We all know about potassium and how it is essential for our body, but have you ever stopped and searched about the benefits of it? If not, now is the time to do so. Let’s get started:
Importance of Potassium
The 3rd most important and abundant mineral in our body is Potassium. About 98% of potassium is present in our cells. Out of this 98% potassium, 80% of the potassium is found in muscle cells and the remaining 18% is present in red blood cells, liver, and bones. Potassium in our bodies works as an electrolyte. Potassium is highly dissolvable in water and carries a positive charge. Our body needs potassium to get “electricity”, which is used to manage many processes inside our body like nerve signals, muscle contractions, or fluid imbalance.
Potassium is very important for both plants and animals. Although plants require more potassium in order to stay healthy and grow.
Therefore, low or high levels of potassium in our body can create electrolyte imbalance which can be crucial for many body functions. Also, our body needs potassium in order to regulate metabolism and digestion. Potassium maintains fluid levels inside our cells whereas sodium keeps the fluid levels balanced outside the cells.
What is Potassium and where does it come from?
Potassium was first discovered by Sir Humphry Davy in 1807. He isolated the potassium through electrolysis of molten caustic potash. Thus, potassium became the first metal that was isolated using the process of electrolysis.
Potassium is present in a wide variety of foods, especially in green leafy vegetables. Many fruits and vegetables are a good source of potassium. The richest sources of potassium are beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts, starchy vegetables, and dairy foods.
Different foods have different levels of potassium present in them. The list of some foods showing potassium present in them are as follows:
Other food sources of potassium are:
- Salmon fish
- Cashew nuts
- Oranges or orange juice
- Beans or lentils
Recommended Dietary Allowances For Potassium
Studies showed the following RDA for the use of potassium in our daily lives:
|14years and above
|18 years and above
Health benefits of Potassium
There are numerous benefits of potassium on our bodies. Some of them are as jotted down here:
1. Muscle and Heart Contractions
All the muscle contractions in our body are regulated by the nervous system. If there is any alteration in potassium levels in our body, it can also affect the nerve signals in our nervous system. This leads to weakness in muscle contractions. Similarly, the normal movement of heart muscles is also regulated by a balanced potassium level in our blood. If the level of any mineral is too high, the heart can become dilated and flaccid. This leads to abnormal heartbeat due to weakened muscle contractions. The same is for low levels. Any problem in normal heart functioning can affect the normal pumping of blood to the brain, organs, and muscles. This abnormality can prove fatal and may cause death.
2. Healthy Nervous System
As all the messages from the brain are transmitted through the nervous system to all the parts of the body, potassium and sodium ions play a vital role in this moving in and moving out of nerve impulses from the cells. If the potassium level becomes too low, it has a direct effect on the generation of nerve impulses. Thus, the level of potassium in our bodies should be maintained in order to keep our nervous system healthy and working properly.
3. Protection against Strokes
People who consume potassium-rich diets, have a 24% lower risk of getting a stroke than people who consume the least potassium. Many people around the world, are affected by strokes just because they lack potassium intake in their diets.
A very interesting study showed that people who take potassium-rich diets, can protect themselves from osteoporosis. It is a condition in which bones become hollow and porous. Potassium helps in the reduction of calcium loss through urine. A study conducted on women going through menopause found that if they include potassium-rich diets in their daily routines, they can have more bone mass in the lower back and hip bones.
5. Kidney Stones
The stones formed in kidneys are clumps that are formed due to calcium levels in urine. The high calcium level makes the urine concentrated. Potassium Citrate aids in lowering the calcium levels in the urine. Potassium Citrate is present in many fruits and vegetables. People having potassium-rich diets have a 51% lower risk of developing kidney stones. In this way, potassium is helpful in the prevention of the development of kidney stones.
6. Reduction in Water Retention
Water retention is a problem in our body when excessive fluids accumulate in the body. Proper intake of potassium, reduces the sodium levels in our body and also water retention in the body. Potassium increases urine production which helps in preventing the accumulation of excess water inside the body.
7. Blood Pressure Level
Consuming a high potassium diet can lower the blood pressure levels in our body hence potassium-rich foods are an integral part of the diet recommended for people with hypertension.
Side Effects Of Potassium Imbalance
- If the body loses too much potassium, it causes many problems related to deficiency. The most common are vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of lots of water.
- People with kidney diseases should be careful in potassium intake, as they cannot remove these minerals from their bodies through urine and can cause several problems because normal kidney functions become poor with the passage of time.
- If a large amount of potassium is taken at once, it can affect the ability of the kidney to remove that amount of potassium through urine.
The bottom line is that potassium is an important mineral which is very essential for our body. A balanced intake of potassium is very beneficial for the proper functioning of many body processes. Foods like leafy vegetables, beet greens, kale, salmon, and spinach should be included in our diets so that our daily requirement of potassium can be fulfilled.