You’ve likely heard the fact that bananas have a lot of potassium. They’re not the only food that has a lot of this mineral, but they’re the most commonly remembered.
Why is potassium important? It’s easy to overlook this mineral because it’s rarely mentioned unless you’re a banana fan or you’re deficient in it. However, it is one of the most important minerals for the body. Suffering from a severe deficiency can lead to life-threatening complications.
Here’s everything that you need to know about potassium. We’ll cover the dangers of being deficient, as well as all the benefits of getting plenty in your system. This is your chance to learn signs of a deficiency and all the foods that you should add to your diet to make sure you get it naturally.
Potassium Isn’t That Important, Is It?
There are many people who will tell you that potassium isn’t too important. It’s so commonly overlooked that people tend to believe that there are more important vitamins and minerals. However, potassium plays an extremely important role in the body.
This is a mineral that is found in the body’s cells naturally. You still need to get some, but it can be stored for the average person. It’s more commonly referred to as an electrolyte, which is why it’s overlooked. We know that electrolytes are important, but we don’t realize that they’re the same as potassium.
The kidneys need electrolytes for regular function. Without them, it’s difficult for the kidneys to remove all the toxins from the body through the urine. Too much water is removed, but the sodium levels rise. The blood pressure is instantly affected, and you’re more at risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack.
Without the right balance of bodily fluids, the nervous system doesn’t get the support it needs. The muscles will start to cramp and seize, and you can be left suffering from seizures as the body tries to repair itself.
At the same time, potassium helps the body to regulate other nutrients, avoiding an overload of some of them. This is especially the case for calcium. Without a maintained level of potassium, the body will get a build up of calcium, causing stones and other health problems. The bones don’t get the nutrient to strengthen and form, leading to future health problems like osteoporosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency?
Before we look at the benefits of potassium, it’s worth looking at the symptoms of not getting enough of the nutrient. This can give you some ideas of the benefits that you’ll gain.
In most cases, the symptoms will start mild and gradually get worse. You’ll start with some muscle cramping and weakness, as your muscles struggle to contract and relax properly. You may feel fatigued, and some digestive upsets are common, including constipation and nausea.
As your potassium deficiency gets worse, you can suffer from kidney and heart problems.These problems are more common in elderly patients with low levels of potassium.
How Does the Body Benefit Exactly from Potassium?
With that overview, it’s now time to look at all the ways that the body will benefit directly from getting enough of this nutrient. We’ll break it down for one benefit at a time with an explanation of why it is so important.
Keep the brain functioning healthily. One of the biggest benefits is that the brain gets full support. Good potassium levels will mean that the body gets more oxygen, which means the brain gets an optimum amount. Concentration and cognitive functions are impaired when there isn’t enough oxygen in the brain. The neurons in the brain don’t get a chance to react fully when cognitive function is impaired.
Those who don’t have good levels of potassium are also at a higher risk of having a stroke. Not only does the brain get more oxygen with potassium, but improved blood flows too. The vessels will relax the body, making it easier for the blood to flow around and not clot or clog. Strokes are caused by clots or broken vessels, so you’re reducing your risk of stroke by getting the right levels of potassium.
People who have had strokes have found that their potassium levels are low. It’s scientifically proven that lower levels of potassium put you at an increased risk.
Likewise, those who have plenty of potassium will find that their memory and learning abilities are improved. Remember that potassium affects the nerves. When the receptors are working efficiently, the brain can take information and put it into long or short-term storage quickly and in full. With working neurons, conditions like epilepsy can be minimized and even avoided. The electrical currents around the body work better.
Maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar levels must be maintained. They affect far more than just the amount of insulin your body releases on a daily basis.
While high blood sugar levels are commonly focused on, it’s important to avoid low blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar drops, you will suffer from side effects like headaches, weakness, sweating, and shake. Some diabetic patients suffer from low blood sugar levels, which are just as dangerous as high blood sugar levels. The insulin and glucose levels still spike and drop at alarming rates.
Potassium helps to control the blood sugar levels, avoiding sudden drops. In fact, potassium will offer immediate help for people who have low blood sugar levels. Instead of reaching for a chocolate bar when your sugar levels are down, you should reach for a banana!
Healthy blood sugar levels will reduce your risk of developing diabetes and aid with weight loss efforts.
Avoid muscle cramps around the body. There are high chances that you’ve suffered cramps in your legs. Your muscles feel extremely tight and painful. In extreme cases, the muscles are rock solid as you try to massage them to help ease the pain and discomfort.
Well, cramping is linked to a lack of potassium. When you don’t get enough of the mineral, the muscles’ regular contraction and release functions are impaired. Muscles can’t relax effectively, leaving them constantly working. This means that they suffer from tiredness.
At the same time, your fluid imbalance will mean that the muscles don’t get the water they need to maintain their health. They can also lack the sodium levels needed for effective contraction and relaxation. The various fluids and balances work together for full muscle and nerve function.
