All About Minerals

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Why potassium is good for you

Potassium, along with sodium and chloride, is an electrolyte. An electrolyte is a mineral that dissolves in water and carries an electrical charge. Since the body is mostly made up of water, electrolytes are found everywhere in the body – inside the cells, in the spaces between cells, in the blood, in lymph glands and everywhere else. Potassium has a positive charge (as does sodium, while chloride has a negative charge). Because electrolytes have electrical charges, they can move easily back and forth through cell membranes. This is important because as they move into a cell, they carry other nutrients in with them and as they move out of it, they carry out waste products and excess water.

To keep body fluid levels in balance, cells need to have a lot of potassium inside them and a lot of sodium in the fluids outside them. To keep the balance, sodium and potassium constantly move back and forth through the cell membranes.

Controlling potassium distribution in the cells is a very high priority for the body because if it is in deficit, it can negatively affect the heart and heartbeart.

All three electrolytes – potassium, sodium and chloride – keep the amount of water in the body in balance, carry impulses along the nerves, help make muscles contract and relax and keep the body from becoming too acidic or alkaline. Electrolytes are also required to carry glucose (blood sugar) and other nutrients into the cells and to carry waste products and extra water out again. Electrolytes also regulate blood pressure and heartbeat.


Important potassium facts


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Groups at risk of potassium deficiency

People who wish to take a potassium supplement should talk to a medical professional BEFORE taking it.


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Symptoms of potassium deficiency

Deficiency in the electrolytes does not normally occur as not much is required to meet RDA and everyone gets plenty from their foods.

The one exception is getting severe diarrhoea or vomiting. In that case, electrolytes are quickly lost (especially potassium) with the fluid. Unless the fluids and electrolytes are replaced quickly, this can be serious, especially in small children.


Signs of potassium deficiency are:


Potassium and health

People who wish to take an potassium supplement should talk to a medical professional BEFORE taking it.


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Potassium in food

FOOD AMOUNT potassium (mg)
Potato, baked with skin 1 medium 844
Black beans 1 cup 801
Lentils 1 cup 731
Kidney beans 1 cup 713
Prune juice 1 cup 706
Tomato juice 1 cup 658
Avocado ½ medium 550
Cantaloupe 1 cup 494
Chickpeas 1 cup 477
Orange juice 1 cup 474
Banana 1 medium 451
Spinach, cooked ½ cup 419
Sweet potato 1 medium 397
Milk 1 cup 381
Flounder 230g 292
Tomato 1 medium 273
Wheat germ ¼ cup 259
Okra ½ cup 257
Kiwi fruit 1 medium 252
Orange 1 medium 250
Strawberries 1 cup 247
Carrot, raw 1 medium 233
Broccoli, cooked ½ cup 228
Beef mince 85g 205
Corn ½ cup 204
Cauliflower, cooked ½ cup 200
Chicken 85g 195
Watermelon 1 cup 186


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Potassium recommended daily intake (RDI)

RDA lifestage age amount
  INFANTS 0-6mths
  CHILDREN 1-3yrs
  CHILDREN 9-13yrs
  ADULTS 19-50yrs 4700mg
  SENIORS 51+yrs
  PREGNANT all ages 4700mg
  LACTATING all ages 5100mg
TOLERABLE UPPER LIMIT none established
Toxic Levels >10000mg (or >10g)

The tolerable upper limits should only be taken for short periods and only under medical supervision.


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Potassium works best with


Overdosage, toxicity and cautions for potassium

Potassium toxicity does not occur through nutritional intake of foods high in potassium - it only happens when supplements high in potassium are taken or through certain diseases or treatments.

Acute (>12gm) toxicity - irregular heartbeat, diarrhoea, fever, kidney death, convulsions.

Chronic toxicity - paralysis of the extremities, mental confusion, tingling, weakness, heart attack, kidney failure, dehydration, adrenal insufficiency, very elevated blood potassium levels.



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Last reviewed: 1 January 2010 || Last updated: 1 January 2010




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NOTE: Mega doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or other supplements cannot cure illnesses and in fact can be very dangerous and produce toxic side effects and interfere with medicine you are taking. Always ensure you consult your doctor before taking any type of nutrient supplement.
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please see your doctor.