What is potassium and what does it do for you?
Potassium is an essential mineral found in every cell in the body. Potassium has a strong relationship with sodium, calcium, and magnesium. It is important to have a balance between all of these minerals for good health. Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body. It is an electrolyte that regulates the proper function of every cell in your body. It is often referred to as the wonder mineral and when you read the list below you can see why!
Potassium helps your body:
- keep your heartbeat regular
- makes sure your muscles work right
- aids rheumatic or arthritic conditions by causing acids to leave the joints, thus eases stiffness
- maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body
- transmit nerve impulses
- regulate your fluid and electrolyte balance keeping you hydrated
- maintain healthy, strong bones
- with blood pressure maintenance
- regulate the transfer of nutrients into cells
- eliminate wastes
- control convulsions, headaches and migraines
- in the healing of cuts, bruises and injuries faster
- promote balanced pH levels
- decrease bone loss associated with aging
- reduce kidney stone risk
- increases energy
Keeping the right amount of potassium in your body is a balancing act done by the work of healthy kidneys. If the kidneys are not healthy, there will be a need to limit high potassium foods that can increase the potassium in your blood to a dangerous level.
Deficiency in potassium syptoms:
- muscle spasms and fatigue, leg cramps, and ‘restless leg syndrome’
- hypertension (increased blood pressure)
- can cause kidney stones
- in the most severe cases, heart attacks
What Causes Potassium Deficiency?
- people eating mostly processed foods
- consuming excessive quantities of licorice
- severe vomiting or diarrhea
- anorexics or bulimics
- excessive salt intake
- people taking diuretics
- those with a magnesium deficiency
- certain medications (diuretics, laxatives, cortisone, aspirin, cardiac drugs, steroids)
Rare: Too Much Potassium
Although having ratio of potassium too high is rare, it is possible. It is usually due to other medical conditions such as diabetic kidney disease and Hypokalemia which is the inability of the kidneys to filter out excess potassium from the body. The consequences can be fatal. If potassium becomes too high one may feel some weakness, numbness and tingling and can cause an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack. Again, this is rare.
If this is your condition, limit foods that are high in potassium. Here is a List of Food Very Low in Potassium.
Caution: If you think you have a medical problem, consult your physician. There is as simple blood test to detect low or high levels of potassium.
Most people eat way too much salt, sugar, and fats–which are the only food substances with no potassium in them. The no-potassium foods are table salt, sugar, pancake syrups, hard candies, cornstarch, baking powder, shortening, and salad oils (peanut, olive, sesame, sunflower, safflower, corn, soybean and canola). So, if your diet is full of these, then you may be potassium deficient.
Fortunately most real foods contain potassium so being deficient does not have to be a problem.
My thoughts are that unless you do have a serious medical condition as talked about above, this need not be a problem if you eat a wide variety of whole foods, not stuff out of packages. This real food video and article explains real foods.
Top 5 High Potassium Foods
Out of that whole list of foods, these 5 are what I would consider the healthiest choices. You can easily lots of them; none of them are fattening!
To help you and make it easy I have made a 3 page list of the Highest Potassium Foods with two categories:
- 20 Highest Potassium Foods
- 34 Second Highest Potassium Foods
Recipes High in Potassium:
Power Spinach Salad: You just HAVE TO know how to make a good spinach salad. This one is great and the spinach with give you a potassium boost.
Immune Booster Fruit Salad: Lots of high potassium kiwi fruit in this yummy fruit salad.
Bean Vegetable Stew: This recipe is full of three very high potassium foods. Potassium is just one of the ways this stew is good for you.
Baked Squash with Vegetables: This meal with high potassium squash and potatoes is so so tasty.
About Diana Herrington
I am the Founder and Author at Real Food For Life. Have been teaching cooking classes worldwide since 1982. Create original, healthy recipes and menus, which are gluten free and white sugar free. Also, the author of the GREEN means LEAN and Balance Your Body e-books. I turned a debilitating health crisis into a passion for helping others with healthy, sugar free, gluten free eating and cooking.