Potassium is a natural element and one of the fundamental nutrients required by the body. It is involved in an assortment of basic processes, such as maintaining water balance inside cells. Potassium is found in a variety of foods, and some are particularly rich in this nutrient. For people with certain conditions, it may be necessary to supplement their diet with potassium. However, other conditions may require restriction of potassium intake.
What Potassium Is
Potassium is a natural element and a crucial nutrient to the body. It is also an electrolyte which means that, along with sodium, chloride, magnesium and calcium, it conducts electrical activity in the body. Potassium can occur in several natural forms, but the body is most effective in processing the salt form, such as potassium chloride, or the chelated form, such as potassium citrate.
What Potassium Chelate Is
A substance is said to be chelated when it is held by a larger substance. Certain elements like potassium can be chelated by a relatively large organic molecule, such as a citrate or amino acid. When the larger molecule is processed by the body, the potassium is released. However, there is no evidence that the body absorbs the chelated form better than the salt form of potassium.
Potassium in the Body
Every cell in the body requires potassium for basic physiological processes to occur, like the release of energy from food. It is therefore essential to the normal function of the body. Potassium is especially important to maintain the health of the kidneys, heart, muscles and nervous system. Most healthy people get enough potassium each day from a normal diet. However, some conditions are known to deplete potassium or cause it to build up in the bloodstream. Chronic kidney disease can cause such imbalances of potassium, and the consequences can be severe. Very high or low potassium levels in the blood can lead to problems such as personality disturbances, muscle weakness and heartbeat irregularities.
According to the USDA, animal products generally contain large amounts of potassium. The most potassium-rich animal products are clams, codfish, lobster, halibut, haddock, tuna and nonfat milk. Some vegetables are also high in potassium including sweet potatoes, tomatoes, white beans, cowpeas, eggplant, lentils, lima beans, parsnips and squash. Fruits rich in potassium include bananas, prunes, dates, grapefruit juice, plums, orange juice, plantains, dried peaches and raisins. Seeds, nuts and grains high in potassium content are pistachios, almonds, chestnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, oat bran, pumpkin seeds and wheat flour. The Institute of Medicine publishes the Recommended Dietary Allowance or RDA of potassium. For men and women over 14 years old, the RDA is 4.7 g per day. For lactating women, the RDA is 5.1 g per day.
- MedlinePlus: National Institutes of Health: Potassium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- The Weston A. Price Foundation: Mineral Primer
- Institute of Medicine: Food and Nutrition Board; DRI: RDA and Adequate Intakes (PDF)
- USDA: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17 (PDF)