Potassium is an important mineral your body needs to: build proteins, break down and use carbohydrates, build muscle, maintain body growth, and control your pH balance. Potassium is also an electrolyte, which means it helps conduct electrical charges in your body. If your potassium levels are too high or too low, your heart and nervous system will be impaired.
Those with healthy kidneys are able to process excess potassium effectively. However, if your kidneys are not working well, they may not be able to remove the right amount of potassium from your body. Symptoms of high potassium levels include: slow, weak or irregular pulse, nausea, sudden collapse due to slow heartbeat or stopped heart.
Low potassium can cause weak muscles, abnormal heart rhythms and a slight rise in blood pressure. It is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders and infertility. You may be high risk for potassium deficiency if you: take diuretics or laxatives, have a physically demanding job, are an athlete, have health conditions that affect nutrient absorption (ie: Crohn’s disease), have an eating disorder, and smoke or abuse alcohol or other substances.
Adults should be getting at least 4,700 mg of potassium daily. Foods rich in potassium include:
- Meats: red meat, chicken, salmon, cod, flounder and sardines
- Vegetables: beet greens, broccoli, peas, swiss chard, beans, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash
- Fruits: citrus fruits, cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi, prunes avocado and apricots
- Dairy: Milk and yogurt
- Nuts: Soy products and all nuts
*Please note: if you have kidney problems or are on dialysis, you should not eat too much potassium-rich foods. Consult a doctor or nurse for a recommended special diet.