Do you take enough Potassium in your daily diet?

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

Your mind goes always to find whether there is too much of cholesterol in the food you eat, but you never think whether you are taking enough potassium in your food. It is a mineral that is required adequately for metabolic processes and for the cells to work normally to keep you healthy. It makes the cells make electricity to function efficiently.

You know it is that electricity produced in the cells that is used to check your workings of your heart efficiently through reading the wave lengths in an ‘electrocardiograph (ECG) tracing. Your nerves and muscles need sufficient potassium for them to function normally and efficiently.

For a day an adult should take 4,700 milligrams of potassium. For children up to six months need 400 milligrams: kids up to one year needs 700 milligrams: from 1 year to three years need 3,000milligrams: 4 to 8 years -3,800 milligrams and young teenagers need about 4,500 milligrams. Those young people participating in active sports may need supplementation.

Meat is acid and cause inflammation in your body when you eat daily, in excess. Too much of acidic foods can weaken the bones (osteoporosis) and taking adequate amount of potassium rich foods can slow down that process.

Eating too much of acidic foods can give rise to kidney stones. Taking adequate potassium in your food seem to prevent such stone formation.

For you muscles to work efficiently you need to take adequate amount of potassium in your food. Body builders need more than sedentary workers. Potassium seems to get rid of excess sodium that you invariably consume as salt in your daily food.  Taking adequate amount of potassium keeps your arteries flexible preventing high blood pressure. You need to keep your blood vessels healthy and elastic to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

Now, what are the fruits that have adequate potassium: a single medium banana has 422 milligrams of potassium. It is advisable to add slices of cut bananas in your breakfast cereal, including oats.
Oranges seem to have about 237 milligrams of potassium per fruit.

Further, foods that contain high potassium levels are: Avocado: Spinach, Sweet potato, Wild-caught salmon, Dried apricots, Pomegranate and coconut water. Tomatoes have high potassium (292 milligrams). In the cooking process you may lose most of it. Add to salads and sandwiches. A cup of tomato puree has 1,065 milligrams and a cup of the paste has 2,455 milligrams.

Potatoes have lot of potassium. They are good for you, unless you have diabetes. A medium size baked potato with skin has approximately 900 milligrams of potassium. Sri Lankans seem to eat a lot of potatoes in curry-form. Cooked potato curries may have less potassium than the bakes ones. Chips deep fried in oil may lose its potassium. Always enjoy baked chips, quite nutritious and retains potassium.

Remember potassium is required inside the cell, and sodium in the salt you consume settles outside in the extra-cellular fluid. Excess salt consumption in your food can lead to fluid collection in your extra-cellular spaces and cause swelling (oedema) of your dependant legs and feet. In heart failure too, there is fluid retention and you need to go on a low salt diet.

Dried prunes you take for constipation has 637 milligrams of potassium and high fibre too, works well for constipation.

You may need to take potassium supplements when your doctor puts you on diuretics like frusemide, do not take too much of potassium as it can cause gastro-intestinal upsets, ulcers and lose stools

If you lack potassium due to excess loss or inadequate intake from food, your muscles can go weak and walking will be an effort. You may get cramps in your calf muscles, and constipation due to loss of tone in the smooth muscles in your gut.

Be aware that consuming alcohol daily in excess can lead to loss of potassium. Too much of potassium in your cells can also give rise to similar symptoms as in hypokalaemia: irregular heart-beats, weak muscles. In chronic kidney failure there is retention of potassium in your blood and you may need dialysis to clean your blood.

Certain drugs may decrease potassium excretion, includes: Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, ACE inhibitors and Angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs) taken for high blood pressure: and a few others.

To check on your blood potassium level which reflects on the intra-cell amount, your doctor will do the electrolytes assay on you blood on annual check-up.

Conclusions: Be aware that your tiredness, weakness of muscles, and lack of energy to work may be due to insufficient potassium in your cells. Eating bananas daily may be the solution.

Some reference to WebMD

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