Why are potassium-rich foods so important? The fact is that the human body is an incredibly complex biochemical structure that can function normally only in the presence of a certain amount of various trace elements.
Why are potassium-rich foods so important? The fact is that the human body is an incredibly complex biochemical structure that can function normally only in the presence of a certain amount of various microelements.
Potassium is one of them. He is responsible for the work of many systems: bone and muscle, excretory, cardiovascular and even nervous. Potassium is easily absorbed, but just as easily excreted from the body. Therefore, it is extremely important to know which foods can help maintain the balance of this substance in the body.
Potassium belongs to the soft metals of the alkali series, takes place in the periodic table with atomic number 19 and is denoted by the letter "K". It is so chemically active that it does not occur in nature in a free form, but is part of many elements. In terms of content in the earth's crust, potassium ranks seventh.
During the electrolysis of caustic solid potassium in the autumn of 1807, the English chemist Davy isolated a metal, which was later called potassium (from the Arabic "al-kali" - potash). And only 150 years later it was discovered how important this element plays in animal cells. This discovery was made by the Nobel laureate in 1997, Danish chemist Jens Skou. Studying the process of exchange of potassium, sodium and magnesium ions in crab cells, he made the assumption that similar chemical processes occur in other living organisms. This prompted scientists to study the light metal more closely.
Any substance is built from the simplest elements that are in constant circulation. Chemically indivisible molecules are the basis for all living things. Minerals make up about 4-5% (~2.5 kg) of our body weight.
They are evenly distributed throughout all organs and systems, they can be found:
in the skeleton;
in tissue proteins;
in some vitamins.
Depending on the specific gravity, micro- and macrominerals are distinguished. The latter make up more than 0.01% of the total human body weight. These include: potassium, calcium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, sodium, magnesium, chlorine. Let's talk about potassium today.
Potassium in the ionized form K+ is a positively charged ion (cation). This is the main composition of the intracellular electrolyte, about 98% of all potassium present in the body is located inside the cells.
Potassium ions, together with sodium and chlorine, create a potential difference on cell membranes - this main biological function of K + is very important for the body, especially for the cells that make up nerve and muscle fibers. The ratio of these minerals in the body is always in a certain balance, which ensures homeostasis (self-regulation of the internal environment). Violation of the dynamic balance between potassium and sodium leads to failures in the process of water metabolism, dehydration, muscle weakness.
The list of the main functions of potassium in the body:
participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and the contraction of muscle cells, in the work of these cells (especially affects cardiac activity);
maintains osmotic pressure in cells, tissues and biological fluids;
provides acid-base balance;
regulates the water balance in the body;
helps to lower blood pressure.
The body needs to keep blood potassium levels within a narrow range. A level that is too high (hyperkalemia) or too low (hypokalemia) can cause serious consequences, such as abnormal heart rhythms or even cardiac arrest.
Sodium chloride: potassium softens the pressor effect of sodium chloride, preventing a sharp increase in blood pressure. Dietary potassium increases the excretion of sodium chloride in the urine.
Sodium: Potassium and sodium are closely related, and dynamic imbalance can lead to kidney stones and hypertension.
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Calcium: Potassium improves calcium reabsorption and also has a positive effect on bone mineral density.
Magnesium: It is necessary for optimal potassium metabolism in cells, and the correct ratio of magnesium, calcium and potassium reduces the risk of stroke.
Looking at what properties potassium has and how it interacts with other elements, it becomes clear that in the human body it performs vital, life-giving functions. Not only health, but also human life directly depends on its quantity. Potassium is responsible for the intracellular acid-base balance and ensures the passage of impulses, which is very important for blood supply, the functioning of the internal secretion organs, and metabolism. But this is not a complete list of its functions in the body.
Brain Health Support
The health of the human nervous system - the brain and spinal cord, nerves - directly depends on the level of potassium in the nerve cells. With its deficiency, the osmotic pressure changes, which leads to a violation of the exchange between cells and the intercellular fluid. The amount of cerebral fluid increases, blood pressure rises, which, in combination with a disorder of the nervous system, often leads to a severe headache.
