by Ashley Ellefsen April 17, 2017

Potassium was first isolated from potash, the ashes of plants, from which its name derives and is composed of three isotopes, of which K is radioactive. Traces of K are found in all potassium, and it is the most common radioisotope in the human body.

Potassium is a mineral in the body. Almost 98% of potassium is found inside the cells. Small changes in the level of potassium that is present outside the cells can have severe effects on the heart, nerves, and muscles.

Potassium is important to maintain several bodily functions:

  • Muscles need potassium to contract.
  • The heart muscle needs potassium to beat properly and regulate blood pressure.

The kidney is the main organ that controls the balance of potassium by removing excess potassium into the urine. Potassium also plays an important role in keeping the body hydrated and works with sodium to support cellular function with your body’s sodium-potassium pump.

Symptoms of low potassium can include severe headaches, dehydration, heart palpitations and swelling of glands and tissues. Potassium from natural food sources, are considered safe and healthy. The current recommended dietary intake for male and female adults is 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.

When you think of the best sources of potassium, you probably default to bananas. In fact, most people are hard-pressed to think of any other source of potassium. But the truth is, bananas are really nothing to write home about in the potassium department. Each medium fruit provides 422 mg of the mineral, or about 9% of the recommended daily intake. Not too shabby, but you can easily do better. Just start with these foods, all of which provide more potassium than your old yellow standby:  sweet or white potatoes, tomato sauce, watermelon, spinach, beets, black and white beans, salmon, edamame, and swiss chard to name a few. 

When potassium levels are low, you can become weak as cellular processes are impaired.  Almost one out of five people hospitalized in the United States has a low potassium level. People with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, patients with AIDS, alcoholics, and those who have had bariatric surgery have a higher incidence of low potassium levels than others.

If you are monitoring low levels, avoid long, strenuous physical activities because loss of potassium occurs with sweating. If dietary supplements, herbal supplements, diuretics (like water pills), or laxatives are causing the low potassium symptoms, avoid taking these products and consult a doctor. Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting your doctor.


Stay safe and stay on point!



Check out my segment on The BOLO Podcast, where I talk about magnesium!

Ashley Ellefsen
Ashley Ellefsen