Potassium is one of the most abundant minerals in our body – organicfacts.net says it is the third most abundant, in fact. For those who have purposed to go looking for a supplemental source to help with, say, their cardiovascular health, the direction in which they are most often pointed are bananas. Bananas and lowering high blood pressure, for instance, go hand in hand, although potassium is readily available through many other sources, and its health benefits extend well beyond just the heart.
The most common type of potassium, per organicfacts.net, is potassium chloride, which typically works in tandem with sodium to carry out quite a few important tasks within the body.
One thing potassium does is act as an electrolyte, carrying an electrical charge once dissolved in water and helping to regulate various mechanisms within our body, such as nerve and muscle function, hydration, blood PH, blood pressure and the rebuilding of damaged tissue, per medicalnewstoday.com. Other types of electrolytes include sodium, calcium and bicarbonate.
Benefits of Potassium
Potassium’s many possible health benefits will be covered in more detail in a future blog in this space, but for quick reference, here’s a few of those, per organicfacts.net:
- Promotes healthy brain (neural) function
- Stabilizes blood-sugar levels
- Promotes bone health
- Wards off muscle cramps
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Reduces muscle disorders
- Bolsters muscles
- Boosts metabolism
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Heart health
- Helps nervous system
Beware Potassium Deficiency
As abundant a mineral as potassium is within our bodies, it needs to be constantly replenished via a healthy diet and supplemental consumption, as needed. Symptoms of a potassium deficiency can include slow reflexes, irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, anemia and bad headaches. Other more serious results of a shortage of potassium in the body can include high blood pressure, intestinal pain, diabetes and swelling in the glands.
Good Sources of Potassium
As can be seen above, some of the side effects of a potassium shortage can be problematic and require long-term treatment, but the good news is that many types of food contain ample amounts of potassium – consider it a sensible ingredient for preventive health. Almost all of these are within easy reach in most grocery stores or health-food outlets; all you have to do is look. Here are some of them, alphabetically arranged:
- Avocados. A half of a medium-sized avocado provides about 600 milligrams of potassium, per medicalnewstoday.com. Eat up!
- Bananas. But you already knew this, right? An average-sized banana contains about 400 milligrams of potassium, per dailyhealthstyles.com. Mixing it with milk and perhaps a couple of other fruits such as blueberries makes for a very healthy smoothie.
- Beans. White beans are at the top of this category, providing about 600 milligrams of potassium in half a cup. Other good sources include kidney and lima beans as well as lentils and split peas, per health.com.
- Beets. A cup of cooked, sliced beets can yield more than 500 milligrams of potassium.
- Carrot juice. Orange juice also is a good source of potassium, but carrot juice is a nice alternative – or they can even be combined. A concentrated juice, carrot juice provides about 700 milligrams of potassium per cup.
- Clams. Great news for you seafood lovers – just three ounces of claims provide 500-plus milligrams of potassium as well as the highest concentration of vitamin B12 of any food, according to health.com.
- Fish. You have a good choice here – halibut, tuna, salmon, cod and farm-raised rainbow trout each provide lots of potassium.
- Milk. A cup of non-fat or skim milk includes nearly 400 milligrams of potassium.
- Molasses. Here’s one for those of you with a sweet tooth. Blackstrap molasses has about 500 milligrams of potassium in one tablespoon, and it’s great to cook with.
- Prunes/prune juice. OK, stop the snickering – we know why you think it’s funny to include prune juice here. Seriously, though, just three quarters of a cup yields more than 530 milligrams of potassium.
- Soybeans. Cook a half a cup of them and you end up with about 500 milligrams of potassium.
- Sweet potato. A nice change from the bland regular potato, sweet potato not only tastes great, a medium-sized baked one offers more than 500 milligrams of potassium in addition to a lot of vitamin A, per prevention.com. Just to be thorough, though, a large baked “regular” potato – skin included – has nearly 850 milligrams.
- Watermelon. To those of us who like a little bit of refreshing sweetness in our potassium sources, this list just keeps getting better and better. Two regular-sized watermelon wedges provide nearly 650 milligrams of potassium.
- Yogurt. Figure on nearly 600 milligrams of potassium in eight ounces of plain, non-fat yogurt. Be a bit creative to make that plain yogurt a bit more interesting. Mix it with granola for breakfast or sub it for whipped cream when it comes time for a lunchtime dessert.