Eat a banana, is often the well-intentioned advice if you suffer from muscle cramps after exercise or feel weak.
Because of sweating and physical exertion, the electrolyte levels quickly get out of balance and thus also the potassium content.
But what are the benefits of potassium? What do we need the mineral for? All that will be covered within this article.
What is Potassium?
Potassium is an important electrolyte without which the cells would not work. The positively charged ion plays a crucial role in the fluid balance of the body’s cells because it ensures that the osmotic pressure is maintained.
The essential mineral must, therefore, be taken regularly through the diet. In general, according to the recommendation of the German Nutrition Society, a daily potassium requirement of 4000 mg applies to both men and women.
What the body does not need is usually excreted through the kidneys. In adults, the standard potassium level is between 3.5 and 5.0 mmol / l.
To balance the potassium levels, the body’s own hormones, the glucocorticoids, and mineralocorticoids, come into action. Because both a potassium deficiency (hypokalemia), as well as a potassium excess (hyperkalemia), can be dangerous.
However, then there must already be a drastic drop or increase in the potassium level.
Take Home Message # 1: Potassium is a vital mineral that regulates the fluid balance of the cells.
Benefits of Potassium
The mineral potassium has a number of important benefits for the body, primarily in the cells.
Main Benefits and Functions of Potassium …
- benefits the function of the nervous system
- benefits the function of the muscles
- benefits the maintenance of a normal blood pressure
If the nervous system functions properly, the stimuli are transmitted quickly via the nerve pathways. Your brain is well looked after and can process the information. With potassium, you are fully mentally fit and can concentrate on your tasks and challenges.
And physically, potassium keeps you fit and active as you plan larger sports units or just run your regular program. Because potassium is needed for muscle contraction.
Here, too, it ensures that the stimuli are transmitted to the muscles and thereby tighten and expand again. Potassium has great benefits and gives you enough strength and stamina to meet the challenges you face every day.
Similarly, digestion needs the support of vital minerals. As a fluid regulator, potassium is an important component of digestive juices. Enzymes are produced by important minerals and this ensures that the metabolism works.
Further positive effects on the general health examined researchers of the Blood Pressure Unit in London. They came to the conclusion that a potassium-rich diet has the following benefits for the body.
Benefits of a Potassium rich diet:
- benefit the regulation of blood pressure
- protect the kidney
A nutritional recommendation was also provided: “Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables! Because it contains potassium in its natural form ”
For general, health-related statements, however, further clinical studies are needed here.
Benefits of Sodium and Potassium for the Heart
Not only biceps and triceps are happy about an extra kick of the mineral, but the heart muscle is also dependent on sufficient potassium in the blood.
In an interaction with sodium, it forms an unbeatable duo for the health of the heart. However, it is important that the potassium-sodium level is balanced.
If the sodium level is too high, more potassium is excreted, which affects the function of the heart muscle. Therefore, a low sodium diet is recommended for high blood pressure. Too much salt in the soup spoils the potassium level – and thus your fitness.
On the other hand, potassium can compensate for a slip-up with the salt shaker, because potassium and sodium are in true proportion a real dream team with plenty of benefits.
While sodium binds water in the cells, potassium promotes drainage. Potassium-rich foods should, therefore, play a major role in your rich foods contain potassium and what potassium levels they have can be found in the table below.
Take Home Message # 2: Especially nerves and musclescannott work without potassium. The heart muscle is also dependent on the mineral.
Signs of Potassium Deficiency
A lack of potassium is usually very rare, because almost all natural foods contain a certain amount of potassium.
With a balanced diet and adequate hydration, you don’t need to be afraid of potassium deficiency. Even if you sweat heavily while exercising, the electrolyte reservoirs can be replenished quickly after the workout.
Exception: If you are running a marathon or doing other extreme endurance sports.
