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mithilamhapankar's picture
Joined: 9 Dec 2009

Potassium is a natural mineral which the human body does not have the ability to store. A well balanced diet should provide the body with enough potassium to meet its daily requirements. Potassium is essential for maintaining a correct water balance in the body's cells. It is also important for regulating the heart, ensuring good nerve and muscle function, and for balancing the body's pH (alkaline and acid levels).

Lack of potassium in a diet can lead to problems with blood pressure, and will increase the chances of heart disease, cardiac arrest or stroke. Potassium deficiency in the body is known as hypokalemia, and it is one of the causes of irregular heart rhythm. Symptoms of hypokalemia include tiredness and general weakness, constipation, severe spasms and muscle cramps.
Professional medical care should be sought immediately by anyone suffering from excessive vomiting or diarrhea due to potassium deficiency.

The body's daily need for potassium is 2,000 to 3,500 mg a day. The simplest and safest way to ensure the body has enough potassium is to eat more of the right food and to reduce the amount of salt in the diet. Salt substitutes often contain added amounts of potassium. Potassium supplements should only be taken under strict medical guidance, otherwise levels of potassium can rise too quickly and this will cause the body more harm.

◊ Food items that will provide potassium in a daily diet.

• Most vegetables provide the body with some potassium, particularly green leafy vegetables and beans. Potatoes have a particularly high potassium content, but boiling them in water can reduce the amount of potassium by fifty percent. Potatoes are more nutritional when they are steamed, microwaved, fried, made into soups, cooked in stews and casseroles. The same applies for cooking all vegetables.

• Fruits high in potassium include figs, apricots, bananas, oranges and pineapples. Bananas provide a significant amount of potassium to the body.

• Whole grains, nuts, tofu, milk and lean meat are all excellent sources of potassium.

◊ Lack of potassium and causes of deficiency.

Heavy sweating after exercise can cause the body to lose potassium. Low levels of potassium can also be caused by taking diuretics or using laxatives. Where there is a significant loss of potassium it it is necessary to undergo medical treatment to replenish the body's fluids and to balance the levels of alkaline and acids. A simple blood test can be taken to indicate whether levels of potassium in the body have fallen dangerously low.

The very young, the elderly and anyone who sweats a lot from exercise or sporting activities, might need to increase their daily potassium intake. This can be achieved by eating more potassium rich food, or by consulting a medical professional. It is important for everyone to maintain sufficient potassium with a well-balanced daily diet. Potassium deficiency needs medical treatment and requires a better understanding of the importance of potassium in the diet

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