Most diets – even “healthy” diets – do not contain enough potassium and far too much sodium. Potassium is both an electrolyte and a mineral. Potassium, sodium and chloride work in concert to maintain the water and electrolyte balance of the body. When sodium levels go up, potassium levels go down, and when sodium levels go down, potassium levels go up. This is why keeping your salt intake on the lower side is important. Excess sodium is found in cured meats, processed and fast foods and many condiments. Excess sodium = water retention and lower potassium levels.
Potassium is important in how nerves and muscles work; and, diets high in potassium are associated with lower blood pressure. Potassium also functions in regulation of the heartbeat, energy production, and conversion of blood sugar into glycogen. Low potassium results in low levels of stored glycogen ~ or muscle fuel. Potassium deficiency can result in fatigue, muscle weakness, dehydration, low blood pressure and light-headedness.
Focus on including these potassium rich whole foods in your daily intake: prunes, bananas, cantaloupe, avocados, winter squash, leafy green vegetables and yams. Other good sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, asparagus, mushrooms and okra. Boiling depletes potassium content; eat fruits and vegetables raw, roasted or lightly steamed to ensure your getting as much potassium as possible.
In good health.
Kimberly Young, M.S. is a practicing Nutritionist in Dallas, Texas. Have questions? Learn more about her integrative and functional approach to diet and nutrition at kyoungnutrition.com.