Potassium is an essential mineral that’s required for many of the critical functions of the body, such as fluid and electrolyte balance in the body, building healthy teeth and bones, and controlling the functions of the nervous system. A deficiency of Potassium can cause irritability, fatigue, hypertension, weakness, and heart palpitations. Continue reading to know what makes Potassium an important mineral, as well as a list of potassium-rich foods.
What Makes Potassium a Vital Nutrient for Our Body?
Potassium is a critical electrolyte that’s essential for the regulation of fluids, conduction of nerve signals and regulating muscle contractions. Here’s how Potassium does all of that:
- Functions as an electrolyte in the body: 98% of the total Potassium in the body is found in the cells, out of which 80% exist in the muscle cells and 20% in the bones, red blood cells and liver. When dissolved in water, Potassium turns into a positively charged ion that can conduct electricity. These ions have a range of functions essential for the body’s functions. (0)
- Regulation of fluid balance: Our bodies are approximately made of 60% water. About 40% of it exists in the form of intracellular fluid (ICF) and the rest is in the form of blood and spinal fluid, as extracellular fluid (ECF). The balance of water in the ECF and ICF is regulated by electrolytes such as Potassium and Sodium. Potassium being the main electrolyte within the ICF regulates the water inside the cells, while sodium being the main electrolyte in the ECF regulates water outside the cells. Together, they maintain the flow of water in and around the cells. (1)
- Plays a critical role in the functioning of the nervous system: The nervous system uses electrolytes extensively to conduct nerve impulses. These electrical signals relay messages from the brain to the body and also control muscle movement, reflexes, sensory receptors and heartbeat. The nerve impulses are regulated by the Sodium and Potassium ions, and their movements in and out of cells generate the voltage needed to conduct the electrical signals.
- Regulates the functioning of muscles and heart: Potassium levels in the blood and muscles have a strong effect on the heart’s contractions. Too high or too low levels of potassium can affect the voltage and disturb nerve impulses. Improper potassium balance is also critical to keep the heart beating at a steady rhythm. Heart arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat caused by improper levels of potassium can sometimes be fatal.
What Foods are High in Potassium?
Here a list of Potassium-rich foods you need to include in your diet.
1. White Beans
Beans and lentils are rich sources of Potassium. White beans contain 829mg of Potassium per cup (179g), which is about 22 percent of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake). One review involving about 250,000 people showed that increasing dietary Potassium intake by 1640 mg, which is about 45 percent of the RDI every day, cut down the risk of stroke by 21 percent. White beans are also rich in other essential nutrients such as Folate, Thiamine, Magnesium, Iron and Manganese, along with containing plenty of fibre.
Spinach is one of the best among vegetables high in Potassium, with many essential nutrients present in it. One cup (180 g) of cooked spinach has about 675 mg of Potassium which is 18% of RDI making it a great choice for those looking to add it to the diet. Spinach also has 4 times the RDI of Vitamin A, 30 percent RDI of Calcium, ten times the RDI of vitamin K and 90 percent RDI of Manganese. All of these essential nutrients aid in good vision, bone health, metabolism and immunity.
This red root vegetable with its sweet flavour makes for a tasty addition to your salad while giving you about 518 mg of Potassium per cup ( 170 g) which is 13% of the RDI. Beets are also rich in Fibre, Manganese and Folates. The pigment which gives them their deep red colour is a powerful antioxidant which fights free-radical damage to improve immunity and overall health. Beets, while being high in nitrates along with Potassium, are good for the cardiovascular system as well.
Banana is a common fruit with high amounts of Potassium. One medium sized banana contains 422 mg, which is about 14 percent of the RDI. It’s a fantastic way to restore your Potassium reserve after a heavy work out or a hot day in the sun. Green bananas are also high in starch and fibre, making them excellent sources of carbohydrates and roughages for the intestine. Bananas are ideal to bring your Potassium levels up to the RDI, along with other food sources on a daily basis.
Avocados, while being tasty, are packed with nutrients making them a favourite among fitness enthusiasts. When it comes to foods with Potassium that are good for the heart, avocados rank high on the list. One medium sized avocado contains about 750 mg of Potassium or 20 percent of RDI. They are rich in monosaturated fats, fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, Folates, and Antioxidants, making them excellent for heart health.
