8 Health Benefits of Potassium

The human body gets contributions from a wide variety of minerals that people might not know about.  Many of these occur naturally in the body and others are in most of the food people eat.  If people don’t get enough of these minerals in the body, it can lead to a host of potential problems.  Arguably the most important of these minerals is potassium.

Potassium is an important mineral that is necessary in order for the heart, kidneys, and other organs to function properly.  Potassium is found primarily in foods, however that does not mean that people are getting enough.  Potassium deficiencies are most commonly found in people with poor diet, have physically demanding jobs, abuse alcohol or drugs, just to name a few.  Foods that are high in potassium include, whole grains, meat, fish, and fruits such as bananas, mangoes, oranges, and raisins.

All of these foods are essential to your overall health.  Here is a short list detailing just some of the health benefits that potassium provides.

1. Reduces potential for stroke

One of potassium’s many functions in the body is to keep the brain functioning at an optimal level.  High potassium levels allow oxygen to travel to the brain, which increases cognitive function.  This is why often times bananas, a food with unusually high levels of potassium, are commonly referred to as “brain food.”  It is not surprising that individuals who are at high risk for stroke, often have a potassium deficiency.

2. Can prevent muscle disorders and cramps

Potassium plays a key role in the functioning of muscles.  Most of the potassium ions in the body are located in the muscle cells.  Potassium helps to keep reflexes strong and maintains ideal muscle and nerve function.  If one does not get enough potassium into the body, muscle cramps are a common occurrence.  Consuming just one banana each day can limit the chances of developing muscle cramps, due to the high levels of potassium in bananas.  Bananas are a great food to eat around your workouts and can help reduce your chances of muscle cramps.  Additionally bananas are known to be given out during the Boston Marathon as well to help prevent muscle cramps and keep runners fresh during the race.

3. Regulates Brain Function

Obviously brain function is essential to everyday life and potassium plays a big role in maintaining proper brain function.  Potassium can impact brain functions such as memory and learning.  Epilepsy has been linked to potassium deficiencies in individuals.  There are certain potassium channels in the brain that can help moderate and control electrical currents throughout the body.

4. Maintains normal blood pressure levels

Potassium can also help balancing blood pressure levels.  This also reduces the risk of heart disease and hypertension.  Regulation of blood pressure is arguably the most important of the many functions that potassium serves in the body.  Potassium works to alleviate the tension of blood vessels, which is one of the main factors of high blood pressure.

5. Helps limit anxiety and stress

Potassium can be of great use for people suffering from mental issues such as anxiety and/or stress.  Due to its work with the brain, potassium can help combat issues that stress causes on the brain and can keep your brain working effectively and efficiently and because of this potassium is a wise choice for somebody that may suffer from chronic stress because it can regulate various stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine that can affect not just the brain, but other parts of the body as well.

6. Promotes heart and kidney health

Consuming sufficient amounts of potassium significantly lowers the risk of developing hypertension.  Studies have shown that increasing your potassium intake significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as reducing the risk of dying due to cardiovascular related issues.  Kidney failure can be directly related to blood pressure.  A type of high blood pressure known as renal hypertension is elevated blood pressure when the kidneys are failing.  Potassium can help reduce the risks of acquiring renal hypertension.

7. Increases bone health

Another way in which potassium can benefit the body is by lowering the risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak and fragile.  Potassium can reduce damage caused to the bones by a high sodium diet.  A study at the Linus Pauling Institute has shown that eating fruits and vegetables with high potassium content leads to higher mineral density in bones.

8. Can help lower cholesterol

Although there is no direct link between potassium and cholesterol, however many diets that are promoting lower cholesterol levels are also high in potassium.  Foods that are high in potassium typically have lower cholesterol levels, and vice versa.    

It is recommended that adults 18 years and over should eat 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.  It is not all that difficult to consume adequate levels of potassium, but the easiest way to do this would be to add a lot of fruits and vegetables to your diet, as many of those are great sources of potassium.It is also possible to take potassium supplements as well if your body is still potassium deficient.

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