Potassium is one of the most important minerals for our body; it helps our muscles work and function properly. Without potassium, our muscles would have a hard time functioning the way they need to. Potassium also helps regulate blood pressure. Depending on the amount of potassium in your blood, your blood pressure can go up or down.
And because blood pressure affects so many different parts of our body, it is important to keep potassium at an optimal level. The question is, what is the optimal level?
How much potassium do you need?
We mentioned that potassium is one of the most important minerals in your body. Potassium is also the third most abundant mineral in your body. The mineral plays an important role in several processes. According to some older studies, 98% of adults in America do not meet the daily recommended value.
Health organizations recommend a minimum of 4,700 mg of potassium per day for adults. Children under 13 years old need between 400 and 3,800 mg of potassium per day (that applies to infants as well). In addition, adults should limit themselves to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. These two minerals are closely related. The problem is, most Americans do not meet either standard. That being said, let’s take a look at signs of potassium deficiency that should sound the alarm.
As mentioned previously, potassium is crucial for ensuring your muscles are working properly, and when they’re not, you feel tired and weak. The simple explanation is that your muscles don’t have enough energy to function.
Another result of your muscles not working properly is cramps in the legs and arms. And when your potassium levels are down, cramping can be quite challenging. Potassium is an electrolyte, and we all know that cramps due to a low amount of electrolytes are awful. You’ll need to quickly boost your potassium consumption to get back on track.
Abdominal cramps are different from leg and arm cramps. Abdominal cramps result from a malfunction of the intestines and stomach due to a potassium deficiency. In some severe cases, low potassium levels can completely stop the activity of your intestines.
Speaking of muscles, the heart is the most important muscle in your body. And when your muscles aren’t working properly, usually the heart is the first to suffer. It’s vital to ensure your muscles, including the heart, function properly. When you have a low potassium level, your heart can beat irregularly. In other words, it will beat faster or slower to compensate. In severe cases, potassium deficiency may lead to heart failure.
We mentioned that potassium is an electrolyte. And as such, it’s crucial for your kidneys. When they’re not getting the potassium they need, they can’t operate properly. The result is frequent urination, which vastly reduces your blood pressure and deprives you of other minerals. When your blood pressure drops severely low, you’ll pass out.
Another result of potassium deficiency is extreme thirst. As mentioned, low potassium levels usually lead to frequent urination, which is just your body’s way to eliminate excess fluids to get your system back in balance. As a result, you’ll become more and more dehydrated and thirsty.
When your body is trying to compensate for any mineral, nausea is a normal side effect. Simply put, your body isn’t working properly, and you’ll feel nauseated. Loss of fluids, loss of vital nutrients, loss of key minerals—all of these will give you an upset stomach. We mentioned that low potassium causes weakness, but it also contributes to feelings of nausea.
Best sources of potassium
A healthy diet is the best way to ensure your potassium levels are always right. Whenever your potassium levels are down, you need an infusion of foods rich in potassium. So, what are the best sources of potassium?
The mineral can be found in whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Some of those sources of potassium include beet greens, yams, white potatoes, soybeans, avocado, sweet potato, spinach, salmon, bananas, and edamame. Make sure to include these potassium-rich foods in your daily diet, and you will never feel the symptoms of low potassium.