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November 6, 2012

What is potassium?

What is potassium? What is potassium?

Last updated: September 27, 2013

Taryn Siwale

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Category: Diet & nutrition

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Potassium is an essential ingredient for any healthy diet. We take a look at potassium, when is enough, food sources and more
What is potassium?

Potassium is the little publicised nutrient that is an essential ingredient of any healthy diet, but especially for anyone who’s considering getting active.

It's involved in muscle contraction, it keeps body fluids in balance, it helps transmits nerve signals and plays a part in keeping your heartbeat steady. Furthermore, for anyone who’s concerned about hypertension, or high blood pressure, there is more good news. Some scientific studies indicate that a high potassium intake and low sodium intake may help lower blood pressure.

A diet rich in potassium from food is unlikely to be a problem for healthy people because excesses are typically removed from the body by the kidneys. However, individuals with kidney disease may have to watch the amount of potassium in their diet. Excessively high levels of potassium in the body can cause heart problems and even death so supplements should never be taken without the approval of your doctor.

How much potassium is enough?

Potassium is present in almost all foods, especially fruit and vegetables, but processed foods contain less than raw foods so try to keep it natural. The recommended intake per day is 3,500 mg. Most people don’t find it difficult to meet this requirement provided they eat a varied diet and get plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Potassium sources

Potato, baked with skin, 180 grams (1134 mg)

1 large grapefruit (595 mg)

1 grilled loin pork chop (470)

Steamed salmon, 140 grams, 5 oz. (462 mg)

Salad portion of raw spinach 90 g (450mg)

Glass of prune juice, 200 ml (420 mg)

1 medium banana (400 mg)

Grilled steak 112 grams, 4 oz (336 mg)

1 tablespoon of raisins (306 mg)

1 glass of semi-skimmed milk (300 mg)

Fruit yoghurt, 125 g pot (262 mg)

1 medium orange (240 mg)

Although active individuals will use up more potassium while exercising, simply taking a banana or an orange afterwards will restore the potassium lost over a two hour work-out.