- Bok choy (a type of Chinese cabbage).
- Underground vegetables - potatoes, sweet potato, beetroot.
- Lentils - kidney beans, soybeans, lima beans, pinto beans, white beans. 
- Fruits - Banana and oranges, cantaloupe.
- Dairy products - milk and yogurt.

2.

Are Eggs High in Potassium?

Eggs do contain very high amounts of potassium as not considered among the top ten foods rich in potassium levels. An egg contains only as good as 63 milligrams of potassium.
The potassium content of an egg depends on the egg preparation as well. Usually, scrambled eggs have higher potassium levels, while poached and soft-boiled eggs have lower potassium levels.

3.

What Are the Signs of Low Potassium?

 
- Persistent muscle weakness and body fatigue.
- Frequent muscle cramps.
- Muscle stiffness and recurrent spam.
- Tingling sensations and numbness in limbs.
- Increased heart rate and palpitations.
- Altered digestion, constipation, and bloating.

4.

How Can I Increase My Potassium Quickly?

An easier way to quickly increase potassium levels in the body is to -
- Have a banana every day.
- Drink electrolyte drinks and energy drinks.
- Eat freshly cut watermelon.
- Have orange juice.
- Consume potassium supplements as prescribed by a doctor.

5.

What Causes Potassium Levels to Drop?

The following are linked to a drop in potassium levels -
- Less consumption of potassium-rich foods and vegetables.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Chronic kidney disease or kidney failure.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (a complication of diabetes in which increased amounts of ketones are in the blood).
- Diarrhea (loose motions).
- Diuretic medications (medications that cause frequent urination).
- Excessive use of laxatives (more potassium is passed in the stools).
- Excessive sweating.
- Folic acid deficiency.
- Primary aldosteronism.
- Certain antibiotic medications (like Penicillin and Ampicillin).
- Excess vomiting.

6.

What Is the Fastest Way to Cure Low Potassium?

The fastest way to cure low potassium levels is to consume potassium supplements or have an electrolyte drink that contains potassium. Certain energy drinks also do contain decent amounts of potassium to meet the body's requirements. Potassium supplements are available but should be taken only as the doctor recommends.

7.

How Does Vitamin D Affect Potassium Levels?

Generally, potassium imbalance does not disturb vitamin D metabolism, but when both are present, they can compromise the blood circulation in the body. Studies suggest severe vitamin D deficiency with low potassium levels may cause hypertension (increased blood pressure) and palpitations.

8.

Can Excess Water Consumption Lead To Potassium Depletion?

To maintain potassium levels in the body, magnesium (a mineral) is essential. Excessive water consumption can lead to magnesium depletion in the body. Magnesium can be flushed out of the body through frequent urination if one consumes more than ten to twelve glasses of water daily. This naturally will lower the potassium levels as well.

9.

How Serious Is Low Potassium?

Mild potassium deficiency may not be much of a problem, but only it may begin to show a few signs and symptoms. Severe potassium deficiencies may cause -
- Myalgia (muscle weakness and cramps)
- Irregular heart rhythm. 
- Extreme fatigue and body weakness.
- Signs of anxiety.
- Confusion and delirium.
- Tingling and numbness in arms and legs.
- Skin blisters, skin eruptions, skin dryness, and acne.
- Temporary memory loss or other problems like weak memory and concentration difficulties.
- Insomnia (lack of sleep) and irritability.
- Intestinal or lung paralysis.
- Heart-related problems, such as heart deterioration.
- It may increase the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).
- The digestive system may also get affected due to this deficiency, which may lead to constipation.

10.

What Should I Do if My Potassium Is Low?

Low potassium levels can affect the body in the long run. One should include potassium-rich foods and vegetables in the diet for severe potassium deficiencies. Here are some ways to increase their potassium levels quickly -
- Have a banana every day.
- Drink electrolyte drinks and energy drinks.
- Eat green vegetables like spinach, avocado, broccoli, peas, and fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe. 
- Including white beans and kidney beans in the diet can also increase potassium levels.
- Have orange juice.
- Consume potassium supplements as prescribed by a doctor.

11.

How Can I Test My Potassium Levels at Home?

Potassium levels usually cannot be tested at home. The doctor usually looks out for the signs and symptoms of potassium deficiency and calls for certain investigations to check potassium levels in the body. This needs the help of lab assistants to test blood and urine samples to measure potassium levels in the body. However, blood and urine samples can be collected from home while one must await reports on the same.

12.

What Foods Cause Low Potassium?

Overconsumption of sodium-rich foods like chips, salty cheese snacks, and canned foods, foods high in monosodium glutamate,  may deplete potassium. Excess caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and soda, which are particularly high in sugar, may also reduce your body's potassium stores. Alcohol, a diuretic, may also cause decreased potassium levels in the body.
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Sumiya Sulthana
Sumiya Sulthana

Nutritionist

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potassium rich foods
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