Focus On: Potassium

Find out what potassium is and why your body needs it.

WHAT it is: Potassium is an essential mineral, found in every cell, that the body needs to function properly. So what does it do in each cell? Potassium is an electrolyte—that is, it moves electricity within the body (which is needed by the heart, kidneys, nerves, and muscles) to adequately function.

Benefits

Aside from being necessary for the body to function, a diet rich in potassium is also linked to strong bone health, as well as reduced risk of stroke and high blood pressure.

Natural Sources

Dietary sources of potassium include avocados, bananas, cantaloupes, chicken, citrus fruit, cod, lima beans, meat, pistachios, and potatoes.

Recommended Dosage

Birth to six months                    400 mg/day

Seven months to 12 months      700 mg/day

One to three years of age          3,000 mg/day (3 grams)

Four to eight years of age          3,800 mg/day (3.8 grams)

Nine to 13 years of age             4,500 mg/day (4.5 grams)

19 years of age and older          4,700 mg/day (4.7 grams)

Pregnant women                       4,700 mg/day (4.7 grams)

Breastfeeding women                5,100 mg/day (5.1 grams)

Who Needs Supplements

Individuals who have hypokalemia (low potassium) generally require supplementation. Symptoms of hypokalemia include fatigue, muscle cramps, upset stomach, and irregular heartbeat. Hypokalemia is almost always caused by chronic excess loss of potassium in urine—hypokalmia rarely manifests from consuming too little potassium, since potassium is in a wide variety of foods. Individuals with Crohn’s disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or ulcerative colitis generally do not absorb nutrients from food and may benefit from a potassium supplement.

Warnings

There are several different types of potassium: potassium acetate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, potassium chloride, and potassium gluconate. To find which supplement is best for your needs, discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional. People with kidney disease or hyperkalemia (too much potassium) should not take potassium supplements. Side effects of potassium overdose include diarrhea, nausea, stomach irritation, and weakness.

Potassium Supplement Picks

Twinlab Potassium Caps, $34, 180 capsules, twinlab.com // Now Foods Potassium Chloride Powder, $7, 8oz, nowfoods.com // Country Life Calcium-Magnesium Potassium, $20, 180 tablets, countrylife.com // Enzymatic Therapy Krebs Magnesium-Potassium, $10, 60 tablets, enzymatictherapy.com