Potassium is both an electrolyte and a mineral that is found in nature in the form of salt. Potassium is the main positive ion, or cation, present in the cells, where more than 90% of the body’s total potassium reserves are found.
Potassium is responsible for many important functions and processes. It maintains healthy fluid levels. It plays a major role in the production of nerve signals necessary for the contractions of smooth skeletal and cardiac muscle.
In addition, a potassium-rich diet can help reduce blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke, and prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones. potassium plays several important roles in the health of your body.
In this article, you will find out about the many benefits of potassium in your body, the symptoms of potassium deficiency, and the reasons why you should include it in your diet.
What is Potassium and What Does It Do?
Potassium is the most abundant cation in intracellular fluid and plays an essential role in maintaining normal cellular functions.
Almost 98% of the potassium in the body is inside the cells and a small percentage remains outside each cell to help maintain the electrical balance necessary for all living things. The main function of potassium is to regulate the concentration and flow of fluids within a cell and across the cell membrane.
Your body needs enough potassium to control muscle contractions, transmit nerve impulses, prevent excessive fluid retention, and for the proper functioning of your heart, liver, and kidneys. Potassium levels are controlled in the kidneys by a hormone called aldosterone allowing excess potassium to leave the body through urine or sweat.
Health Benefits of Potassium
1- Regulates Your Heart and Blood Pressure
Potassium enables your heart to beat in a healthy way. So, if you have rhythm problems, potassium may help you. Your doctor can advise you on that. A check might be part of your routine doctor visits.
The beneficial effects of this mineral on blood pressure are likely due to its ability to regulate fluid levels in the body, while also influencing the nervous system and hormone regulation.
Diets that emphasize a higher potassium intake can help keep blood pressure in a healthy range, compared to diets low in potassium.
Thousands of years ago, potassium was abundant in the human diet, while sodium was scarce. The so-called Paleolithic diet provided about 16 times more potassium than sodium. 
But today, our salt consumption is 10 to 20 times higher than it was 5000 years ago. Due to the preponderance of hidden salt in processed or prepared foods, not to mention the shortage of potassium in these foods, our diets contain much more sodium than potassium.
This imbalance, which is in contradiction with the way mankind has evolved, is believed to be a major factor in high blood pressure. An increase in blood pressure of course damages the arteries and hypertension is the main cause of strokes and an important factor in heart disease.
This is why there is a tendency to follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet plan. The DASH diet is intentionally high in potassium, magnesium, and calcium and low in total fat, saturated fat, and sodium.
If you have high blood pressure, talk to your dietitian about how the DASH diet can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure. A key part of the DASH plan is to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, which can simultaneously increase or maintain your blood plasma potassium levels.
By reducing your blood pressure, the risk of stroke, heart attack, and coronary heart disease will be reduced. Potassium, in addition to lowering blood pressure, can also help reduce the risk of stroke.
2- Helps Balance Electrolytes
According to a study published by Michigan University, the potassium level often varies according to the sodium level. As the sodium level increases, the potassium level decreases, and as the sodium level decreases, the potassium level increases. Potassium levels are also affected by a hormone called aldosterone, which is made by the adrenal glands.
Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. Intracellular fluid (ICF) accounts for about 60%of the total water in the human body, and in an average adult male, this is about 25 liters of fluid. The rest of this water is in your cerebrospinal fluid, blood, and other areas between your cells. 
3- Aids in the Transmission of Nerve Impulses
A 2006 study published by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found the mechanism that facilitates collaboration between two ion channels for the control of electrical signals in the brain.
Electrical impulses in neurons are created when sodium and potassium are allowed to return to their original locations by rapidly passing through channels in the outer membranes of nerve cells. Nerve cells have thread-like extensions, called axons, that initiate these impulses and carry them from one cell to another.
Nerve impulses begin after the nerve cell has received excitatory impulses, either from the environment or from other nerve cells in the body. Once the appropriate input signals have been received, the movement of sodium within the cell triggers a nerve impulse at the initial segment of the axon. In response to this activity, the potassium channels then open, allowing the movement of potassium ions outward.
“The opening of the sodium channel at the beginning of a nerve impulse is like the release of a compressed spring,” Cooper explains.
According to M Cooper, “the potassium channels have a calming influence on the nerve. The potassium channels act as shock absorbers, retaining the activity of the sodium channels for a period of time after each nerve impulse.”
4- Contributes to Bone Health
According to a 2017 Korean study dietary potassium can neutralize the acid load and reduce calcium loss from bones, which has a beneficial effect on bone mineral density.
Researchers have found that potassium salts (bicarbonate and citrate), found in abundance in fruits and vegetables, play an important role in improving bone health. Results of one 2015 research showed that potassium can also reduce bone resorption, the process by which bone is broken down, and thus increase bone strength.
5-Necessary for Muscle Contraction
As mentioned above potassium helps to regulate sodium levels in the cells. your body needs potassium to maintain the electrochemical balance between the cell membranes and It is essential for transmitting nerve signals. This leads to the contraction of skeletal muscles, the release of hormones, and the contraction of smooth muscles and the heart.
When potassium enters the cell, it triggers a sodium-potassium exchange across the cell membrane. In nerve cells, this generates the electrical potential that enables the conduction of nerve impulses. When potassium leaves the cell, it restores the repolarization of the cell, allowing nerve impulses to progress. This electrical potential gradient allows the generation of muscle contractions and the regulation of the heartbeat.
6- Helps prevent kidney stones
Kidney stones usually form when certain chemicals build up in the body. Stones containing calcium in the form of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate are the most common.
