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Categories: Minerals

6 Shocking health benefits of potassium

Published by
lbobvalla
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Discover the 6 Shocking health benefits of potassium.

Discovered in 1807, potassium is one of the minerals naturally present in our environment and our bodies.

He also plays several key roles, some of which are essential to our survival. Here is everything you need to know about potassium: sources, benefits, roles, etc.

Potassium is an essential macromineral for the body, and there are seven in total. Our body needs potassium to support some of its processes.

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Indispensable, this mineral salt must be found daily in our diet. It is an electrolyte invisible to the eye, but also a “soft” alkali metal, white-silvery in color.

This mineral is represented by the letter K, from the Latin Kalium. It is naturally present in water and many minerals.

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In addition, this essential mineral chemically resembles sodium and reacts with water and air.

What are our daily needs?

In biological analysis, the blood potassium level is called “kalaemia”.

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On an empty stomach, in the blood of an adult of average weight, the potassium level should be between 3.5 and 5 mmol / L, which represents 130 to 200 mg / L.

So what are our daily needs? The recommended intake for an adult is 4 to 5 grams per day.

To be more precise, the recommended daily nutritional intakes of potassium are as follows:

Infant 0 to 6 months: 400 mg.

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A 7 to 12-month-old baby: 700 mg. 

Children 1 to 3 years old: 3000 mg.

A child from 4 to 8 years old: 3800 mg.

Children aged 9 to 13: 4,500 mg.

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Adolescents over 14: 4,700 mg.

The pregnant woman: 4,700 mg.

The lactating woman: 5100 mg.

Food sources of potassium

This essential mineral is found in a large number of foods since fruits and vegetables and chocolate (cocoa) is very rich in it.

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However, some foods contain more than others. Among the fruits and vegetables richest in potassium are bananas, prunes, kiwi, sweet potatoes, melon, spinach, carrots, pumpkin, celery, turnip, avocado, black radish. , tomato, fig, dates, apricots (dried apricots, in particular), grapes …

Other natural sources of potassium are chestnuts, cocoa (which is a bean extremely rich in potassium) and therefore chocolate, oleaginous fruits (especially almonds), potatoes, tubers, parsley. , soya beans and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, etc.).

Potassium is therefore most often found in foods of plant origin, and little in meat or dairy products. Some fish also contain it: salmon, cod, tuna, halibut.

The roles and health benefits of potassium

Potassium performs different actions in the body, especially when it combines with sodium.

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1. A mineral salt against chronic acidosis

Our modern diet leaves little room for plants. It is rich in meats, dairy products, salt, cereals, and additives.

These foods are acidic for the body. Conversely, plants are alkaline due to their potassium and bicarbonate content.

An imbalance between alkaline and acidic sources promotes acidification of the body, which can have health consequences.

The acid-base balance and the sodium/potassium ratio are inseparable. However, we consume too many acidic and salty foods.

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Greater consumption of sources of potassium (fruits and vegetables in particular) helps to restore the balance between these two essential ratios for our health.

It also helps prevent the risk of chronic acidosis and all its consequences: fatigue, muscle wasting, intestinal disorders, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, etc.

2. Limit and reduce blood pressure

Potassium is one of the best allies for our cardiovascular health.

As we said, the sodium/potassium balance has been disrupted by our diet.

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Today we consume too much sodium and not enough potassium. In the past, we consumed 10 times more potassium than sodium.

Today, that relationship has reversed since we consume two to four times more sodium than potassium.

Increasing our intake of mineral salts or supplementing can help reduce blood pressure and provide relief for people with hypertension.

With good potassium intake, blood pressure drops. Of course, the minerals we get from food help remove salt from the kidneys.

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The World Health Organization recommends consuming enough potassium (3.5 grams for an adult) when you have a cardiovascular disorder.

3. Reduce cardiovascular risk

Balancing your potassium and sodium intake helps prevent and fight high blood pressure.

It also helps reduce cardiovascular risk, since potassium makes the arteries more flexible and less calcified.

A lack of potassium can promote stiffening of the arteries, atherosclerosis as well as calcification of blood vessels and arteries.

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As a result, we understand that the role of potassium is to preserve our cardiovascular health despite a modern unbalanced diet.

