Potassium – The Sodium Partner

Potassium is a chemical element on the periodic table of elements with the symbol K and an atomic number of 19, and is one of the major nutrients that are needed in the diet. Like sodium this mineral is an electrolyte important for the regulation of water in the body and for determining where water is distributed. Potassium like sodium is a cation, which is a particle that carries a positive charge and has a distribution in the intracellular fluid inside of the cell.

Potassium Symbol

The flow of the mineral along with sodium in and out of cells is important to muscle contractions and transmission of nerve impulses, and also helps to control blood pressure.

Dietary Recommendations

This is one mineral that is not routinely added to processed foods, so if one’s diet is heavy in processed foods then you wouldn’t obtain hardly any of the mineral from processed foods. The mineral is however present in natural foods. An adequate intake (AI) of 4,700 milligrams/day is recommended for adults.

Sources of the Mineral

Major dietary sources of the mineral are fresh fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, melons, potatoes and spinach. Other foods that contain significant amounts of the mineral are fresh meat, milk, coffee, and tea.

Dietary Sources of the Mineral

Potassium Rich Foods

Too Little or Too Much Mineral

When there is too little of the mineral in the blood this signals that depletion of the mineral has occurred, and a moderate deficiency likely signals a risk for hypertension. Low intake of the mineral in the body can also contribute to kidney stones and bone loss. When there is prolonged vomiting, diarrhea that is chronic, abuse of laxatives, and use of diuretics this can result in too little of the mineral. Symptoms of a low level of the mineral in the blood include muscle weakness, loss of appetite, and confusion. Severe or rapid depletion can result in heart rhythm problems such as arrhythmias, which can be a potentially fatal problem.

The risk of too much of the mineral is low since the kidneys remove excess mineral. However if the kidneys are malfunctioning an excess amount of the mineral can result in the blood, which can slow the heart rate and even eventually stop the heart; therefore, those with kidney problems must monitor their potassium levels very carefully.

For more information about potassium click on the link to Wikipedia.org

For other information on nutrition some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

• The Vitamin Alphabet – Your guide to vitamins, minerals and food supplements by Dr. Christiana Scott-Moncrieff MB, CHB, MFHOM

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