Healthy weight support
Surprisingly, when eating foods rich in potassium, body weight remains at a normal level. This is due to the fact that a vital element constantly entering the body “takes care” of restoring tired muscles, including improving the condition of the main human muscle - the heart, normalizing the functioning of the nervous system, and maintaining the balance of fluids in the body. Foods high in potassium tend to be very nutritious and low in calories. Saturation occurs quickly, so the queue simply does not reach the “harmful” food.
Reducing the risk of stroke
Due to the active participation of the element in the regulation of the nervous system, cardiac activity, normalization of water metabolism, a diet based on foods rich in potassium will help reduce the risk of stroke. It is desirable that the mineral comes from natural food, and not from artificial additives. Then the effect will be even more reliable.
Improving Heart Health
Normal potassium metabolism coordinates the cycles of contraction and relaxation of muscles, which improves heart function. With its lack, the condition of the muscles worsens, which can lead to the development of arrhythmia or a violation of the heartbeat.
Normalization of blood pressure
The mechanism of sodium-potassium metabolism occurs in the human body constantly. It builds metabolism, balance of fluids and an even heart rate. If the diet is practically absent of potassium, but contains a large amount of sodium, then such an imbalance will most likely lead to an increase in blood pressure.
Bone Strength Support
Potassium is constantly under the scrutiny of scientists, who in their studies have revealed the important role of this element in maintaining bone health. Regular consumption of vegetables and fruits rich in this element helps to reduce bone resorption (destruction), increasing its strength.
Prevention of muscle cramps
Muscle spasm occurs when the level of potassium in the muscle cells decreases and the fluid balance is disturbed. To prevent such a situation, as well as to strengthen the muscles, the constant presence of foods rich in potassium in the menu will help. Fruits, vegetables, legumes can also reduce menstrual pain. A healthy diet increases physical activity and allows you to make the most of your time throughout the day. Athletes, for whom the results of their physical fitness are very important, should receive as much potassium from food as possible. Therefore, they should definitely include potassium-rich foods in their daily menu, as well as in concentrated and recovery shakes.
Help in the fight against cellulite
Many women believe that the cause of cellulite is fatty foods and a sedentary lifestyle. But another notable factor is fluid retention in the body, which occurs when there is an excess of sodium and a lack of potassium. If you introduce potassium-rich foods into your diet, the situation will immediately change. The amount of cellulite will noticeably decrease, and well-being will improve.
Kidney health (study): https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9428447/
Kidney stones are collections of material that can form in concentrated urine.
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Calcium is a common mineral in kidney stones, and several studies show that potassium citrate reduces urinary calcium levels.
A decrease in potassium levels occurs for various reasons:
the use of foods that are not saturated with this element;
increased excretion of potassium from the body along with urine;
hyperfunction of the adrenal cortex and anterior pituitary gland;
primary and secondary aldosteronism (an increase in the hormone aldosterone);
increased secretion of antidiuretic hormone;
active treatment with corticosteroids;
drinking large amounts of fluids that do not contain potassium, with vomiting and diarrhea;
The manifestation of potassium deficiency has characteristic symptoms:
fatigue, weakness, loss of strength;
high blood pressure;
muscle weakness, spasms and cramps;
tingling and numbness in the arms and legs;
Potassium deficiency negatively affects the functioning of the cardiovascular system: metabolic disorders and functional myocardial insufficiency, arrhythmia, tachycardia, deafness of the heart tone, the occurrence of heart attacks, heart failure, and low blood pressure are observed.
The causes of excess potassium are:
hypofunction of the adrenal cortex (Addison's disease).
With an increase in potassium levels, symptoms such as:
increased excitability of the nervous system, irritability, anxiety;
If the level of potassium is elevated, it is recommended to limit foods containing it.
The daily requirement for potassium depends on age, physical condition and even where you live. Adult healthy people need 2.5 g of potassium, pregnant women - 3.5 g, athletes - up to 5 grams of potassium daily. The amount of potassium for adolescents is calculated by weight - 20 mg of potassium per 1 kg of body weight.
