How much potassium is needed daily?” That answer is fairly simple, but it’s worthwhile to take a more detailed look at exactly what potassium is, and what it does in the body.
What is Potassium?
Potassium is one of the macro-minerals, or essential minerals that the body needs in fairly large doses. The other macro-minerals include sodium, magnesium, chloride, sulfur, calcium, and phosphorous. Potassium is also an electrolyte, meaning that it breaks down into ions in solution and has the ability to conduct electricity within the body.
Potassium’s Role in the Body
Potassium cations, or positively charged ions, exist both within cells and outside cell walls, but the concentration is 30 times higher within cells. Sodium also exists on either side of cell walls, but sodium concentration is 10 times higher outside cell walls. This difference across the cell membrane creates an electrochemical gradient known as a membrane potential which causes sodium ions to pass from inside the cell to outside the membrane in exchange for potassium ions that cross from outside the cell to inside the membrane. This dance is essential for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.
How Much Do You Need?
While clinical potassium deficiency is rare among healthy adults in the Western world, most people still don’t get as much potassium as they should. Healthy adults and adolescents over 14 should get approximately 4700 mg of potassium per day. Lactating women are encouraged to increase that amount to approximately 5100 mg per day. Daily potassium recommendations drop under the age of 14. It’s 4500 mg per day from ages nine to 13, 3800 mg from four to eight, 3000 mg from one to three, 700 mg from six months to one year, and 400 mg from birth to six month. Athletes may require higher levels of potassium intake, especially if they participate in endurance events.
Sources of Potassium
Potatoes are one of the best sources of potassium, with over 900 mg in a medium baked potato with the skin on. Many fruits, vegetable, legumes, and meat and dairy products also make excellent sources of potassium. Because potassium toxicity is a health risk, multivitamins are limited to 99 mg of potassium per pill in the US
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