People who regularly eat fish will have no problem with meeting their dietary requirement of Potassium. With half a filet of salmon (187 g) containing about 683 mg of potassium or 17% of RDI, the fish is rich in Potassium. What’s more, salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins and minerals essential for the brain. It’s also seen that a diet rich in Potassium and fatty fish is linked to a decrease in risk of heart disease. (2) (3)
7. Coconut water
Coconut water has always been a favourite go-to drink during summers, and for good reason, with a high concentration of electrolytes in it. One glass (240 g) of coconut water contains 600 mg of potassium, which is about 15% of the RDI. It is excellent for rehydrating the body after going out on a hot summer day or high-intensity workout. Studies have found that it is more effective than plain water and just as effective as sports drinks at rehydrating the body.
8. Dry Fruits
Dry fruits and nuts are an excellent choice of a nutritious snack that’s high in Potassium. Dried apricots are a great source of Potassium that will also satisfy your sugar craving while adding a number of other essential nutrients, along with fibre. When served dry or dehydrated, you also tend to eat more and get about 1500mg of potassium per cup, which is a little more than half the RDI. If you’re not a fan of dried apricots, try dried raisins, peaches or figs, which are also rich sources of potassium. Preferably go for unsweetened and unsalted dry fruits for the maximum benefits.
9. Dairy Products
Although fruits and vegetables are the best sources of Potassium, dairy products are surprisingly high in the mineral. One cup of whole milk contains about 300 mg of Potassium, while the same amount of skimmed milk has 400 mg, which is 11 percent of RDI. Yoghurt, which is a popular probiotic, also contains abundant amounts of Potassium. One cup (245 g) of yoghurt contains 400 mg Potassium and plenty of good bacteria that are essential for the healthy functioning of the gut. When choosing yoghurt, go for the plain variety that is not loaded with flavours or sugars.
Oranges and other citrus fruits are popular for their Vitamin C content. However, they are also excellent sources of Potassium. One glass of orange juice contains about 400 mg of Potassium or 11 percent of the RDI. It is also loaded with Vitamin A, Folate, Thiamine and antioxidants. Orange juice is a refreshing drink on a hot summer day or to replenish electrolytes after a mild workout session. Its high antioxidant content fights free radicals and boosts immunity along with Vitamin C to keep you healthy.
Potatoes have long been part of our diet due to their abundance of every essential vitamin and mineral. They are also one of the densest sources of Potassium among all vegetables. One large (300 g) baked potato has 1275 mg or 34% of the RDI. Although most of the potatoes’ Potassium is in its flesh, the skin contains a third of the mineral. Therefore, eating it whole is the best way to get all of its nutrients. Sweet potatoes also have a significant amount of Potassium in them, along with healthy carbs and fibre. A 180-gram sweet potato can have up to 675 mg of Potassium, which is 18 percent of RDI.
12. Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce is not only popular for its taste, but also the range of essential nutrients it has. When it comes to Potassium, a cup (244 g) of tomato sauce has about 638 mg or 17 percent of the RDI. It is also rich in Vitamins A, C, E, B6 and copper. The antioxidant lycopene present abundantly in tomatoes combats free radical damage, fights inflammation, and boosts immunity.
1. How to Know If My Potassium Level Has Gone Low?
Quite often, Potassium levels are tested for in blood tests when a related illness shows up. Potassium deficiency rarely shows up as isolated symptoms. However, low Potassium can cause muscle cramps, weakness, fatigue, and constipation. The most troublesome complication of low Potassium is heart arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat in people who have heart diseases.
2. How Much Potassium Do You Need Per Day?
The recommended intake of Potassium by the ICMR is 1100 mg/day for children between 1-3 years, 1550 mg/ day for children between 4 to 6 years, 3225 mg/day for the average woman and 3750 mg/day for the average man.
The 12 mentioned foods are the best sources of Potassium. It is ideal to combine as many of them in your diet as possible to get your fill of Potassium, along with other essential nutrients.
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