Potassium, symbol K, is a mineral element present in our body where it plays a very important role.
Potassium is present in intracellular fluids, helping to maintain cell function and determining the amount of water within the cell itself. But potassium also affects the activity of the muscles and, therefore, also that of the heart by carrying out a protective action on the cardiovascular system and reducing the risk of heart attack and heart disease. Moreover, a high intake of potassium through the diet has proven to be useful to reduce blood pressure, especially in case of a diet rich in sodium. Not only that, based on scientific research, an adequate intake of potassium would also help to decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by performing a glycemic control function (Stone et al, Nutrients, Jul 2016).
Potassium, daily requirement, deficiencies and symptoms
Potassium is supplied to the body through the diet and, for an adult, the daily requirement is about 4 g. However, reaching this quantity is not easy at all, especially nowadays when, unfortunately, we tend to prefer refined and processed foods with a low intake of fruit and vegetables. In fact, to give an idea, in the three-year period 2003-2006 it is estimated that only 3% of Americans introduced in the body an adequate potassium intake (Weaver et al, Adv Nutr, May 2013). But a low level of potassium can also be caused by some drugs, such as diuretics, by post-operative periods, by great sweating, as happens in summer or as a result of intense physical activity, and diarrhea. Some symptoms of a low potassium level are leg cramps, weakness, arrhythmias, constipation (Kardalas et al, Endocr Connect, Apr 2018).
Potassium, foods that contain it
White fruits and vegetables are among the foods with the highest potassium content. Among these we can indicate the banana, the avocado, the melon. Then we must not forget the potato, which is also a source of potassium. However, in order not to counteract the benefits of potassium, the potato should be eaten with little salt, otherwise the body would be overloaded with sodium. Other sources of potassium are carrots, apricots, leafy greens, avocado, kiwi fruits, oranges, pineapples and watermelon but also beans, almonds and peanuts.