Since it is the third most abundant mineral in the body, there are plenty of reasons to eat potassium rich foods every day. You need quite a bit of potassium each day to keep your body healthy, 3,500 milligrams to be exact. If you do not get enough potassium, you will begin to experience signs of deficiency. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, inactive reflexes, abnormal heart rate, heart palpitations, anemia, severe headache, high blood pressure, intestinal pain, and gland swelling. To get all of the potassium you need and avoid deficiency, eat plenty of potatoes, beet greens, Swiss chard, lima beans, and sweet potatoes. Are you surprised bananas aren’t on this list? The truth is bananas aren’t the best source of potassium; the best sources of potassium are potatoes. Now that you know where to get your potassium, here are the reasons to eat potassium rich foods.
1. Blood Sugar Regulation
One of the reasons to eat potassium rich foods is to help regulate your blood sugar. When you have low levels of potassium, your blood sugar levels can drop, causing hypoglycemia. I have had low blood sugar on more than one occasion and can affirm that hypoglycemia is very unpleasant. It can cause sweating, headaches, weakness, trembling, and nervousness. Even though potassium prevents blood sugar from dropping too low, it is recommended that diabetics get plenty of potassium. This is because potassium keeps blood sugar stable by preventing dramatic swings in glucose and insulin levels. The final way potassium helps with blood sugar regulation is by helping the body convert glucose into glycogen, which is stored in the muscles for muscle energy.
2. Stroke Prevention
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a potato a day may keep a stroke away due to the ample amounts of potassium a potato contains. As a vasodilator, potassium relaxes blood vessels allowing blood to move more freely. This is very important when it comes to strokes. A stroke occurs when blood flow stops to part of the brain and the brain cells die from lack of oxygen and blood. By allowing blood to move more freely, potassium helps prevent a stroke from occurring. In addition to allowing blood to move more freely, potassium also helps oxygen reach the brain, which stimulates neural activity and increases cognitive abilities. Potentially, potassium could assist in stroke recovery due to the fact that it brings oxygen to the brain.
3. Muscle Health
Potassium is a key mineral when it comes to muscle health. Most of the potassium in your body is located in the muscle cells where it regulates muscle contraction by helping muscles contract and relax properly. Potassium also assists with muscle cell growth and provides metabolic energy, which is important for muscle strength. In regards to muscle health, one of the better known functions of potassium is providing relief for muscle cramps. When I was little and would get cramps in my legs, my dad would give me a banana for the potassium. Even though bananas aren’t the best source of potassium, they do contain the important mineral and getting just a little bit did ease my leg cramps.
4. Mental Health
For people who have problems with stress or anxiety, potassium can be very helpful. Potassium helps regulate hormones in the body, like cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol and adrenaline are hormones that are released during the fight-or-flight response. In an emergency this is what you want to have happen, but when the body is in a constant state of stress this can cause serious problems like exhaustion, decreased immune function, adrenal fatigue, and thyroid problems. To combat these negative effects of stress and anxiety, make sure you are eating plenty of potassium rich foods to help regulate the fight-or-flight hormones in your body.
As an electrolyte, potassium helps maintain fluid balance in the body. Fluid balance is very important for your health because all of your organs need the proper fluid balance to function properly. In addition to maintaining fluid balance, potassium’s other role as an electrolyte is to transmit electrical charges in the body. This ensures proper function of the brain and nervous system. It is also why potassium helps with muscle contraction: the electrical charges help nerves transmit messages resulting in efficient muscle function.
6. Blood Pressure
One of the reasons potassium is effective in preventing strokes is its ability to lower blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure under 120/80 is critical for health. Not only can high blood pressure led to strokes, it can also result in heart attacks. Both strokes and heart attacks are two of the leading causes of deaths in the developed world. Yet, there are measures that can be taken to prevent them, including getting plenty of potassium in your diet.
7. Bone Health
Although calcium is the mineral that is associated with bone health, other minerals, such as potassium, are also critical for healthy bones. Potassium neutralizes acid in the body, which means the body won’t pull calcium out of your bones. As a result of preserving calcium in your bones, potassium intake decreases the risk of osteoporosis. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, consuming plenty of potassium can actually increase bone density! So, for healthy bones, turn to potassium rich foods.
Until recently I only thought of potassium for helping cramps and decreasing blood pressure. However, it has many more functions in the body than just keeping blood pressure low and easing muscle cramps. Now that I know all of the great benefits of potassium, I am going to make sure I get plenty of this key mineral every day. Did you know potassium had so many functions in the body?