About Potassium and why it is Needed
Sodium chloride helps maintain electrolyte balance in the body; however, when sodium levels drop, which can occur as a result of being flushed out along with excess water while participating in certain diets, so do potassium levels, which can leave you feeling out of the ordinary.
Potassium, similar to magnesium and sodium chloride, is one of the main electrolytes needed by the body and is responsible for regulating muscle activity, heart rhythm, and nerve signals. Like sodium chloride and magnesium, it also helps control water flow into and out of the cells, which helps maintain electrolyte balance.
Without proper electrolyte balance in the body, our cells would fill with too much water, which would cause them to rupture, or they would dry up and perish from a lack of water. Our heartbeat, lung function, and brain function would also be negatively impacted.
Therefore, the importance of potassium in low carb diet is crucial to keep potassium levels balanced, so the body remains properly hydrated.
Some chief body functions potassium helps control include:
- Maintains alkaline balance
- Manages blood pressure
- Aids wtih proper digestion
- Manages contractions of the muscles
- Helps regulate the heart’s rate and rhythm
Average Potassium Amounts in the Body
The average scope of potassium in the body varies according to age and body weight. However, it typically spans between 40-50 millimoles per litre per adult body.
Potassium collection is more pronounced within the fluids contained in the cells, and the rest is contained in the fluids that surround the cells, which totals about 150 millimoles per litre and 3.5-5.5 millimoles per litre, respectfully.
The amount of lean muscle mass in the body has a direct connection to the level of potassium in the body.
Recommended Daily Intakes
Potassium is not innately made by the body; therefore, it needs to be obtained from the foods and drinks you consume.
The recommended potassium intake for American adults is about 4.7 grams daily, while the Reference Nutrient Intake for European adults is approximately 3.5 grams per day.
Given that potassium levels are in direct relation to muscle mass, males may require a slightly higher dose.
Testing for potassium levels is done within the surrounding cellular fluid, which should average between 3.5-5.5 millimoles per litre for normal levels.
Potassium Deficiency and Hyperactivity
As with all electrolytes, it is the kidneys that manage their balance, which means that hormonal issues as well as other decreased electrolyte levels, such as diminished sodium chloride levels, can negatively affect potassium levels in the body.
When potassium levels drop, it can cause various mild symptoms in the body, including:
- Mild muscle cramping
- High blood pressure
- Low Sodium (salt) tolerance
- Speeding or fluttering heart
However, when potassium levels dip below 3.5 millimoles per litre, also known as hypokelemia, it can cause more severe symptoms, including:
- Nausea or/and vomitting
- High risk of kidney stones
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle cramping or weakness
- Inconsistent heartbeat
- An intolerance to glucose
Hyperkalemia, on the other hand, occurs when potassium levels in the body go beyond 17.6 grams per day, usually as a result of certain diseases, medications, or over supplementation, which can cause irregular heartbeat and, in more severe cases, sudden heart stoppage.
Low-Carbohydrate diet and Potassium Amounts
Within the first two to three weeks of participating in a low-carb diet, an electrolyte imbalance can occur, which can cause ketosis flu ailments.
Throughout the initial weeks of beginning a low-carbohydrate diet, excess water is flushed from the body via the kidneys, which can cause electrolytes, including potassium, to be depleted. Once sodium chloride is depleted, because potassium correlates with sodium and since the kidneys regulate its levels, potassium often becomes depleted as well.
Depleted salt and potassium levels can cause fatigue, muscle cramping, and irregular heart rhythm. Hence, the importance of potassium in low carb diet during the first two to three weeks is essential to maintain proper sodium and potassium levels in order to combat the ailments of ketosis flu, which can be done simply by consuming potassium rich foods.
Top 10 Potassium-Rich Foods
Salmon, though most commonly known for its high Omega 3 content, is also a good source of potassium in addition to other vital nutrients, including Vitamin D and various B vitamins. In fact, a 3-ounce serving of salmon provides 416 milligrams of potassium, which is roughly 12% or the Recommended Nutrient Intake.
Beef as well as many other types of meats, including chicken, turkey, lamb, and pork, are high in both magnesium and potassium, which makes them a great choice for potassium rich foods. For instance, a 4-ounce steak contains 384 milligrams of potassium, which is 11% of the Recommended Nutrient Intake.
Zucchini, which is a type of squash, contains a high amount of potassium, and it is also very low in carbohydrates. In fact, just a midsize zucchini provides 512 milligrams of potassium and a little over 3 grams of net carbs. It’s also very versatile, so it can be added to just about any dish to up the potassium content.
Spinach, as well as other dark leafy greens, is another versatile vegetable that also contains a high potassium content in addition to other essential nutrients. For example, just a cup of prepared spinach provides 839 milligrams of potassium, which is more than that found in a midsize banana. Spinach also has one of the highest magnesium contents of all dark leafy greens.
Cauliflower also provides a good source of potassium. In fact, an 8-ounce serving of cauliflower contains about 320 milligrams of potassium, which is approximately 9% of the Recommended Nutrient Intake. It is also extremely high in antioxidants as well as other essential nutrients.
Mushrooms, especially crimini mushrooms, have a high potassium content. In fact, just one cup of crimini mushrooms provides about 72 milligrams of potassium. Mushrooms are also low in carbohydrates and high in antioxidants and Vitamin B12.
Avocados, another food that is commonly known for its heart-healthy fats, also contain high amounts of potassium with an average avocado providing approximately 690 milligrams of potassium, which is about 20% of the Recommended Nutrient Intake. These creamy fruits are also high in certain electrolytes, which makes them a great choice during the initial stage of low-carb dieting.
Beets are often coined a super-food due to their abundance of phytonutrients and minerals, including manganese and potassium. In fact, just one cup of beets provides about 442 milligrams of potassium, which is about 13% of the Recommended Nutrient Intake. They are also rich in folate and powerful antioxidants. However, since they are high in carbs, they should be eaten sparingly when following a low-carb diet.
9. Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts provide a good mix of proteins, good fats, and minerals, including potassium, which makes them a good staple for low-carbohydrate diets. Of the various nuts, almonds provide the highest potassium content with just one ounce providing 200 milligrams of potassium, which is approximately 13% of the Recommended Nutrient Intake.
10. Coconut Water
Coconut water is extremely high in potassium as well as other electrolytes, which makes it a great drink for replenishing lost fluids following a workout or during the first two to three weeks of following a low carb diet. In fact, studies show that it may even be more effective at restoring electrolytes than water. Just an 8 ounce serving of coconut water contains about 600 milligrams of potassium, which is approximately 13% of the Recommended Daily Intake.
Other sources of potassium include shellfish, plain yogurt, whole milk, asparagus, dark chocolate, banana, tomato paste, and black tea.
Though simply consuming potassium rich foods should be sufficient enough to address electrolyte loss during the initial phase of low-carb dieting, if symptoms continue, supplementing with a low dose, about a half teaspoon, of cream of tartar a day may be helpful. Some individuals have also found that taking about one teaspoon of half potassium chloride and half lite salt also helps as potassium supplements. However, due to the risk of hyperkalemia or over supplementation, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a doctor first if you think your potassium levels are low before partaking in any potassium supplements.