Potassium

Potassium

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Overview

Potassium is an essential mineral for humans. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain it through food (or supplements).

Importance

Potassium has many functions in the body including:

  • Maintaining an electrochemical gradient across cell membranes, which is necessary for nerve impulse transmission, cardiac function, and muscle contraction
  • Assisting in enzyme activity.

Food Sources

Potassium can be found in several foods including:

  • Swiss chard
  • Lima beans
  • Yams
  • Squash
  • Potatoes
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Bananas
  • Artichokes
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Organ meats
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Soybeans
  • Pinto beans
  • Lentils
  • Papaya.

Deficiencies

Common symptoms and resulting conditions of potassium deficiency include:

  • Cardiac arrhythmia, possibly leading to cardiac arrest
  • Muscle cramps.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or deficiency in certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Potassium deficiencies are typically not a result of insufficient dietary intake. Instead, they’re usually caused by protein wasting conditions. Some diuretics can also cause excessive loss of potassium in the urine. 

Excess/Toxicity

Common symptoms of potassium excess/toxicity include:

  • Tingling of extremities
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea.

However, your individual response could be different. If you suspect a health problem or an excess of certain nutrients, please see your primary health care provider (doctor, naturopath, etc). They can help unravel the complexity of your physiology.

Note: Toxicity occurs when the intake of potassium exceeds the capacity of the kidney for elimination. This is found with kidney failure and potassium sparing diuretics. Oral doses greater than 18 grams of potassium can also lead to toxicity. 

Recipe

For recipes rich in potassium, check out any of the Encyclopedia of Food entries for food items listed above!

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At a Glance

Potassium is an essential mineral that the body can only obtain through food. Potassium is important for cell membrane behavior including nerve impulse transmission, cardiac function, and muscle contraction. You can find potassium in bananas, avocados, swiss chard, artichokes, squash, and many more types of fruits and vegetables.