The most commonly known facts about potassium are (1) that it’s important for our diets and (2) that bananas are a great source of it. But do you know how potassium helps your body? Or what a potassium deficiency can cause?
Potassium is essential to normal body function. It is a nutrient, mineral and electrolyte that helps maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes. Increasing intake of potassium has also been linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University states not getting enough potassium can cause severe problems, including muscular paralysis, hypertension, abnormal heart rhythms, cardiovascular disease—and even death.
Luckily, potassium is readily available in several fruits, vegetables, dairy products, as well as some nuts and seeds:
- Baked potatoes (w/skin)
- Orange juice
- Dried apricots
- Plain yogurt
Potassium is also unique in how it interacts with salt. To help the contraction of muscles, potassium is pulled into cells while salt is pushed out, helping to transmit signals and contract muscles. However, Harvard Medical School reports that consuming too much sodium and too little potassium can cause the body to flush sodium out, putting the person at risk of high blood pressure and other health problems.
For more information on potassium and its effect on your health, check out the National Institutes of Health page on potassium.