Our body requires several nutrients to function properly, one of which is potassium. Potassium is a mineral that is naturally found in foods and can be taken as a supplement, especially when you are at increased risk of potassium deficiency. Sufficient amounts of potassium are known to support many bodily functions, ranging from maintaining proper fluid balance to managing blood pressure levels. Let’s take a detailed look at each of the benefits.
Lowers Blood Pressure Levels
Speaking with the OnlyMyHealth team, Dr Anantha Padmanabha, Consultant-Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Nagarbhavi, Bengaluru, noted that potassium is vital for maintaining a regular heart rhythm, adding that an irregular heartbeat, palpitations, and other cardiac issues can signal a deficiency.
For people with hypertension, eating potassium-rich foods can prove beneficial, as research suggests it can lower blood pressure levels. According to a study published in the European Heart Journal, a higher intake of potassium was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases in both men and women. Additionally, the study revealed high potassium intake was associated with lower blood pressure, especially in women with high sodium intake.
Regulates Fluid Balance
Potassium is one of the key electrolytes that helps regulate fluid balance in the body. Electrolytes are tiny, electrically charged particles in your body that support muscle contraction, enable your nerves to send signals, and keep the right balance of fluids in and out of your cells. Other examples of electrolytes include sodium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and phosphate.
Prevents Muscle Cramps
Many factors can cause muscle cramps, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and muscle fatigue. Overexertion, inadequate stretching, and certain medical conditions can also contribute to the involuntary contractions associated with muscle cramps. Eating potassium-rich foods can be one of the ways to prevent and manage such cramps. They support the electrical impulses that control muscle contractions, reducing the likelihood of cramping. Additionally, they help regulate the balance of fluids in and around cells, which is again essential for maintaining proper muscle contractions.
Alleviates Digestive Issues
Besides symptoms like muscle cramps, fatigue, and weakness, low levels of potassium can also cause digestive issues. According to Medical News Today, low levels of potassium fail to regulate muscle contractions in the digestive system, slowing down the passage of food and waste and, therefore, resulting in constipation and bloating. Hence, increasing your potassium intake through foods can help alleviate these symptoms.
Supports Nervous System
As per Dr Padmanabha, numbness or tingling sensations, usually in the extremities, can also occur as a result of potassium deficiency. This is because the mineral plays a crucial role in delivering messages, also known as nerve impulses, between your brain and body, which in turn helps control muscle contractions, reflexes, and other bodily functions, according to InformedHealth.org.
Potassium-Rich Foods To Eat
Here are some potassium-rich foods that you can include in your diet:
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach
- Plain yoghurt
- Nuts such as almonds and pistachios
Potassium is an important mineral that supports various functions in your body. It is known to lower blood pressure levels, regulate muscle contractions, and support nerve health. If you’re low on the mineral, consuming foods such as bananas, potatoes, and legumes can prevent symptoms associated with potassium deficiency, which include digestive problems like bloating and constipation. If you’re still deficient in potassium, speak with your doctor to discuss supplementation.