Potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium and chloride are all necessary minerals and electrolytes. Adequate potassium intake is important for regulating heartbeat, muscle contraction, fluid balance, bone health, keeping blood pressure in check and preventing kidney stones. Potassium and sodium perform many of the same body functions. However, they usually work in opposite directions. For example, sodium draws fluid out of the cells, increasing blood pressure, while potassium draws fluid into the cells, decreasing blood pressure. Additionally, sodium intake can affect potassium excretion from the body, just as potassium intake can affect sodium excretion. An increased intake of one mineral will result in an increased excretion of the other mineral.
Your body needs both potassium and sodium to function properly. As long as you consume adequate amounts of each mineral, your body should be able to balance them according to your needs. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet with its heavy reliance on processed, over salted food, leads to potassium deficiencies for many Americans. The adequate intake for sodium is 2,300 milligrams per day, which is generally very easy to achieve with the average Western diet. Research has indicated that consuming between 3500-4700 mgs of potassium a day is necessary for health. Athletes, African Americans and people with high blood pressure, kidney stones, osteoporosis or stroke should try to stay near the higher end of the recommended amount. Insuring you have an adequate consumption of potassium is important for overall health. Be sure to fill your diet with the many tasty foods that are high in potassium:
- Potatoes (be sure to eat the skins)
- Sunflower seeds