Potassium

Potassium

When you think potassium, you probably think bananas, you might not think potatoes. You would be correct though to think of both, as there are many different sources of this nutrient. Potassium is an electrolyte that helps your muscles to function properly. This begs the question then, should you eat a whole banana as soon as your next workout is over?

Bananas
Bananas are high potassium but so are spinach, broccoli, and peas.

Five Quick Facts

  1. Surprisingly enough, potassium is the seventh most common element on earth, which means that none of us have an excuse for leaving it out of our diets.
  2. Symptoms of a potassium deficiency can be quite serious, as potassium is essential to proper muscle contraction
  3. Potassium can do more than just assist muscle contractions, it can alleviate heart and kidney disorders, as well as serious cases of anxiety.
  4. Bananas aren’t even the highest in potassium content, spinach and salmon actually contain much more
  5. Everyone should be trying to increase their intake of this nutrient, not just athletes or those that regularly work out

What is potassium?

Potassium is an electrolyte which is essential for the human body to function properly. It helps the muscles to contract and can also help to counteract the effects that sodium has on the body. This means that it can help prevent a lot of different blood disorders as well as kidney stones.

K Confusion: The chemical name for potassium is K+, but don’t confuse that with Vitamin K. Potassium is an essential macromineral while vitamin K plays a vital role in blood clotting and is also essential for bone and heart health. 

This essential mineral is especially important to the muscles, which means that especially for those who exercise regularly maintaining adequate amounts is extremely important. When levels drop too low it can lead to cramping, fatigue, and a variety of other issues.

What are the benefits?

Potassium & Muscle Health

Not only is potassium essential for muscle function, it can help prevent cramps as well as assist in increasing muscle strength. Potassium helps in the contraction and relaxation of the muscles in the body. If you maintain a healthy level of the mineral you can avoid cramps during exercise as well as increase performance.  

Potassium & Blood Pressure

This mineral works to counteract the often negative effects that sodium can have on blood pressure. For those who suffer from high blood pressure potassium can help rebalance the blood.

Potassium & Anxiety

One of the side effects of low levels of potassium is anxiety. It is very common for Americans to consume a diet that is very high in sodium, which leads to very low levels of potassium. This may explain the increase in those suffering from anxiety.  Something as simple as eating a banana or avocado every day can help to balance these levels and reduce anxiety and stress.

Potassium & Heart Health

In order for your heart to function properly one must have balanced levels of potassium, if your intake is too high or too low it can lead to serious complications.

Benefits of Potassium

What are the sources?

If the idea of having to eat a banana every day doesn’t sound particularly appetizing there are plenty of foods that actually contain much more. Such as:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach
  • White potatoes
  • Beets
  • Beans
  • Salmon
  • Avocados
  • Pomegranates
  • Bananas

Easy Recipes

If you’re looking for an easy way to get extra potassium in your diet, look no further than this simple recipe. Salmon and potatoes are both extremely healthy foods, that also aren’t that difficult to make. This recipe is from Real Simple so follow the link for the original!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 pound of small new potatoes
  • 8 ounces of button mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 1 & ¼ pound piece of skinless salmon fillet
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes, mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  2. Roast, tossing once until the potatoes begin to soften, about 20 minutes.
  3. Push the vegetables to the edges of the pan and place the salmon in the center. Season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  4. Roast until the salmon is opaque throughout, the mushrooms are tender, and the potatoes are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, and parsley, the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salmon and vegetables before serving.

What is the recommended intake?

Recommended potassium intake varies based on age. According to WebMD, this is the general amount of potassium a person should be ingesting.

  • Age 1-3: 3,000 mg
  • Age 4-8: 3,800 mg
  • Age 9-14: 4,500 mg
  • Age 15 +: – 4,700 mg
  • Women who are breastfeeding: 5,100 mg
Potassium Dosage

Concerns / Interactions

Those with digestive tract disorders or who are allergic to aspirin should be careful when taking potassium supplements. Also, those who are being medicated for high blood pressure should be cautious when taking potassium supplements, as there can be interactions. Follow the link to WebMD for more information. 

Potassium Warning

Summary

Whether you’re an athlete or not, potassium is an essential mineral to proper health. If you want to improve heart health, reduce your anxiety, and increase muscle strength, a piece of avocado toast in the morning might be the best thing for you.

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