Diets low in potassium have also been associated with an increased risk of kidney stones.
One study showed that a diet high in potassium decreased urinary calcium excretion, which may protect against the formation of kidney stones.
How Much Potassium Does an Average Adult Need in their Daily Diet?
The Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health recommends 2500 to 3400 mg per day for men between 19 and 50 years of age, and 2300 to 2600 mg for women in the same age group, with higher recommended amounts for pregnant and breastfeeding women. For children and adolescents, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) ranges from 860 mg to 3000 mg depending on age and gender.
|Birth to 6 months||400 mg||400 mg|
|7–12 months||860 mg||860 mg|
|1–3 years||2,000 mg||2,000 mg|
|4–8 years||2,300 mg||2,300 mg|
|9–13 years||2,500 mg||2,300 mg|
|14–18 years||3,000 mg||2,300 mg||2,600 mg||2,500 mg|
|19–50 years||3,400 mg||2,600 mg||2,900 mg||2,800 mg|
|51+ years||3,400 mg||2,600 mg|
Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
Without enough potassium, you would quickly begin to feel the negative effects on your health. Certain conditions can cause potassium deficiency or hypokalemia. Hypokalemia occurs when the level of potassium in the blood is too low.
The main symptoms of potassium deficiency are:
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle weakness
- Abdominal pain
According to Mayo Clinic, blood potassium level is normally between 3.6 and 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Having a serum potassium level lower than 3.5 millimoles per liter is known as hypokalemia. Having a blood potassium level above 6.0 mmol/L can be dangerous and usually requires immediate treatment.
it is also called Hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia is the medical term that describes a higher than normal level of potassium in the blood.
potassium has been identified as a nutrient deficiency by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 advisory committee.
In modern societies, Western diets have resulted in a decrease in potassium intake with a reduction in fruit and vegetable consumption and a concomitant increase in sodium intake through increased consumption of processed foods.
In fact, packaged foods must have a nutrition label. If the word potassium or an abbreviation for potassium (K, KCl, or K+) appears on the label, it means there is potassium in the food, but it may not always indicate potassium.
Starting in July 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods and drinks and potassium values will be indicated on food nutrition labels. You can read more about what’s new with the Nutrition Facts label here.
Your doctor may perform a blood test to determine the amount of this mineral in your blood. To manage your potassium intake, you need to know how much potassium is in your food and beverages.
Food Sources of Potassium
Potassium is needed by all your cells to perform important metabolic functions, so getting enough of this mineral in your diet is crucial. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the higher your intake of this important mineral.
The best sources of potassium in foods include :
- Bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit (some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium)
- Cooked spinach, Cooked broccoli, Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Mushrooms
- Peas, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkins, Leafy greens
- Lima beans, Pinto beans, Kidney beans, Soybeans, Lentils
Your body does not store potassium but uses only what it needs. In healthy people with normal kidney function, a high dietary intake of potassium does not pose a health risk because the kidneys eliminate excessive amounts in the urine.
It is therefore important that you eat potassium every day in order to provide your cells with the intake they need to function properly.
If the foods you eat do not provide enough potassium, and your doctor recommends it, you can take supplements. However, most healthy adults do not need to take supplements.
Unless you have a condition that prevents the absorption of potassium or you have certain medical conditions that affect potassium intake, your diet provides you with the nutrients you need. There are many different forms of dietary supplements containing potassium salts.
Potassium citrate is used to treat a kidney stone condition called renal tubular acidosis.
Potassium phosphate is used to treat or prevent hypophosphatemia (low levels of phosphorus in the blood). Potassium phosphate is sometimes added to intravenous (IV) fluids for people who cannot eat or drink anything.
Potassium aspartate is the combination of the mineral potassium and the salt form of the amino acid known as aspartic acid. Potassium and aspartic acid occur naturally in plants and animals. Potassium aspartate supplements are necessary to ensure proper fluid balance in the body. Potassium aspartate also acts on sodium levels in the body to prevent dehydration.
potassium bicarbonate is an alkaline mineral that is available in complement. Potassium bicarbonate supplements can help combat muscle weakness and cramps, irregular heartbeat, stomach upset, lack of energy, and other conditions.
Potassium gluconate is used to prevent or treat low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia). Potassium levels may be low following illness or certain medications, or after prolonged illness accompanied by diarrhea or vomiting.
Potassium chloride is used to prevent or to treat low blood levels of potassium (hypokalemia).
Eating more potassium from food, especially fruits and vegetables, is a safe way to eat and can lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke. When you get your potassium intake from a healthy diet, you do not experience any negative side effects.
Never take potassium supplements without a doctor’s prescription, as it can easily lead to high levels of potassium in the blood, which is dangerous.
What are the side effects of potassium overdose?
At high doses, potassium can be dangerous. Signs of potassium overdose include :
- Stomach upset
- muscle weakness or paralysis,
- Cardiac conduction abnormalities and cardiac arrhythmias.
- tingling in the limbs
- low blood pressure and coma
Potassium plays a vital role in your overall health. It should, therefore, be included in a healthy diet. Foods rich in potassium also contain other essential nutrients that can be good for your health. Potassium plays an essential role in your overall health. It should therefore be included in a healthy diet.
Potassium-rich foods also contain other essential nutrients that can be good for your health. Potassium’s role as an electrolyte means that it helps balance fluid levels in the body, which is crucial for heart health and organ function.
Potassium is essential for maintaining blood pressure, kidney function, and healthy bones and nervous system. By consuming enough potassium, you reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much potassium you should take and how you can control the amount you take. Your dietitian may recommend foods that are low in potassium that you can eat instead of foods high in potassium.
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