If there is a very heavy fluid loss, such as diarrhea or vomiting, these symptoms of potassium deficiency may occur:
- weakened muscles
If the proportion of potassium is too low and less than 3.5 mmol / l, it can usually be adjusted fast by eating potasisum rich foods.
In addition, you should, of course, fix the potassium deficiency causes. A gastrointestinal virus usually goes away by itself after a short time. However, if the digestive problems persist, you should investigate the trigger.
Note: Even a very salty, sodium-rich diet can lead to excessive excretion of potassium! Here it is usually enough to reduce the salt and replace it with spices and herbs. Frequent or prolonged fasting can also confuse the potassium balance.
Do you like licorice? Then do not eat too much, because licorice lowers the potassium level. How dangerous this can be, is shown by a case study by the Department of Cardiology of Muscat, in which a woman had massive heart problems after excessive consumption of licorice.
Although you can buy potassium as a dietary supplement, you should not take high-dose potassium supplements on your own, as this can quickly lead to potassium overdosage. Because too much potassium can have unsightly side effects, which can even be life-threatening.
Signs of a Potassium Excess
Healthy people usually do not suffer from too much potassium. Because a surplus is eliminated via the urine.
However, if there is a kidney disease, the level of potassium can’t balance anymore. At more than 5.0 mmol / l, the potassium level in the blood is too high and should be lowered, for example, by eating low-potassium foods and avoiding potassium-rich foods.
Antibiotics can also cause hyperkalemia, as well as an overdose of potassium supplements.
Signs of excess potassium are …
- a headache
- muscle cramps
- muscle weakness
Symptoms are similar to those of potassium deficiency, so self-diagnosis is quite difficult. If you suspect that you have elevated potassium, it’s best to check your electrolyte level with the doctor. If the proportion of potassium is only slightly increased, you should switch to a low-potassium diet. However, if the potassium level is too high, it can lead to complications. Therefore, here again, a balanced potassium content is of great importance.
Take-home message # 3: Both a potassium deficiency and an excess of potassium can have health consequences and should be avoided.
Potassium Rich Foods
With a balanced diet, you can easily cover your potassium needs. The mineral is actually almost everywhere, although sometimes only in slight traces. Generally, good sources of potassium are whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and mushrooms.
To balance your electrolyte levels and keep the potassium level constant, you should, first of all, include these potassium-containing foods in your diet:
- Chanterelles (5370 mg / 100 g)
- Soybeans (1800 mg / 100 g)
- Cocoa powder (1500 mg / 100 g)
- Chickpeas (1370 mg / 100 g)
- Apricots, dried (1370 mg / 100 g)
- Wheat bran (1350 mg / 100 g)
- white beans (1340 mg / 100 g)
- Pistachios (1020 mg / 100 g)
- Peas (990 mg / 100 g)
- Lentils (840 mg / 100 g)
- Almonds (835 mg / 100 g)
- Parsley (810 mg / 100 g)
- Spinach (633 mg / 100 g)
- Banana (420 mg / 100 g)
- Potatoes (411 mg / 100 g)
The potassium in food can be absorbed by the body in combination with other important vitamins and minerals. A study by the New York Albert Einstein College of Medicine has even shown that regular consumption of potassium-rich foods can reduce the risk of stroke and increase life expectancy.
For this purpose, more than 90,000 women aged 50 to 79 years were studied for 11 years, covering their potassium needs exclusively with natural foods.
However, a study by the Department of Nutrition Science found that in today’s society, fewer and fewer potassium-rich foods are consumed, but at the same time more and more sodium ends up in the meals – especially for people who like to eat ready meals.
Take Home Message # 4: Nature has a colorful palette of high-potassium foods, with potassium almost everywhere. To be fit and efficient, you should focus on potassium-rich foods.
Conclusion: Benefits of Potassium
All in all, potassium has great benefits. From protecting the heart to regulating blood pressure, benefits are endless.
Also, you do not need to buy potassium as a supplement. Just make sure you include some of the potassium-rich foods in your diets and you’ll quickly see benefits.