Potassium is a mineral found in many different foods, from bananas and apricots to beans and sweet potato. It is an electrolyte too, meaning that it takes part in the electrical charges in the body that contract the muscles.
Most of the potassium in the body is found within the cells. But, the small amount of potassium found outside the cells can bring to various changes which have a tremendous effect on the function of the muscles, nerves, and the heart.
Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
The symptoms of low potassium often go unnoticed because they are typically too mild to be noticed. Sometimes, they are even confused with symptoms of other conditions.
Potassium deficiency often affects the nerves, muscles, heart, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. The most common symptoms of these effects include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach cramps and bloating
- Irregular heart beat
- Fainting, usually caused by low blood pressure
- Weakness, tiredness or cramping in arm or leg muscles, can range from mild to so severe that it can feel like paralysis
- Tingling or numbness
- Abnormal behavior and physiological conditions such as depression, psychosis, delirium, confusion or hallucinations
- Swelling of the face, feet, ankles and abdomen
Causes of Potassium Deficiency
While eating an unhealthy diet is the most common cause of potassium deficiency, there are various factors that increase the risk of developing this condition.
Diarrhea, excessive sweating, and dehydration are common causes of potassium deficiency, because you this potassium along with the water that leaves the body. This is why athletes consume drinks that are packed with electrolytes after workout.
Even though lack of bodily fluid is a very important factor regarding potassium deficiency, most people simply fail to get enough of this mineral due to their diets.
How to Avoid Potassium Deficiency
The average recommended daily intake of potassium for adults is about 5000 mg (milligrams). Luckily, there are plenty of potassium-rich foods available.
Here are some of the foods that are highest in potassium:
- Potato, baked (928 mg of potassium per 1 potato)
- Kidney beans (600 mg of potassium per 3/4 cup)
- Sweet potato (500 mg of potassium per 1/2 cup)
- Chard (510 mg of potassium per 1/2 cup)
- Sweet potato, baked (450 mg of potassium per 1 potato)
- Halibut (430 mg of potassium per 75 grams)
- Spinach ( 420 mg of potassium per 1/2 cup)
- Banana (420 mg of potassium per medium sized banana)
- Milk (fat-free, low-fat, whole, buttermilk) (350-380 mg of potassium per 1 cup)
- Lentils ( 365 mg of potassium per 1/2 cup)
- Tomato, fresh ( 290 mg of potassium per one fruit)
- Vegetable juice ( 270 mg of potassium per 1 cup)
- Beets, raw or cooked ( 260 mg of potassium per 1/2 cup)
- Yogurt, plain ( 250 mg of potassium per 6-oz serving )
- Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) ( 240 mg of potassium per 1-oz serving)