Like other minerals such as sodium, potassium is a positively charged ion of immense importance in the body. In contrast to sodium, potassium is the body’s principal cation inside the body cells. The adult human body contains about 250 grams of potassium. It is third most abundantly found mineral and nutrient of the body.
Potassium is found widely in all the foodstuffs. In animals and plants, sources are as follow
- Animal Sources: It is found in ground beef, cod, ham, lean, and shrimp, chicken breast, milk, yogurt, buttermilk, and sirloin steak etc.
- Plant Sources: These include spinach, carrots, broccoli, tomato juice, banana, grapefruit, avocado, green beans and white rice etc.
Potassium plays a major role in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and cell integrity. During nerve transmission and muscle contraction, potassium and sodium briefly trade places across the cell membrane. The cell then quickly pumps them back into place. Controlling potassium distribution is a high priority for the body because it affects many aspects of homeostasis, including a steady heartbeat. It is food for combating allergies and arthritis. It also plays role in providing oxygen to the brain. It is also found to be beneficial in disposing of wastes of the body.
Recommendation and Intakes
As for sodium and chloride, a minimum potassium requirement for adults has been estimated. Potassium is abundant in all living cells, both plant, and animal. Because cells remain intact unless foods are processed, the richest sources of potassium are fresh foods of all kind. People who emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables on their diet have high intakes of potassium, but toxicity is normally not a concern when the source is foods.
Fresh foods, especially fruits, contain much more potassium than sodium. In contrast, most processed foods such as canned vegetables, ready-to-eat cereals, and luncheon meats contain more sodium and less potassium.
Potassium deficiency occurs more often due to excessive loss than to deficient intakes. This condition may cause hypokalemia. Certain conditions such as diabetic acidosis, dehydration or prolonged vomiting or diarrhea can create a potassium deficiency, as can the regular use of certain drugs, such as diuretics, steroids, and strong laxatives. For this reason, many physicians prescribe potassium supplements along with these potassium-wasting drugs. One of the earliest symptoms of deficiency is muscle weakness. It may also lead to muscles paralysis and confusional and nervous state of mind.
Low-potassium diets seem to play an important role in the development of high blood pressure. Diets low in potassium raise blood pressure, whereas high potassium intake appears to both prevent and correct hypertension.
Surplus or Toxicity
Potassium toxicity can result from the overuse of potassium salt, especially in an infant or a person with heart disease; it does not result from overeating foods high in potassium.
Given more potassium than the body needs, the kidneys accelerate their excretion. If the GI tract is bypassed, however, and potassium is injected rapidly into a vein, it can stop the heart. There may also arise muscle weakness and vomiting.