Potassium is a metal that acts in our body as an electrolyte. Electrolytes (potassium, sodium, chlorine, calcium, etc.) are people who have an electrical charge and help with a number of basic bodily functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate, water balance, muscle contractions, and nerves. signals, in digestion and pH equilibrium (acidity or alkalinity).
Our body does not produce potassium, so it is important to consume a proper balance of foods that have potassium and other electrolytes. Foods rich in potassium are fruits and vegetables. Metal is not stored in our body and therefore its daily consumption is essential.
Potassium and properties
The best known property of potassium is that it lowers blood pressure (while sodium, which we get mainly from salt, raises blood pressure) [1, 2]. Potassium is known as the “sodium antidote”, however most people consume more sodium than potassium . Because it lowers blood pressure, studies show that it also reduces the risk of stroke . A diet rich in potassium can reduce the risk of stroke by 25%.
Recent research has shown that potassium has other positive effects besides regulating blood pressure, for example, it prevents the calcification of arteries. Calcium can sometimes accumulate in places it should not normally, such as the coronary arteries, brain and breasts – this can be due to injury, infection or autoimmune disorder. This phenomenon, called calcification, when it occurs in the arteries causes stiffness and increases the risk of heart disease. A study in mice showed that adequate potassium intake acts as an antidote to arterial calcification .
Other findings for potassium have been shown to help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures  as well as reduce the risk of developing kidney stones .
Potassium and hypokalemia
Lack of potassium in the body is called hypokalemia and usually occurs due to certain diseases. It has been observed in 20% of hospitalized patients . Symptoms that accompany hypokalemia are numbness, muscle fatigue, cramps, drowsiness, nausea, anorexia and heart rhythm disorders.
Potassium and hyperkalemia
But as with almost all nutrients, too much potassium can also lead to health problems. Healthy kidneys maintain normal levels of potassium in the body by removing excess amounts through the urine but if they do not work properly potassium can increase in the body. This condition is called hyperkalemia and occurs in certain conditions such as Addison’s disease or when taking certain medicines to lower blood pressure.
Potassium and foods
Experts recommend consuming 3,400 mg of potassium for men and 2,600 mg for women, however a meta-analysis showed that there are more benefits from a consumption of up to 4,700 mg .
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium . The fruits that have the most potassium are avocado (50 g have 240 mg), followed by bananas (50 g have 177 mg), figs (50 g have 120 mg) and oranges (50 g have 50 mg mg).
Among the vegetables, cooked spinach and sweet potatoes have significant quantities, as well as avocado. Among legumes, cooked lentils have the largest amount, about 700 mg per 240 ml. The same amount of raisins has 600 mg.
Salmon contains as much potassium as bananas or even more. The same amount has a beef steak or 180 gr. yoghurt.
An egg contains 70 mg while olives and olive oil (like other oils) have no potassium at all.
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- The Importance of Potassium in Managing Hypertension.
- Effects of Oral Potassium on Blood Pressure. Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials.
- Sodium and Potassium Intakes Among US Adults: NHANES 2003-2008.
- Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in Women With Hypertension and Nonhypertension in the Women’s Health Initiative.
- Dietary potassium regulates vascular calcification and arterial stiffness.
- Potassium, Magnesium, and Fruit and Vegetable Intakes Are Associated With Greater Bone Mineral Density in Elderly Men and Women.
- A Prospective Study of Dietary Calcium and Other Nutrients and the Risk of Symptomatic Kidney Stones.
- Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses.