Potassium is a mineral that helps your cells work the right way. The body generates its own electricity just like Egbin power station in Lagos. Potassium makes it possible for the body to do this. The cells of the body need electricity to function and keep you alive. For instance, the brain, nerves, heart and all the other muscles would not work the way they should if you don’t get enough potassium.
How much do you need?
If you’re 14 years or older, you should get about 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day. Breastfeeding mothers need more – 5100 milligrams. For children of different age groups the minimum daily requirements are as follows: 0 to 6 months (400 mg), 7 to 12 months (700 mg); 1 to 3 years (3,000 mg); 4 to 8 years: 3,800 milligrams; 9 to 13 years: 4,500 milligrams.
Helps with osteoporosis
As people begin to advance in age, their bones tend to get brittle. In this age of junk foods, where people just eat mass fast food, the typical diet does not allow individuals to get adequate amounts of potassium because the ingredients of fast foods do not contain enough or at all. Eating a lot of meat and dairy products can cause the body to make too much acid and thereby weaken the bones faster. Fortunately, this process can be slowed down by consumption of natural foods like vegetables and fruits which are good sources of potassium.
Potassium helps prevent kidney stones
Kidney stones are hard little balls made from minerals in the urine. They can really hurt if they get stuck in the urethra if a person tries to void the bladder by urinating. When the body overproduces acids, because of consumption of meat-rich diet, then the individual has a higher chance of having kidney stones. What potassium does is to help get rid of the acid, by ensuring that the minerals do not leach from the bones and thereby make them brittle. This prevents the formation of the painful kidney stones
Helps your muscles work
You need just the right amount of potassium inside your cells (and sodium outside your cells) for your muscles to work well. Too little, or too much, of either can make your muscles weak or make them squeeze (contract) when you don’t want them to.
Helps prevent high blood pressure
High blood pressure is a medical condition whereby the blood pushes too hard against the walls of the veins and arteries. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, and heart failure. It’s often called “the silent killer” because you rarely have symptoms. The sodium in salt makes it worse, but potassium can help you get rid of sodium and ease tension in the walls of your blood vessels.
Helps prevent strokes
A stroke happens when blood flow is limited or cut off to a part of your brain, often because a blood vessel burst or got blocked. High blood pressure can play a role in that. That means you’re less likely to have one if you keep that under control and get the right amount of potassium. Signs of a stroke include slurred speech, arm weakness, or drooping on one side of your face. If you have any of these, get medical help right away.
Sources of potassium
Bananas: A single medium banana has 422 milligrams of potassium. Have one as a snack or slice it onto your cereal. You can even bake some banana bread. Just don’t soak or cook them — they lose potassium that way.
Potatoes: A medium potato baked with skin has a whopping 926 milligrams of potassium. Of course, if you load it up with butter and sour cream, you might end up causing more health problems than the potassium can solve. So enjoy your baked potato, but keep the extras to the barest minimum.
Prunes: A half cup of dried prunes has 637 milligrams of potassium and loads of fiber as well. (If you would rather drink your prunes, six ounces of juice has almost as much.) They go great with nuts and cheese, or even baked into a tart — just don’t overdo the sugar and fat.
Oranges: A medium orange should get you about 237 milligrams of potassium and six ounces of juice delivers about 372 milligrams. They’re healthy and full of vitamins and minerals, but they also have sugar, so don’t get carried away.
Tomatoes: A medium tomato has about 292 milligrams, but how often do you eat a whole tomato? Try some pasta marinara to get a good amount: A cup of tomato puree has 1,065 milligrams, and a cup of tomato paste has 2,455 milligrams — more than half your daily allowance.
Lima beans: They’re loaded with fiber, low in sugar and fat, and they have 485 milligrams of potassium in each half cup. You can soak them overnight to make them easier to digest. If you don’t have that kind of time, the frozen or canned versions work, too.
Sunflower seeds Looking for something crunchy to get your potassium fix? These have 241 milligrams per ounce. And they’re full of other vitamins and nutrients as well.
Supplements: It’s better to get your potassium from your food, but you might need these if you have certain illnesses or take drugs that make it harder for you to hold on to potassium. But be careful – too much can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, diarrhea and ulcers. Ask your doctor if you need a potassium supplement.
Lack of potassium (hypokalemia)
If you don’t have enough in your system, your muscles can get weak and you might be tired often. You also might have cramps or constipation. It’s possible to have hypokalemia because you don’t get enough potassium in your diet, but it’s more likely to happen because of severe vomiting or diarrhea, overuse of diuretics or laxatives, or alcohol abuse.
Too much potassium (hyperkalemia)
Infants, the elderly, and people who have kidney conditions are more likely to have this. You may not notice any symptoms, or your muscles might be weak and you might have an irregular heartbeat or nausea. You can get hyperkalemia if you take certain drugs or your body doesn’t make enough of some hormones. Your doctor may treat it with medication or possibly dialysis, a process where a machine helps the kidneys to clean your blood.