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Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the human body. Benefits of potassium supplementation have been studied for decades. Surprisingly, medical researchers are still willing to write lines such as “science is not entirely certain of exactly how potassium offers those benefits.” Potassium acts as an electrolyte, taking on a positive or negative charge that helps regulate blood pressure, muscle contraction and cellular exchanges in its role as a sodium-potassium pump.
In order to keep your bodily systems working together, your body needs to maintain electrolytes including potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus in a very specific balance. Potassium’s other role in the body is to help in the metabolism of sugar to glycogen to provide energy for your daily tasks. Glycogen can be stored by the muscles and liver and released when the body calls for it. Thus another of the benefits of potassium is in helping your body store energy for later use without converting it to fat.
According to research, Potassium supplementation helps protect you against heart disease and stroke. In at least one study, people who had one serving of a food high in potassium decreased their risk of having a stroke by about 40%. In another study, researchers gave potassium supplements to people with normal blood pressure, and tracked their blood pressure over the course of time. Those taking potassium supplements reduced their risk of developing high blood pressure by 25%.
Researchers gave 54 adults with high blood pressure a list of foods high in potassium with instructions to eat 4-6 servings daily. Within twelve months, 81% were able to decrease their daily dosage of high blood pressure medication. Similar results have been obtained using potassium supplements, making it clear that reducing hypertension is among the benefits of potassium and potassium supplements.
While a seriously low level of potassium is rare, it can happen if you lose large amounts of fluids through diarrhea, vomiting or sweating. It’s most common among people who take diuretics, or among those who have a rare endocrine disorder like Liddle’s syndrome or Fanconi’s syndrome. The symptoms of potassium deficiency are muscle weakness and twitching, paralysis and abnormal heart rhythms. It can also happen if you drink too much water in a short length of time. Recently a death of a 28 years old water-drinking contestant was reported, as was a death of a marathon runner who drank too much water during her run.
What happens far more often in cases of short term illnesses that include diarrhea and vomiting is a short term imbalance of potassium. In severe diarrhea that is longer than 24 hours, or is accompanied by dehydration, low potassium levels can develop into a more serious problem. Even more common is a low potassium level in relation to sodium levels – or an imbalance of electrolytes in your body. In order to derive the full benefits of potassium, most experts recommend that you should take in about five times the amount of potassium as you do of sodium.
The standard Western diet, however, generally contains twice the sodium it does of potassium. For this reason, many whole health practitioners recommend taking potassium supplements to make up the deficiency. Many people drink sports drinks or electrolyte balancing beverages if they’re undergoing strenuous activity or are ill for a prolonged period, and most pediatricians recommend a drink with potassium supplements for children who have diarrhea and vomiting to make sure that your body has the benefits of potassium when it’s most needed.
If you’re concerned about getting enough potassium in your diet, your best course of action is to eat a lot of foods that are rich in potassium. The list of foods high in potassium below will help you add potassium into your diet. Remember that 3-6 servings daily of foods off the list of foods high in potassium can help lower high blood pressure and stave heart disease.
Natural vegetable foods tend to be high in potassium. Among the foods that are highest in potassium are:
Please note that potassium is needed by all people, but some need it more than others. Also, some need it in the chloride form, while others will do much better with the citrate. Ionic form of the mineral will be the most readily absorbed, and organically chelated form will be the most effective.