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Potassium

Sweet Potato

What does it do?

Potassium is critical for helping nerves transmit signals, muscles contract and cells maintain fluid balance inside and out. Newer scientific evidence demonstrates that potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure. Potassium also decreases the chances of recurrent kidney stones and possibly reduces bone loss.

What are the best food sources?

If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, then you are probably consuming enough potassium. Particularly good sources of potassium include bananas, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, pumpkin, spinach, raisins and root vegetables. Generally, more-processed foods have less potassium.

What happens if you don’t get enough?

Abnormally low potassium levels in the body (hypokalemia) do not usually occur from low dietary intakes of potassium. Hypokalemia is most often the result of too much potassium lost from the body, such as in persistent cases of diarrhea or vomiting or due to laxative abuse. The symptoms of this condition include muscle weakness, abnormal heart rhythms and abnormal glucose responses.

According to researchers, moderate potassium deficiency—that which occurs prior to hypokalemia—can cause increases in blood pressure and bone loss and put someone at risk for calcium-containing kidney stones. Unfortunately, moderate potassium deficiency is often silent because its symptoms (such as increased blood pressure and bone turnover) do not initially provide obvious outward signs. So, eat your fruits and veggies!

What happens if you get too much?

High potassium intakes from food have not been shown to cause adverse effects in healthy individuals. However, high doses of potassium from supplements can be toxic. Toxic doses of potassium supplements can cause a range of symptoms from gastrointestinal distress and abnormally high blood levels of potassium to heart irregularities. Bottom line: Stay within range of the recommended intakes.

How much do you need?

The following table lists the recommended intake for healthy people based on current scientific information.

Life Stage Group Age Range Recommended Dietary Allowance/Adequate Intake Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)
Infants 0-6 mo. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Infants 7-12 mo. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Children 1-3 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Children 4-8 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Males 9-13 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Males 14-18 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Males 19-30 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Males 31-50 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Males 51-70 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Males > 70 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Females 9-13 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Females 14-18 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Females 19-30 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Females 31-50 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Females 51-70 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Females > 70 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Pregnancy < 18 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Pregnancy 19-30 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Pregnancy 31-50 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Lactation < 18 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Lactation 19-30 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.
Lactation 31-50 yr. Not determinable due to lack of data on adverse effects and concern about inability to handle excess amounts. Source should be from food only to prevent high levels of intake.

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