A deficiency in potassium is known as hypokalemia, and one of the symptoms is muscle cramps. You can avoid this completely by just consuming a banana a day, as long as your body absorbs the mineral properly.
Muscle strength will also be affected. The tissues use up the proteins and other nutrients effectively when your fluid levels are in the balance. Your metabolism works more effectively, meaning energy is released better. The cells in your muscles can repair better, meaning they are stronger and boost your metabolism further.
People who don’t get enough potassium are at the risk of paralysis. The muscles don’t get the support they need and start to wear away. Cells don’t repair and grow back properly, meaning that muscle function is seriously compromised. Since the muscles don’t contract and relax properly, it’s much harder to perform everyday exercises.
Improved organ health. We’ve looked at how the brain is supported and briefly touched on how the kidneys get some help, but other organs also get help. Firstly, let’s remember the muscle benefits. The heart is a muscle and needs support to keep it working strongly. Of course, the rest of the body needs the heart pumping enough blood around the body.
By getting enough potassium, the blood pressure levels are kept to a minimum. There’s a balance, which helps to reduce the risk of heart diseases. The vessels widen and relax, which is more than just a benefit to the brain. The blood flows freely to all organs.
It’s also worth remembering that potassium helps with the absorption and balance of other nutrients. Calcium in large amounts is extremely dangerous. It prevents the kidneys from working properly and also affects the heart. It can lead to various disorders, which require dialysis or transplants to repair or solve.
It is important to get the right levels of potassium. Getting too much can have the opposite effect on the organs. This is something we’ll cover towards the end.
Support the health of the bones. Potassium aids in calcium balance and absorption. You need to get calcium in your body to support your bone and teeth strength and health. Getting low levels of calcium, your bones weaken and are more likely to break. Women especially are more likely to suffer from conditions like osteoporosis later in life.
Potassium can also help to neutralize some of the acids in the body. The acids affect the amount of calcium that is absorbed, while also directly affecting linings in the body and the overall health. The calcium becomes ineffective even if it is absorbed, making it unusable by the bones.
Improve your weight maintenance goals. Another major benefit is to your weight loss or weight gain. Whatever your weight management goals, you want to add potassium to your diet, as it boosts your metabolic rate.
This is something we’ve touched on. With a support metabolism, your body finds it easier to absorb all the nutrients you take in. Your muscles get the extra strength, which leads to a better and faster metabolism. However, a faster metabolism also has a direct effect on your weight loss.
When your metabolism is faster, your body will burn more energy throughout the day. That means it burns more calories throughout the day. It’s much easier to create a calorie deficit, meaning that you can lose more weight. You will need to keep an eye on the amount your metabolism speeds up, especially if you need to gain weight.
A support metabolism also means that your tissue and cell regeneration is better supported. You have an overall healthier body, which puts you in better standing for a healthy weight loss. You’ll find it easier to keep the weight off!
Reduce the chances of suffering from mental disorders. Stress is a silent killer. You won’t likely realize that it’s affecting your health until you have physical symptoms. When your body isn’t balanced, and your brain doesn’t function properly, the stress hormones are released in higher amounts. This can lead to various mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
These negative hormones and feelings raise your blood pressure and make it harder for your metabolism to work. You end up struggling to absorb the nutrients in your body.
Potassium doesn’t just help to balance out the fluid levels. It balances out the hormonal levels. Your body will find it easier to release happy hormones, reducing the number of stress hormones in the body. Every part of your body works far more effectively.
Is It Possible to Get Too Much Potassium?
Like any nutrient, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. This is the especially the case with potassium. You don’t need more than your recommended daily allowance. If you do take supplements, you will want to check the levels of potassium to balance out with the amount you get from your food. Before taking potassium supplements, talk to your doctor. The only time they are necessary is if you have a medical condition that affects the amount of potassium your body can store and use.
Getting too much potassium can lead to kidneys not processing the nutrient properly. That means you get none of the benefits above since the body doesn’t even realize you’re getting the nutrient. You can end up with all the side effects of potassium deficiency, including an increased risk of heart disease and muscle paralysis. You may feel like your muscles are weak and can suffer from heart arrhythmia.
Where Can You Get Potassium From Naturally?
Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium. Just one banana a day will usually give you all the potassium that your body needs. You can certainly avoid the symptoms of deficiency and support your kidney function. However, if you don’t like or can’t eat bananas, you can also get potassium from:
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes
- And oranges
Surprisingly, sweet and white potatoes have more potassium in just one compared to one banana. They’re often overlooked due to the starchy carbs involved. If you want something good for weight loss, consider adding more sweet potatoes to your diet.
You need to add potassium to your diet on a daily basis. Your cells need the nutrient to regenerate, and your tissues need it to strengthen and repair. The whole body benefits, as potassium is one of those electrolytes that aids with relaxation—both mentally and physically. Your muscles and vessels will relax to avoid pain and improve blood flow. Your organs get all the oxygen they need, while other nutrients can’t build up to prevent full function.
If you want to avoid some serious health complications, add a sweet potato or banana to your diet on a daily basis.