Diet & Nutrition 4 MIN READ 103 VIEWS November 18, 2021

Why You Should Have Foods that are Rich in Potassium

Written By Garima Bahal
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Foods that are rich in potassium
Why Do We Need Foods High in Potassium
Ideal Potassium Requirements
Food Sources of Potassium
What Happens When Potassium Intake is Insufficient
Conclusion

Healthy and conscious eating is finally gaining the traction that it deserves. While you may have come across many articles and posts on the importance of including vitamins or Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet, minerals unfortunately do not receive much coverage. Yet they are every bit as important as vitamins. In fact, did you know that vitamins and minerals work in tandem? Vitamins cannot yield the desired effect without certain minerals. In this juncture, we need to discuss one very important mineral which might be overlooked in your daily diet – Potassium. Adding foods that are rich in Potassium to your diet would immensely improve your lifestyle and health.

Let us delve into the importance of potassium and learn why we need foods that contain Potassium.

Why Do We Need Foods High in Potassium?

Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the human body. That itself gives you a clue as to how important it is. This underestimated mineral is an electrolyte. That means a potassium rich diet produces a lot of positively charged ions in your body. These ions can conduct electricity and as you know it is electric pulses that are responsible for many functions of the body, including your heartbeat.

Foods with potassium help prevent your cells from retaining excess water and maintaining fluid balance in your body. The amount of fluids present in your cells depends on the interaction between Sodium and Potassium. While sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure by retaining water, potassium lowers the risk of high blood pressure through vasodilation. Water retention is a primary cause of high blood pressure and unregulated hypertension can be bad for your heart. Water retention is also extremely taxing for your kidneys because they have to work extra hard to remove the excess water and this might eventually lead to kidney damage. Foods with potassium negate the effects of sodium and maintain the ideal fluid balance in your cells.  

A potassium rich diet is also beneficial for your bones and teeth. Potassium is very alkaline, which means it can reduce acid levels in your body. High acid levels can erode your bones and prevent Calcium absorption. Foods that contain potassium also improve your bone mineral density and can be effective in preventing Osteoporosis.

Foods with potassium also help prevent kidney stones. In fact, medicines containing Potassium Citrate are prescribed to people who have been diagnosed with kidney stones. Potassium makes urine alkaline. Acidic urine or the presence of too much uric acid is conducive for the formation of kidney and gallbladder stones.

Because a potassium rich diet produces positively charged ions and conducts electricity in your body, such foods are also vital for transmitting nerve signals and the contraction and relaxation of your muscles (all operate through electric pulses).

Ideal Potassium Requirements

We do not require minerals in vast quantities. The amount of Potassium your body requires for optimum functioning can easily be derived from a well-planned diet.

Age groupDaily required intake
Adults (men)3400 mg
Adults (women)2600 mg
Breastfeeding women2800 mg
Teenagers (boys)3000 mg
Teenagers (girls)2300 mg
Children (1-12 years)2000-2300 mg

Food Sources of Potassium

You do not have to look far and wide for foods high in potassium. These foods are available in almost every market and you may already have many of them in your refrigerator:

1. Tomatoes (both fresh tomatoes and tomato paste/puree without any sugar or preservatives)

2. Yams

3. Potatoes (both regular potatoes and sweet potatoes)

4. Squash

5. Spinach

6. Broccoli

7. Beet greens

8. Kidney beans

9. Soybean

10. Bananas

11. Lentils

12. Avocados

13. Salmon

14. Dried fruits

15. Dates and raisins

16. Oranges

17. Cashew nuts

18. Dairy and plant-based milk

19. Coconut water

20. Yoghurt

21. Chicken

22. Coffee

What Happens When Potassium Intake is Insufficient?

Mild Potassium deficiency does not trigger any symptoms. But people who are averse to consuming vegetables and fruits are likely to suffer from moderate Potassium deficiency which is characterized by weakness, muscle cramps, constipation, and overall physical discomfort.

Unless a potassium-rich diet is adopted, moderate deficiency can proceed to Hypokalemia or severe Potassium deficiency that can cause muscle paralysis, irregular heartbeat, hypertension, and eventual heart disorders. People who take diuretics for blood pressure management or have Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome or gastrointestinal issues that can cause persistent diarrhea/vomiting are likely to have low levels of Potassium in their bodies. So, they need to be particularly cautious and include foods with potassium in their diet.  

In certain cases, doctors may also recommend potassium supplements to quickly increase your potassium levels.

Conclusion

A healthy diet comprises all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that the body requires. You do not even have to specifically look for foods that are rich in potassium if you make it a point to include vegetables, fruits, dairy, soy, fish, and lean meat in your diet. You can protect yourself from a number of health issues especially if you can supplement your diet with regular exercise.

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