In the event of sodium excess, we rely on potassium to correct any imbalance. In cases where excessive salt consumption has lead to hypertension or high blood pressure, potassium in foods helps to treat the condition (and prevent it in others.) It is also considered helpful in the prevention of strokes. Severely injured and burns victims have been administered potassium to slow their heartbeat down.
Potassium should not generally be take as a supplement unless advised by your doctor. Too much potassium could lead to a sudden heart attack. If you have high blood pressure you can increase your potassium intake safely by simply eating more vegetables and fruit.
Potassium is the regulator that keeps our excess salt intake in check by maintaining the correct fluid levels in our cells. An imbalance, i.e. too much salt, can draw water out of the muscle cells, which is why potassium is especially important for sports people and for people with high blood pressure. Potassium also assists in the transmission of nerve impulses.
Although rare, potassium deficiency can occur after extended periods of diarrhoea, vomiting or with kidney malfunction. Diuretics, laxatives and fasting can also cause deficiencies leading to symptoms such as muscular weakness, apathy and altered heart rhythm and can add to the level of confusion present in dementia.
Most naturally occurring foods have a high ratio of potassium to sodium but food processing depletes potassium. It's therefore best sourced from fresh foods. One of the best sources is the potato, which delivers nearly half the adult RDI in one serve. Other good vegetable sources are: sweet corn, spinach, Jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, butternut pumpkin, avocado, snow peas and of course, bananas. Many other yellow, red and orange fruits and vegetables are sources of potassium, e.g. apricots, peaches, pawpaw, mango and tomatoes. Potassium is also found in meat, chickpeas and nuts. The potassium content will decrease in vegetables if they are left to soak in water for long periods of time before cooking or when boiled in a large volume of water compared to smaller losses of potassium with the steaming of vegetables.
The bodies of high performance athletes have greater stores of potassium because the mineral concentrates in the body's lean tissue.
Adults including pregnant women, need 50-140 mmol (2000 - 5600mg) daily.
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