Potassium is an important mineral and one of the most important electrolytes in the body . It is the most abundant intracellular cation (positively charged ion). That should always be present in the body in a certain range to stay in balance with the extracellular sodium in order to maintain the bodies fluids in homeostasis. when the concentration of a certain electrolyte increases in a compartment the water moves to that side to equalize the amount of electrolytes in both extracellular and intracellular compartments by (Na+/K+)ATPase transporter in order to maintain the cell’s volume as it shrinks when water moves out and swells when water moves in (osmolality). It is therefore required for normal cell function through controlling the electrochemical gradient by that it serves essential functions in the different tissues .
- In the nervous system : it is responsible for nerve stimulation by changing the electrical charge of the neuron by moving out of the cells and letting sodium in instead so it makes the neuron capable of reaching its action potential and becoming stimulated. It also allows the neurons to communicate with each other via multiple electrical signals.
- In the musculoskeletal system: just like it controls the firing of neurons in the nervous system it is responsible for delivering sufficient electrical stimulation to your muscles in order to contact and relax if it isn’t present in sufficient amounts it can lead to muscle weakness and frequent cramps.
- It also helps your bones become stronger as it fights against osteoporosis by lowering the amount of calcium lost through the kidney leading to increased bone mass.
- Cardiovascular system: the heart is nothing but a big muscle with it’s own electrical circuit in order to have a healthy heart the electrical impulses have to be strong enough to cause a strong contraction to pump the blood out and good relaxation to receive more blood just like the other systems potassium is important in regulating the heart’s mechanism of action if it isn’t maintained in balance it can lead to serious heart arrhythmia(irregular heart beats).
- Another very important function is maintaining your blood pressure within the normal range by controlling the concentration of sodium and water inside your blood vessels especially in the presence of high sodium diets in fast food, potassium in the diet is of upmost value in order to counteract the higher levels of sodium thus it reduces the risk of developing hypertension and stroke.
- Renal system: your kidneys are liable to forming stones most commonly calcium stones and potassium is known to reduce calcium levels in urine so it reduces the risk of stone formation. But people with chronic kidney disease should be careful regarding their potassium consumption as it can reach high levels due to the decreased excretion by the malfunctioning kidneys.
- Since potassium is in continuous motion with sodium to remain in balance it transfers with it water and nutrients into the cells and takes out with it the waste products from the inside.
Your daily requirements of potassium is about (3.500 _ 4.700 mg / day) by including potassium rich food in your diet not by taking supplements as it can easily exceed the normal range and be harmful.
Abnormally high levels of potassium is known as (hyperkalemia) (>5.2 mmol/L) for example if you have kidney disease or taking antihypertensive drugs like ACE inhibitors which are potassium sparing diuretics that can lead to decreased excretion of potassium in urine leading to symptoms like muscle fatigue, pain and heart arrhythmias that can reach up to cardiac arrest if extremely high.
On the other hand not consuming enough potassium or losing it excessively in vomiting or diarrhea or kidney disease or if you take diuretics can lead to lower levels of potassium known as (hypokalemia) (<3.5 mmol/L) producing symptoms of elevated blood pressure and muscle cramps if severe enough can lead to respiratory depression from respiratory muscle paralysis.
So it is of great importance to maintain your potassium consumption under control to get its full benefit and avoid its harmful effects and that’s achieved with a good balanced diet full of potassium rich food.
» Now, we will focus on foods rich in potassium «
A great stable dish with every meal in a variety of ways to enjoy it can be baked or boiled or the best way French fried it is starchy and warm and filling and it contains an astonishing amount of potassium one medium sized potato can provide you with 515 mg of potassium that equal 11% of your daily recommendations it is also full of important antioxidants and vitamins like vitamin c and B12 that are mostly in the skin of the potato so next time you prepare it make sure to keep it unpeeled .