Studies show that good potassium intakes reduce the risk of stroke. It also helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in general.

4. Muscle maintenance

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Acidosis stimulates and accelerates the phenomenon of muscle wasting.

Naturally, scientists have already shown that the alkalizing properties of potassium are beneficial in the face of muscle wasting.

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Good intakes of this mineral salt promote good muscle maintenance.

They have also shown that people who consume little potassium and a lot of sodium have more fat mass, and therefore less muscle mass.

The chronic acidosis that can be observed in the case of low potassium intake, therefore, leads to a reduction in muscle mass and basal metabolism.

It is also associated with an increase in body fat. As we have seen, potassium consumption helps counteract chronic acidosis.

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5. Fight against osteoporosis

Potassium plays an important role in maintaining bone quality, especially through its effects on chronic acidosis.

This can weaken the bones since our body uses the calcium salts available in the bones to fight against acidosis.

Alkaline minerals like the one discussed here neutralize acids and protect bones from diseases such as osteoporosis.

People who meet their potassium needs generally have better bone density than those who have lower intake.

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This essential mineral salt is ideal for maintaining bones in addition to muscle maintenance. 

6. Prevention of kidney stones

Scientists estimate that 6% of women and 10% of men will suffer from at least one kidney stone in their lifetime.

Kidney stones are linked to the crystallization of minerals, of which calcium is a part, as well as acids present in too high concentrations in the urine.

The salts crystallize and form a stone beyond a certain level of concentration. Most often, kidney stones are made up of calcium oxalate.

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Consistent intakes of potassium reduce the risk of kidney stones. This is due to the alkalinizing power of potassium, which helps modify metabolic acidosis.

Urinary calcium excretion is amplified by high intakes of salt (sodium) and reduced with high intakes of potassium.

The more salt our food is, the more urine we produce. The salt excreted in the urine carries the calcium with it.

Therefore, when the urine has high levels of calcium, it is called hypercalciuria.

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According to scientists, hypercalciuria can be corrected with potassium phosphate supplements.

Potassium deficiency and excess: what are the risks?

We must respect the recommended daily allowances in terms of nutrients so as not to suffer from deficiencies and their consequences.

However, for some mineral salts, too much intake can also present risks.

Hypertension and hypokalaemia have already been observed in the setting of potassium deficiencies.

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Low potassium levels most often lead to fatigue and discomfort, pain and weakness throughout the body, and constipation.

In the most severe cases, there is severe muscle weakness and paralysis, respiratory arrest, intermittent muscle spasms, and painful obstructions in the intestines.

Symptoms of potassium deficiency are also tingling numbness, or itchy sensations in the feet, legs, hands, and arms. In case of doubt, it is essential to consult a doctor and have a blood test.

The case of hyperkalemia

Potassium can cause health problems when consumed in excess. Good kidney function often eliminates excessive amounts of this mineral salt from the body.

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And this often does not generate any side effects. However, consuming too much potassium can represent a risk for people whose kidney function is not optimal.

In this case, hyperkalemia is observed, which suggests that the kidneys are failing to process the excess potassium in the body.

This can be quite asymptomatic, but it can nevertheless generate symptoms similar to those of hypokalaemia.

In other cases, it generates heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath…

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Finally, in the most serious cases, an excess of potassium can be fatal.

When should we supplement?

Supplementation should be done with caution and with the advice of a doctor.

This helps prevent hyperkalemia and its dangers, especially heart problems.

Only people who have received a favorable opinion from their doctor can therefore start potassium supplementation.

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Of course, they must also strictly adhere to the dosages and indications of their healthcare professionals.

Do not hesitate to seek medical advice if you have high blood pressure.

What to remember

Potassium is essential for our cardiovascular, muscle, and bone health.

We must ensure that we meet our needs for mineral salts while limiting our sodium intake.

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If you want to improve your mineral intake, supplementation is not necessary.

You just need to rebalance your diet. Reduce your consumption of meats, dairy products, industrial products, and salt.

Favor fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains, legumes, and products low in salt.

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Returning to a more natural diet is usually enough to meet your mineral needs without having to go through supplementation

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