Potassium: The Vital Mineral We Are All Lacking
by Cassius K
Potassium might be considered one of the most crucial minerals to the body, in general. Potassium is an electrolyte that helps regulate fluid and blood levels in the body. Most people don’t know it, but almost every single person is deficient in it, to a very significant degree. Potassium plays a vital role in a litany of bodily processes. Managing to consume enough, or come anywhere near realizing that specific health problems find root in this deficiency, from issues with muscle function to cardiac problems, has proven to be difficult.
It is estimated that around 98% of all adults in the United States fail to meet the daily intake recommendation for Potassium. It might have something to do with depleted soils. It would only make sense because nature tends to avoid building our bodies based on minerals or vitamins that aren’t naturally accessible.
How much Potassium do I need?
There are very few sources of significant Potassium that we can find in modern society. It gets more complicated when you realize that the mineral is incompatible with supplementation.
The 2300-3000 mg recommended dietary intake of Potassium is nearly impossible to supplement in any significant volume. The FDA limits over-the-counter potassium supplements to less than 100 mg due to the potential danger of heart problems, including cardiac arrest. Even consuming a minimal dose in pill form can prove to be detrimental to heart health.
The World Health Organization (WHO), despite their bad reputation with the people, sets the value at around 3,500 mg. At the same time, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Spain, Belgium, and other countries agree. United States, Canada, Bulgaria, South Korea, and other countries recommend as much as 4,700 mg of Potassium daily.
Potassium deficiency is known as hypokalemia. When levels of Potassium in the blood read as less than 3.5 mmol per liter, this is considered hypokalemia. The primary cause for deficiency is the body “losing” Potassium through such experiences as vomiting, chronic diarrhea, a great deal of exercise, or sweating. The use of such things as diuretics, which are responsible for making the body lose water, is also a culprit.
How do I get the Potassium my body needs?
With few options, eating foods with the necessary vitamins is the best and most convenient way to supplement it. While the debate continues as to the accuracy of daily recommended values of most vitamins and minerals, Potassium is probably accurately reported.
This vital mineral and electrolyte is found in small amounts in many vegetables, legumes, fruits, and fish. Many believe bananas to be a good source. However, it is impossible to consume enough bananas to absorb the mineral. Below is a shortlist of foods high in potassium levels. (Here is a more extensive list.)
- Dried apricots
- Leafy greens
- Prunes and prune juice
- Tomato puree or juice
- Milk and yogurt
- Sweet potatoes
Are there any other options?
It seems the very best way to get enough Potassium is by drinking coconut water. Coconut water typically contains one half of the daily recommended value in one liter. One liter of coconut water daily, or better yet two, could be the one thing capable of replenishing a person’s supplies of Potassium.
Why can’t we readily replenish our supply?
Debate: Does potassium deficiency result from the body’s loss of it, or do we not have enough in the first place?
For some reason, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to consume enough Potassium to reach that RDI (Referenced Daily Intake). For that term to describe the necessary daily dose of a vitamin or mineral, technically, there has been no concrete definition for how much Potassium a person needs. Due to what they say is “insufficient evidence behind the mineral,” experts on nutrition have not determined an RDI.
80% of the body’s Potassium is estimated to be found in muscle cells, while around 20% is found in liver, bone, and red blood cells. Muscle contractions, an essential to heart function, and the balance of water in the body are all tied to Potassium. Managing to consume enough Potassium, perhaps with the help of coconut water and the other foods shared here, is vital to us all.
Research has shown the benefits of having enough Potassium include:
- Reduced Risk of High Blood Pressure and Stroke: Increasing the amount of Potassium in your diet and decreasing the amount of sodium might help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.
- Reduced Risk of Kidney Stones: Increasing the amount of Potassium in your diet might reduce your risk of developing kidney stones.
- Reduced Risk of Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes: Low intakes of Potassium might increase blood sugar levels. Over time, this can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Bone Health: People who have high intakes of Potassium seem to have stronger bones. Eating more of these foods might improve bone health by increasing bone density.
Potassium is so mysterious and unquantifiable in terms of how much we need. Is this something you’re working on increasing in your diet? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Cassius K. is a writer from North Highlands, California.