Originally posted on https://jakefood.com/2018/potassium/.
Potassium is a wizard of contrasts. As a pure element, it just can’t sit still, reacting violently with water and oxygen. As a nutrient, however, it takes on a role as peacekeeper, maintaining the balance of fluids in your body and keeping your blood pressure in check. Love it or hate it, you need potassium in your life. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about it.
What is potassium?
Potassium is one of the most abundant electrolytes in your body. It is present in all body tissues, as well as in some proteins and enzymes. An average adult has around 140 grams of potassium in their body. Most of it is stored within your cells, but there is also some in your blood.
The concentration of potassium in your blood is stable under normal circumstances and is not immediately affected by fluctuations in your potassium intake. Only specific conditions like diarrhea, vomiting and kidney diseases lead to abnormal potassium levels in the blood.
Health benefits of potassium
Potassium is crucial for the maintenance of fluid, acid and electrolytes balance in the body. As such, it is necessary for normal cell functioning.
The key functions of potassium are:
- Sustaining the volume of fluids within your cells.
- Preserving cell membrane potential: Membrane potential is the difference in electric potential between the inside and outside of a cell. Maintaining membrane potential is crucial for energy production in the cell and nerve transmission.
- Keeping blood pressure in check: Sodium can accumulate in the blood, causing increased pressure on blood vessels, whereas potassium can reverse this effect and help lead sodium out of the body, bringing blood pressure back to normal.
- Activating certain enzymes.
Potassium may have a protective effect against stroke. Some research on the topic shows that even a small increase in daily potassium intake, such as three additional servings of fruits and vegetables, can reduce risk of stroke by 22%. Further research is needed to make a stronger claim about potassium as a tool for stroke prevention.