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Wait… Potassium can do WHAT?

Wait… Potassium can do WHAT?

When you think of potassium you probably think about bananas! Although bananas do contain a good amount of potassium, sadly eating one a day isn't going to help you meet your recommended daily intake. And you're going to want to make sure you're meeting it! 

Potassium has so many wonderful benefits that you probably didn't even know! 🤯Continue reading to get to know more about potassium, it's benefits, and what potassium-rich foods to eat to ensure you're meeting your recommended daily intake and reaping the benefits that will get you one step closer to your fitness goals.

What is potassium?

It is one of the seven essential macrominerals found in the body. It helps the body regulate fluid, muscle contractions, send nerve signals, and helps maintain normal blood pressure by limiting the effects of sodium. It does all this because once inside the body, it functions as an electrolyte. Potassium ions carry a positive charge that your body uses to help with fluid balance, and more. According to Healthline, "Roughly 98% of the potassium in your body is found in your cells. Of this, 80% is found in your muscle cells, while the other 20% can be found in your bones, liver, and red blood cells." [1]

Potassium is an essential nutrient that can be found in natural food, but it's also available in a dietary supplement

Recommended Potassium Intake

The amount of potassium an adult should eat is actually 4,700mg, but less than 2% of Americans meet the daily requirement. The World Health Organization recommends 3,510mg per day since most of the population never hits the daily requirement. [2]

The good thing is that a low potassium intake won't lead to a deficiency. Low potassium levels occur in situations in which you lost a lot of water, like chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea. It's also not common to have excess potassium. High potassium levels only really happen when the body cannot remove mineral through urine. It mostly affects people with poor kidney function or a chronic kidney disease. Those with kidneys that aren't fully functional should consume less potassium. An excess potassium level can lead to hyperkalemia, a condition which the kidneys cannot remove enough potassium. I just wanted to make you aware of that, in case anyone has a kidney related issue. 

So you should aim to consume enough potassium, close to 3,000mg, to really reap the benefits from this mineral (unless you have poor kidney function).

Potassium-Rich Foods

Foods that are heavily processed reduce the dietary potassium. So it's best to get your potassium content from whole foods. Lucky for you, there are so many foods that contain it! A few great sources of potassium are:

  • Avocados: 1 sliced = 708mg
  • Leafy greens: 1 cup = 600mg
  • Tomatoes: 1 tomato = 427mg
  • Lima beans: 1 cup cooked, boiled, or drained without salt = 969mg
  • Beet greens: 100g cooked = 909mg
  • Sweet potatoes: 1 sweet potato baked = 950mg
  • Bananas: 1 banana = 537mg
  • Apricots: 1/2 cup dried = 1,101mg
  • Cantaloupe: 100mg = 417mg

There are so many more good sources of potassium, visit The U.S. Departments of Agriculture's FoodData Central to check the potassium content of any preferred food. [3]

If your potassium level is too low, then you can increase it by taking a supplement. Potassium supplements have a 99mg limit, which is less than the potassium content in food. But if you absolutely need it, then supplements are a good addition to your diet. 

Benefits

So now that you know how much potassium you need to consume and where to get it from, we can start discussing the best part... The benefits!

Here are our top five favorite benefits:

It keeps you from gaining fat

So, carbs are made up of a sugar molecule called glucose. When glucose enters your body it can either be used or stored as glycogen. When glucose is stored like this it’s really easy to break it back down and use it.

So what does potassium do?

Well, it’s actually what lets you store the glucose this way. So when you don’t have enough glucose your body can’t store it as glycogen and ends up storing fat instead!

So in summary, low potassium levels = more fat.

It can help diabetes

As we now know, potassium affects how your body stores sugar, this means it can also help your body control it's insulin levels better! This makes it so that potassium can help those with diabetes or insulin resistance by decreasing your body’s need for insulin.

Oh and a little bonus, it can also lessen the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis too!

Can help you lose weight

Have you ever seen some chocolate cake and just want it so bad? You know it would ruin so much work you have put in, but it still looks so good. Well, once again potassium can come to the rescue for you!

And it actually comes back to the fact that potassium helps you control insulin and sugar levels in your blood. It keeps these levels from going up or down quickly, which will actually help you get rid of your sweet tooth! So to answer your question, yes potassium may help with weight loss.

Strengthens muscles and bone health

A vital function of potassium is providing the metabolic energy to stimulate cell growth. It ensures proper growth of muscle tissues and the use of energy released during metabolism, this adds significantly to muscular strength. It can also help with hypokalemia, a condition that causes muscle cramps. Eating a banana a day, or any other potassium source, can help with muscle weakness and those with hypokalemia. So make sure you're eating enough potassium because it's important for your muscles to perform and exercise while training!

Not only can potassium help strengthen your muscles, it can also help enhance bone health! This mineral has certain qualities that neutralizes various acids in the body, which helps to retain and preserve calcium to make it accessible to use for bone strength and durability. 

Can help stabilize blood pressure

High blood pressure is a risk factor of heart disease. This is definitely something you want to avoid. Luckily, eating enough potassium can help reduce blood pressure because it's function is to help remove excess sodium from the body. High sodium levels can elevate blood pressure, so eating a potassium-rich diet can help stabilize it.

33 studies were analyzed and showed that when people with high blood pressure increased their potassium intake their systolic blood pressure decreased by 3.49 mmHg, while their diastolic decreased by 1.96 mmHg. [4]

A good way to help lower blood pressure is by increasing the amount of potassium foods in your diet. 

Now you understand why an adequate intake of potassium in your diet it's important, especially if you're trying to make gains! Just remember to get your potassium from natural food sources, and track your macros to make sure you're on top of all of your nutrients.

Sources

[1] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-does-potassium-do#section1

[2] https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/potassium_intake_printversion.pdf

[3] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23558164