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Friday, March 4, 2011

The Truth About Potassium

You may have wondered, just how important is potassium to the human body? A good balance of potassium in the body keeps the electrical impulses of the heart at a regular pace. Without it, heart arrhythmias, rapid and irregular heartbeats are common. These can potentially turn into serious heart conditions.

In addition, potassium promotes healthy muscle contractions. Maybe you have experienced a "charley horse" or muscle cramp. If you have these on a regular basis, you might want to have your potassium level checked. A healthy level of potassium in the body is between 3.5-5.0. Low levels of potassium also contribute to dehydration.

So, what foods should you include in your diet to make sure you get enough potassium? It's not really that hard to get plenty of potassium, because many foods contain potassium. The recommended daily allowance of potassium is about 3500 mg. and most people will immediately think of bananas as a potassium rich food. However, there are several other food options to consider.

One medium banana has about 400 mg. of potassium, but about 20 almonds or approximately 1/4 cup, has 206 mg. of potassium. One ounce of raisins has 214 mg. of potassium. Sunflower seeds are extremely high in potassium. So, you could make a little trail mix with these items for a healthy potassium boost.

If you prefer vegetables, one cup of fresh spinach leaves has 840 mg. of potassium and 1/2 cup of cucumber has 210 mg. Tomatoes and avocados (1/2 cup has 550 mg.) are loaded with potassium, too. Those items put together would make a nice salad. Be careful not to overdo it, though.

Too much potassium is not good for you either, in fact, it can be dangerous. Either extreme can cause serious health problems. Too much potassium causes hyperkalemia and not enough potassium causes hypokalemia. These are imbalances in your body's natural levels of electrolytes. Both of these conditions cause abnormal heart rhythms, a potentially life threatening situation.

Potassium is a much needed mineral, but as with most things in life, balance is crucial to good health.

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