With professional life absorbing a large chunk of our personal life, the need towards maintaining a healthy body is required. More and more people are turning their attention towards eating a healthy and a well-balanced diet, rich with all the required nutrients and minerals.

More often than not, people forget one essential nutrient supplement which should be included in every meal. And that is potassium. Not many people are aware of this, but potassium is needed to maintain muscle health, balanced heartbeat and overall mental well-being.  

Although a well-balanced diet supplies all the potassium that is needed for an individual in a day, the work culture and other factors do not make the potassium consumption enough. Therefore, while taking potassium, either through your daily meals or in the form of tablets, certain factors like your work and physique have to be kept in mind.

Before, reckoning the amount of potassium to be taken daily, let’s understand what potassium really is.

What is Potassium?

Potassium is essentially a mineral and an electrolyte which is generally found in your greens and legumes in the vegetarian diet, whereas in fish and salmons in a non-vegetarian diet.

Potassium

As mentioned earlier, potassium is needed for a plethora of processes to work in your body such as the movement of muscles, healthy functions of your heart and also preventing your kidney from developing any stones.

A majority of potassium you intake is stored in your cells and the rest is stored in your skeletal muscle, bones, RBCs and the liver.

Apart from the aforementioned benefits of potassium, here are some other important benefits of keeping your potassium levels at par in your body:

  • If you are a salt sensitive person, that is your blood pressure spikes a 10% after eating salt, potassium is your knight in shining armor here. A diet rich with potassium helps in obliterating salt sensitivity.
  • According to several studies, it has been revealed that a potassium-rich diet can reduce the risk of suffering from a stroke.
  • As potassium is a great friend to your muscles, it can help you prevent osteoporosis.
  • Lastly, a moderate increase in your daily potassium intake can prevent kidney stones from occurring and enhance the function of your kidneys.

What happens when you face potassium deficiency?

A potassium deficiency is called hypokalemia which generally occurs when the body has lost too much potassium during diarrhea or vomiting. Additionally, you can also lose a significant amount of potassium from your body when you are on some medications such as diuretics, which leads to excessive water excretion.

Therefore, under such situations, you need to balance your diet in such a way that it compensates for all the lost nutrients and minerals during any kind of surgery or specific medications.  

The levels of potassium deficiency and the related symptoms include:

1. Mild deficiency: This happens when your body loses a bit of potassium than the average amount of 3.5 mmol/l. As this is just an initial phase, it does not cause any symptoms.

2. Moderate deficiency: When your body has only 2 or 2.5 mmol/l of potassium, you may experience muscle cramps, fatigue, discomfort and even weakness.

3. Severe deficiency: Less amount than 2.5 mmol/l leads to severe symptoms such as unbalanced heartbeat and could even lead to serious conditions such as paralysis, respiratory failure, pain in your intestines, numbing or itchiness in your legs, hands or feet.

 What happens when potassium is in excess?

If potassium is in excess in your body, the condition is known as hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia, although found uncommon among the population, is very dangerous. It occurs when the potassium levels surpass the limit of 5.0 mmol/l. Especially, the people suffering from any specific kidney disease or taking any medications, hyperkalemia becomes extremely dangerous.

The group of people for whom excess potassium intake is dangerous are:

1. People with kidney disease: Generally, kidneys are the organs in the body removing excess amounts of potassium. If kidneys are not working properly, there are high chances of potassium build-up. Patients of chronic kidney diseases should avoid taking too much potassium as their kidneys do not function well for removing the potassium, resulting in unwanted buildup.  

2. Blood pressure patients: People suffering from high or low blood pressure need to keep their potassium intake in check because certain blood pressure medications cause hyperkalemia. Therefore, under such circumstances, it is advisable to keep their potassium levels a bit low.

Now that we know the health benefits of moderate potassium consumption, let’s focus on the quantity of potassium per day.

How much potassium do you need per day?

According to the World Health Organization, your daily potassium intake needs to be at least 3500 milligrams. Be that as it may, your potassium intake largely depends upon your daily activity and genetic factors. Therefore, other groups of organizations belonging to different countries recommend consuming 4500 milligrams of potassium daily.  

However, eating that much amount of potassium has helped only certain groups of people such as:

Potassium

1. Athletes: Such people indulge into high-intensity interval workout every day and therefore their chances of losing potassium in the form of sweat are indubitably high. Hence, if you are an athlete, it is advisable for you to eat 4500mg of potassium.

2. Patients: People suffering from osteoporosis, stroke, paralysis or kidney stones can benefit from consuming 4500 mg of potassium as it reduces the risk of escalating the diseases.

Food sources for potassium:

Generally, potassium abounds in fruits and vegetables that are easy to digest and wholesome in nature. A majority of potassium is found in tomatoes which is almost a 1000mg. Then comes all your cooked greens, following potatoes, spinach, avocados, cooked soybeans, salmon and even bananas.   

While maintaining your potassium levels in the body, it is advisable to also maintain the sodium levels in the body. Because the foods high in potassium are also sodium-rich and excessive sodium consumption can have a negative impact on your blood pressure.

Therefore, while eating a potassium-rich diet, make sure all other nutrients are also included in order to maintain a healthy and fit body.