Solving the Potassium Puzzle: How Much Do You Really Need?
You know it’s good for you, but you probably don’t know why. Read on to find out.
Potassium might not be one of those minerals that you think of on a daily basis, but it probably should be. The human body needs potassium for many important functions, and having too much or too little of it can cause health problems. What’s the deal with potassium? Read on to find out what it does and how much you should be incorporating into your diet.
Why Potassium Is Important
Potassium is responsible for quite a few important day-to-day functions in your body. Some of those include maintaining body growth, building proteins and muscle, breaking down carbohydrates, and regulating your heart.
Potassium is also important when it comes to regulating blood flow and blood pressure. While excess levels of sodium can raise blood pressure (high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, which is a leading cause of death worldwide), potassium counteracts salt’s effects. Adults should be consuming at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day, according to the Food and Nutrition Board, to help lower blood pressure, blunt the effects of salt, and reduce the risk of kidney stones and bone loss.
How to Increase Your Intake
Depending on your diet, you might already be consuming a decent amount of potassium without even knowing it, but it’s always a good idea to be aware of how much of any mineral you’re getting. Good sources of potassium include fish and vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes, beans, and tomatoes. Many fruits also have high levels of potassium, like bananas and a number of dried fruits. You can also get potassium from drinks, like carrot juice, orange juice, and milk (especially chocolate milk!).
If you’re worried you aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals in your everyday diet, supplementing your diet with a multivitamin like Centrum can help you reach the recommended amount.
Too Much or Too Little?
Unfortunately, Americans generally don’t get nearly as much potassium as they should—in the U.S., most women ages 31 to 50 consume less than half of their recommended 4,700 milligrams.
While there is no recommended upper limit of potassium intake, for people with kidney problems, potassium may not be removed from the blood at the rate at which it should be. If you’re not sure you’re getting the right amount of potassium, your doctor can help assess your potassium status with some easy tests. From there, she can help you figure out the healthiest plan to adjust your intake as necessary.