Potassium: How Much You Need And How To Get It

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the average adult should be taking in 4.7 grams (4,700 mg) of potassium per day. In breastfeeding women, it should be 5.1 grams (5,100 mg) per day. Unfortunately, most people do not get anywhere near the recommended daily intake.

Why We Need Potassium

Potassium is a mineral. Like many other minerals, it acts as an electrolyte-- it conducts electricity in the body to keep the circuits working. This makes it a vital part of your body’s overall functioning. Muscle contractions-- so muscles work effectively and contract smoothly—are another major important job of potassium. Remember, muscles are not just in your arms and legs -- your heart is a muscle, and your digestive system is full of muscles.

Potassium-Rich Foods

The absolute best way to get any mineral into your body is by eating foods rich in that mineral. Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods, so it shouldn't be very difficult to work more into your diet. The most well-known potassium-rich food is the banana, but it's not the only fruit with potassium. You can get your daily dose from citrus fruits and juices, cantaloupes, or avocados.

All meats include potassium, but it’s fish that really stands out. Salmon, cod, and flounder are great sources for this mineral and are healthy in so many other ways to boot. Potatoes are a good source of potassium. A baked potato on the plate for dinner every night can really up your intake.

Another vegetable that will give you a great potassium boost is tomatoes, so throw tomatoes liberally into your salads and stir-fry dishes. Eat foods made in tomato sauces, such as pasta, red beans or tomato-based soups. Another way to get in your daily dose is by having a cup of tomato juice.

Potassium Supplements

A good, daily multi-vitamin will supply you with your daily potassium needs. Beyond that, potassium supplements should be taken only under a doctor’s care. Overdosing in potassium can be as unhealthy (or even worse) than not having enough. Too much, and you can suffer from muscle weakness, cardiac arrhythmia, hyperventilation, and metabolic acidosis; in extreme cases, it can be fatal.

Potassium is one of those minerals for which balance is essential for optimum health. Next time you go for your annual blood tests, ask your doctor how your potassium levels are. If they’re good—keep eating and doing what you have been doing. If not, talk to your doctor about altering your diet, or supplements that can help bring your numbers under control.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center
Photo: Pexels

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