Like sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte - when they dissolve in the bloodstream, they take on a positive or negative charge.
In terms of the amount of each mineral that we store in the body, phosphorus is the third most plentiful. Most of our potassium is found inside the body’s cells, and this essential mineral is a powerful aid in lowering blood pressure. This means that potassium can help people to reduce their risk of heart disease and strokes.
Potassium helps the muscles to contract, conduct nerve impulses, and helps us to regulate our heartbeat. Potassium works with sodium to control cell fluids; potassium affects the internal fluids, while sodium affects the external. Potassium also plays a key role in the conversion of blood sugar, or glucose, into stored energy in the form of glycogen - this is then amassed in the muscles and the liver. Potassium has diuretic properties, enabling the removal of toxins.
Although potassium in good quantities can help to reduce high blood pressure, it's still also worthwhile reducing sodium intake simultaneously, in order to provide even greater beneficial effects.
Potassium - where can I find it?
It's very important that we get enough potassium in our diet - so in order to achieve this you should look to include the following potassium-rich foods in your healthy eating plan:
- Brown rice
Potassium is also found in:
- Dairy foods
- Whole grains
How much potassium?
In order to get the right amount of potassium, both men and women should aim for an intake of 3500 mg in their daily healthy diet.
Potassium - what happens if I don't get enough?
Because many people don't incorporate enough fresh fruit and vegetables into their diet, it's quite common to be slightly deficient in this essential nutrient. Athletes who undergo intense exercise can suffer from low levels of potassium, and if you suffer from a severe case of diarrhoea or vomiting, or if you're taking diuretics, you may also experience reduced potassium levels.
That said, it's uncommon for people to experience any obvious symptoms of potassium deficiency - though in the worst case scenario, symptoms to look out for are muscle weakness and nausea.