Potassium rates are calculated for all age categories and are presented in the table below:
Children under 2 years old
Children from 3 to 5 years old
Children from 6 to 8 years old
Children from 9 to 13 years old
Teenagers under 18
Women during pregnancy and lactation
5 100 mg
The body's daily requirement for potassium increases:
in patients with type 1 diabetes, as well as in those who are prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
when taking diuretics;
with a low-carbohydrate and high-protein diet: in such cases, fruits are practically not included in the diet, the alkaline composition of which regulates potassium metabolism;
during sports loads: potassium is intensively excreted from the body with sweat.
The body's daily requirement for potassium decreases:
in patients suffering from chronic renal failure, kidney disease of the last stage, heart failure;
in pregnant women with preeclampsia, since with the active intake of potassium in the body there is a risk of developing hyperkalemia.
Our body does not make potassium reserves, using exactly as much as it can absorb at the moment. Therefore, it is impossible to talk about stable indicators of the presence of an element in the body - the data is constantly changing. Often the cause of its shortage is the wrong eating behavior of the person himself, which can lead to malfunctions in the work of various body systems. And they can appear in a very short time.
Sources of potassium for humans are many products, both plant and animal origin. In this table, foods rich in potassium:
Potassium content (mg/100g)
Those who have been on a strict diet for a long time should definitely pay attention to potassium-rich foods. Especially if laxatives or diuretics were taken at that time. Another category that constantly needs potassium is athletes. During classes, a large amount of this element is spent on maintaining muscle tone. Therefore, after a workout, a nutritionist prescribes potassium-fortified drinks to prevent a sharp decrease in its level in the body. Each time, it will be necessary to replenish the amount of an important element for those who spent a long time under the open sun (for example, on the beach), and for those who had to sweat a lot when treating a cold accompanied by a high temperature.
Almost a quarter of the daily requirement of the element is found in one medium-sized potato, so meals with this root crop in the diet are a great way to strengthen the heart muscle. In addition to potassium, potatoes contain a large amount of beta-carotene and vitamin C, which is stored in it even after cooking. These substances stimulate the immune system and are able to repair damaged blood vessels and arteries.
Half a salmon fillet contains more than 20% of the required amount of potassium. In addition, red fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, other vitamins and minerals that are very beneficial for humans. With the regular use of salmon in food, blood pressure normalizes, the nervous system strengthens.
One avocado, or "alligator pear", covers about 30% of your daily potassium requirement. It can be cooked on its own or added to a salad.
It is well known that bananas improve the balance of electrolytes in the body, so when preparing for a competition, athletes actively include them in their diet. 1 large banana provides about 15% of your daily potassium intake.
All legumes are a source of potassium to some extent. In addition to fiber, ½ cup of lentils contains 350 mg of the element, which corresponds to 10% of the daily intake. Plus, the body will replenish the balance of copper and manganese, thereby strengthening the heart muscle and maintaining bone mineral density.
A healthy snack with a regular potassium supplement is raisins. A quarter cup contains almost 250 mg of the vital element. And although this is only 7% of the daily amount, raisins will add fiber and other important minerals to the body.
Useful edible mushrooms are a source of antioxidants, protein, and other organic compounds. Potassium in one glass of chopped mushrooms contains approximately 12% of the daily requirement, which will help reduce blood pressure and the level of the oxidative process.
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A 150g serving of tuna provides more than 10% of the potassium a person needs daily. Marine fish normalizes cholesterol levels, improves heart health, and supplies our body with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. They quite successfully play the role of antioxidants in some parts of the body.
The vibrant root vegetable is one of the richest foods in potassium and the most readily available source of the vital element. One glass of beetroot easily covers 25% of the daily requirement for it. It is also high in phytonutrients and antioxidants that help support the immune system.
Almost 15% of potassium from the daily norm, fiber, other trace elements - all this is contained in half a glass of white beans. When consumed regularly, legumes lower cholesterol levels and improve heart function.
