Potassium is an essential nutrient, vital to a number of bodily functions. It is required to help break down and make use of carbohydrates, to construct proteins and muscle, to maintain the acid-base balance in your body and regulate your heart activity. It also helps maintain regular, healthy body development. Potassium can be found in a wide array of foods, including both plant and animal-based sources.
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Daily Recommended Intake
The Food and Nutrition Center at the Institute for Medicine recommends that adults consume almost 5 grams of potassium each day, with slightly more being recommended for women who are breastfeeding. Similar quantities are suggested for adolescents, and between 3 to almost 4 grams of potassium are recommended daily for children between the ages of 1 and 8 years. For infants, the recommended consumption level is around half a gram.
Dietary Sources of Potassium
All meats contain potassium, do fish, such as, salmon and cod. For vegetarians, lima beans and soy products are also rich in potassium, so you can get some potassium through your protein consumption.
For fruits and vegetables, the array of possibilities is quite large. Broccoli, peas, potatoes and winter squash are all potassium rich, as are citrus fruits, bananas and apricots, especially dried apricots. Many nuts, and milk and yogurt are excellent sources of potassium.
Consumption of Potassium-Rich Foods
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing your consumption of potassium-rich foods. Consumption recommendations for potassium-rich food groups for a 2,000 calorie per day diet include 3.5 ounces of whole grains per day; 1 1/2-cups of dark, leafy greens each week; 1 1/2 cups of legumes each week; and 3 cups of dairy. Meeting the recommendations for consumption of these items will help you achieve your daily potassium intake needs.
Hypokalemia and Hyperkalemia
Insufficient amounts of potassium in your body can lead to hypokalemia. The symptoms of this are weak muscles or muscles that tire easily, an abnormal heart beat and possibly a slightly higher blood pressure level. The risk of hypokalemia is increased if you take too many diuretics of laxatives, or if you have been experiencing severe vomiting or diarrhea. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately.