What do you usually think of when people mention potassium? Most people would think of bananas because they contain a good amount of them, but what most people don’t know is what exactly can potassium do for you. Chances are that you’re not getting enough of it, but most of us aren’t aware of the fact that we’re not getting enough potassium. I know for a fact that when I was in the hospital, the doctor had to pump potassium into my every single day and in the beginning, I had absolutely no clue what it was or what it can do to me. No worries, I’ll go over all of that in this detailed guide.
What is potassium?
Potassium is one of our body’s four main electrolytes, along with sodium, magnesium, and calcium. Being an electrolyte, potassium helps maintain a proper water balance in the body as well as regulate blood pressure. Now there’s more to it than just that. Potassium also helps with muscle strength, nerve functioning, proper digestion and a healthy cardiovascular system.
A potassium-rich diet helps the body flush out sodium. Most Americans consume way too much sodium. Almost all foods contain some sort of sodium especially those burgers and fries. When your body has an excessive amount of sodium, your body will start to retain water and bloat. This is why you see a lot of people ask about why their face seems puffy even though they are losing weight. A common cure to a puffy face is to have a good potassium and sodium balance.
Every cell in your body needs the right amount of potassium to function. Quite often, people feel tired even though they’re getting enough sleep. This could be caused by low potassium.
So….how much potassium do I actually need?
The recommended daily amount of potassium is:
- 3,000 mg per day for ages 1 to 3
- 3,800 mg per day for ages 4 to 8
- 4,500 mg per day for ages 9 to 13
- 4,700 mg per day for ages 14 and older
- 5,100 for women who are breastfeeding
Most experts would recommend 4,700 mg per day as a good number. Just for your reference, let’s take a look at the amount of potassium that is contained in some foods.
From the picture, we can see that a lot of foods contain a good amount of potassium. Most of these foods listed in the picture are healthy foods that you should be consuming on a regular basis. Sweating a lot from working out may cause low levels of potassium, it is important to replenish your body’s potassium after exercise.
Very low potassium levels can result in severe potassium deficiency characterized by a condition called hypokalemia. Symptoms of hypokalemia are serious, evenly deadly, and include cardiac arrhythmias, muscle weakness, and glucose intolerance.
Signs that you’re not getting enough potassium
Alright, so now we know what kind of role potassium plays in your body and why we need it, let’s talk about some signs that you’re not getting enough potassium.
This is the most common effect that most people experience when they’re not getting enough potassium. When I was younger, I would always have leg and foot cramps. My mom would always tell me to eat more bananas. I never knew that bananas contained potassium, but I knew it worked. I stopped having so many cramps and felt a lot better. When this mineral is low in the body, the cells do not send or receive the proper electrical signals to control muscle contractions.
Another thing that comes with muscle cramps is muscle weakness and pain. I experienced this myself when I was low in potassium. My muscles would feel pain even though I didn’t do any type of exercise or lifting. Low potassium levels can lead to profound weakness and muscle stiffness, aching and tenderness.
Potassium plays an important role in muscle healing and recovery.
You feel weak, tired, and dizzy
Now, this is a common problem that a lot of people experience. It might not necessary have to do with a deficiency. This can be because you’re not having enough carbs or a lot of other reason, but another sign that you’re not getting enough potassium is when you’re tired. If you’re sleeping well and eating well, but still experience weakness, dizziness or tiredness, then it could mean that you need to consume more potassium.
Another common problem that comes with feeling weak, tired and dizzy is tingly or numb feeling in your arms and legs.
Puffy face and bloating
I mentioned this one above! I’ve seen this topic appear in many fitness and health forums where people talk about how their face is puffy even though they are lean. If you’re at a healthy weight and have a decent lean body, but have a puffy face, then it could mean that you’re lacking potassium. If you’re always feeling bloated, then this could also mean that you’re lacking potassium. The reason this happens is because of the excess sodium in your body. When you’re low on potassium, your body struggles to regulate its sodium levels, and can cause salt-induced bloating.
Irregular heart rhythms
Low potassium can disrupt the rhythmic, coordinated contractions of the heart that are controlled by electrical impulses. On the other hand, too much potassium can cause dangerous heartbeat irregularities and even sudden death. When your heart slows down, your brain might not be getting enough blood and oxygen which can lead to you, feeling weak and tired.
Constipation also goes hand in hand with low potassium. This can be attributed to the fact that most of your bodily functions depend on potassium not forgetting your digestive system as potassium is necessary for the proper breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins. That is why people tell you to eat more spinach and banana when you’re experiencing constipation issues. Eat your bananas!
How to sneak more potassium into your diet
The good thing is that if you’re experiencing one of the problems above, you can try adding more potassium into your diet. There are many ways to do this. Some people like taking those supplement pills, which I personally dislike. Some people like to go for the packets which you can mix with water, but I’m not a fan of the taste. I like adding more potassium through natural foods.
Here’s a list of food that you can try adding to your meals:
White Beans — 1 cup cooked: 1,004 milligrams
Lima Beans — 1 cup cooked: 955 milligrams
Avocado — 1 whole: 690 milligrams
Broccoli — 1 cup cooked: 458 milligrams
Sweet Potato — 1 medium: 438 milligrams
Bananas — 1 medium: 422 milligrams
Salmon — 3 ounces: 416 milligrams
Peas — 1 cup cooked: 384 milligrams
Sardines — 1 can/3.75 grams: 365 milligrams
Grapefruit — 1 whole: 354 milligrams
Raw Milk — 1 cup: 260 milligrams
Grass-Fed Beef — 3 ounces: 237 milligrams
Adding these foods as a side to your main meal isn’t difficult. Changing your lifestyle and eating habits is all about making good mindful decisions. For example, instead of having chicken rice and corn for dinner, you can try having salmon, rice, and peas. It comes with similar macronutrients, but at the same time you can boost up your potassium levels.
For snack, instead of having an apple, reach for a banana. Instead of having mashed potato as a side dish to your protein, try adding sweet potatoes. Little changes goes a long way. Instead of having ice cream for a dessert, go for some healthy yogurt. Eating a burger? Add some avocado to it!
These foods are extremely healthy and can go well with people who are on a low carb diet as well. Refer to the picture below for foods high in potassium.
To highlight everything for you, here are the best tips and practices:
- The best solution is to get this mineral from natural fruits. Some of the best sources are bananas, avocados, strawberries, oranges, mangoes, and
- Most vegetables contain some sort of potassium. Some examples are carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, and red pepper.
- Salmon contains a good chunk of potassium and it tastes so good 🙂 You can try baking it, pan frying it and many other ways.
- Too much potassium is also not good for your health, especially for the kidneys. People suffering from diabetes or heart failure are more at risk of developing this problem.
- Don’t try to make up for all the potassium in one day, instead take it in slowly and increase it slowly day by day for the best results.
- Make better mindful choices when it comes to meal prepping and cooking.
I would love to hear from you guys on your experience with low potassium or what are your favorite foods to eat when you need more potassium?
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