Pomegranate juice is a storehouse of nutrients and vitamins. The grains of one fruit contain almost 20% of the daily intake of potassium, as well as vitamin C and other important antioxidants.
For heart problems, constipation, doctors strongly recommend including dried apricots in the diet. Indeed, in addition to fiber and vitamin A, almost 100 mg of potassium can be obtained from each fruit after soaking.
Since ancient times, in the East, dried figs were taken with them on a trip. 100 grams of this sweet contains almost 100 mg of potassium. In addition, dried figs are valued for their high content of calcium, which strengthens bones, copper and manganese to increase immunity.
The main requirement for vegetables and fruits is freshness and no damage. In withered fruits, potassium is noticeably less. It is best to store them in a dry and cool place.
During food processing, the potassium contained in the products does not all reach the table, most of it is lost in the process, which is associated with the high solubility of salts of this metal in water. For example, boiled spinach has 17% less potassium than fresh spinach. And curly cabbage during cooking loses up to 50% of the valuable element contained in it.
The amount of nutrients in the finished food is affected by the cooking temperature, interaction with oxygen, and the level of acidity of the dish. Potassium, like most vitamins, is destroyed by strong heating, especially during long cooking. Therefore, it is necessary to cook quickly, trying to reduce the processing temperature as much as possible.
The main recommendations to help preserve the maximum amount of nutrients, including potassium, in ready-made meals: do not boil at 100 ° C, do not use the microwave, refuse to fry, minimize the amount of vegetable oil. Steamed vegetables are very useful. But if possible, it is much more useful to eat them raw.
Dietary supplements contain potassium in the bound form: potassium chloride, potassium citrate, phosphate, aspartate, bicarbonate, and gluconate. In potassium iodide supplements, the main mineral component is iodine.
Food manufacturers are forced to limit their potassium content to 99 mg, which is about 3% of the daily value. And there are serious reasons for this.
First, studies have found that oral preparations containing potassium chloride, in which, in terms of net weight, more than 99 mg of pure metal, are dangerous to health. They can damage the walls of the small intestine.
Second, because of the health risk, some regulators require manufacturers to label foodstuffs with a warning that they contain more than 99 mg of potassium.
Potassium is available in tablets, capsules, drops and powder. The use of supplements is only on prescription, because - and this was mentioned earlier - excess potassium is also dangerous to health.
Not many studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of nutritional supplements containing potassium. Tests in 2016 showed how well potassium is absorbed in the body. According to the results, about 94% of potassium gluconate is absorbed by the body through nutritional supplements at the same rate as if the element came from a potato.
Previously, there was evidence that potassium chloride solution (used as a drug for the treatment of digitalis intoxication or arrhythmias due to hypokalemia) is completely absorbed within a few hours. But potassium chloride in the form of enteric tablets (their shell does not allow the tablets to dissolve in the stomach, but only in the small intestine) is absorbed more slowly than in liquid form.
In folk recipes in the treatment of diseases of the heart, gastrointestinal tract, osteoporosis, nervous system and kidneys, products rich in potassium salts are necessarily used.
The most famous remedy for many diseases is a solution of potassium permanganate, or potassium permanganate. With dysentery, doctors advised taking it both inside and in the form of an enema. But the solution must be prepared very carefully. If it is poorly stirred or made too strong, you can get chemical burns.
In case of heart problems or violations of water metabolism in folk healers, it is recommended to add germinated grains to food. They are rich not only in potassium salts, but also in other useful trace elements.
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Grapes are often found in folk recipes as a source of glucose and potassium. It is recommended for kidney health, in diseases of the heart, bronchi, liver, gout, nervous exhaustion and anemia.
In conclusion, we want to remind you that every medal has two sides. Despite the fact that potassium is very important for our body, it can be both beneficial and harmful with equal ease. Therefore, do not forget about the rate of consumption, because we ourselves monitor our nutrition, and it is in our power to maintain a balance in the intake of all the necessary elements that are beneficial to health.
Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses
Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health?
On the mechanism of the effects of potassium restriction on blood pressure and renal sodium retention
Nutritional Management of Kidney Stones (Nephrolithiasis)