How to Overcome Potassium Deficiency: The Best Health Secrets
What do you think of when I say “potassium”?
Bananas are practically synonymous with potassium in our culture, and one of the most popular fruits in general.
I know… duh!
But clearly, they aren’t enough.
...98% of people often don’t eat enough potassium-providing foods!
Their diets are deficient in potassium.
I know that more than 2% of us are eating bananas, though. This makes me believe that frankly, they don’t cut it.
What do you think - is a banana a day enough to keep potassium deficiency health secrets at bay?
Are bananas one of the big health secrets?
Stay with me.
Because today, we’re discussing potassium deficiency health secrets and why we need to get more potassium in our diets.
You will learn all about how a deficiency presents itself.
And of course, we’ll explore the best foods to help boost our potassium levels.
Potassium Deficiency Health Secrets - What It Does and Why You Need It
Potassium, identified in 1807 by Humphrey Davy, comes straight from the earth. The name comes from the phrase “pot ash”, a nod to Davy’s method of discovery.
Potassium is a health mineral that, like many other minerals, influences the proper function of our entire bodies.
I’ve spoken about minerals before.
Namely, how our diet is missing them due to processing and soil depletion.
But back to potassium.
It helps us:
And like other minerals, potassium is necessary to key functions like protein-building and keeping the heart beating properly. Amazing...huh!
But stay with me...
It gets better/worse:
Potassium’s status as the most important electrolyte we can get is what makes it vital to heart health.
Consider what an electrolyte is...
... it carries electricity!
Yes, throughout your very own body.
What do doctors do when the heart stops?
They zap it with electricity to get it going again.
Think of potassium as a little natural electricity. Its ions mainly exist inside of your cells.
Also, it converts blood sugar into glycogen.
Glycogen synthesis is what gives us the energy we need to get through our day, as opposed to feeling sluggish..
As usual, the liver relies on the presence of minerals like potassium. It wants potassium to help tell it what to do with sugar and/or carbs.
Therefore, potassium is especially crucial to a diet which includes carbohydrates - which is almost all of them.
...we begin to see the breakdown of many healthy functions, as every cell screams for it.
So, what happens when you don’t get enough potassium?
Here’s a clue:
Potassium Deficiency Health Secrets - Know the Signs and Causes
But where do you start? What should you do?
First, we need to be reasonable.
If you’re feeling very unwell and think it’s a potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalemia, see a doctor.
You need a blood test to determine exactly what the problem is.
If it is a serious potassium deficiency, you may need therapeutic supplementation.
...you can prevent potassium deficiency by changing up your diet.
We’ll get to that in a moment, but for now, a few secrets.
What causes potassium deficiency?
I’ll explain with examples...
Commonly, we focus on electrolytes like potassium when we’ve been dehydrated.
If you experience a virus or other illness with prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, you are potassium deficient.
The same goes for those struggling with eating disorders and alcoholism.
...knowing this makes it easy to reverse once you are in recovery mode.
Begin drinking an electrolyte solution as soon as you can.
Once you move to foods, try the potassium picks we'll discuss in a minute.
Some medications can cause potassium levels to drop. Specifically, this is relevant if you’ve taken successive courses of antibiotics.
It’s also seen in those who take prescription diuretics.
All side effects of medication should be reported to your doctor.
They may provide an alternative medication (such as a potassium-sparing diuretic). From there, they may put you on a supplement to replenish.
3. Other Conditions
Hypokalemia is observed in people with IBS, Cushing’s syndrome, and those with chronic kidney problems.
However, some kidney diseases require a low potassium diet to avoid the inverse - hyperkalemia.
Much like magnesium deficiency, potassium can be lost through excessive urination or the kidneys irregular elimination/detainment of these minerals.
Therefore, some people may suffer a deficiency of both at the same time.
Minerals like potassium are the same as many other nutrients.
We may keep some, but some of it is eliminated every day. So, if we don’t keep up with our daily intake, our levels are going to drop.
If you’re not on a low potassium diet structured by your doctor, eating a range of whole foods is necessary.
Typically, processed foods are low or devoid of potassium.
But that’s not the whole story.
Also, many nutritious fruits like apples and strawberries are low in potassium. Vegetables like peas and cucumbers don’t provide much, either.
Of all potassium’s secrets, this was a little jarring to me.
What’s the big secret I’m talking about?
You can eat a whole foods, plant based diet, and STILL not get the potassium you need.
As always, it’s a reminder to branch out and eat a rainbow of foods.
You not getting enough potassium?
You’ll know for sure if you experience some of the following:
A few of the above can be an indication of other conditions, such as diabetes. The best way to be sure is a blood test.
However, remember that 98% of us don’t eat enough foods with potassium. And a good percentage don’t experience any symptoms - yet.
In many cases, low potassium can be treated with a healing diet.
So right now, we’re going to take a closer look at ten foods that you should definitely eat regularly.
That way, you’ll never let your potassium levels get so low that it starts to make you ill. After all, you know what they say about an ounce of prevention!
8 Potassium-Rich Foods (No Bananas Included)
1. Dried Apricots
Where I’m from, we don’t often eat fresh apricots. As it turns out, that may be for the best.
Dried apricots contain much more potassium than the fresh variety.
Just half a cup of dried apricots amounts to little more than a handful. This portion contains more than 20% of your recommended daily value of potassium.
I really like this pick because it encourages healthier snacking without any loss of convenience.
Indeed, there’s a link between choosing dried fruit as a snack and having a lower body fat percentage.
Aside from potassium, dried apricots are a good source of fiber and antioxidants, as well as a little blood-friendly iron.
Fresh apricots may have more vitamin C, but dried is clearly the winner when it comes to minerals.
Contrary to convention, dried apricots don’t have to be a standalone for snacking. You can slip them into oatmeal cookies, or blend them to lend sweetness to salad dressing.
I highly recommend them for your own homemade granola bars.
2. Sweet Potatoes
...no food more perfect than a sweet potato grown in good soil.
One large sweet potato will bring in a little more potassium than a half cup of dried apricots - 27%.
They’re also pretty good on fiber, but practically unparalleled in vitamin A content. Only the ubiquitous carrot can beat them there.
Dietary vitamin A is excellent for bone health, skin elasticity, the immune system and yes - your vision.
Despite being “sweet”, the sweet potato can swing in any direction. Instead of smothering them in butter and sugar, try something more savory.
These Mediterranean baked sweet potatoes are a meal in and of themselves.
It features a simple garlic herb sauce, tomatoes, and fresh parsley. It’s a meat-free main dish with enough nutritional value to offset a less-than-perfect day.
A staple in international cuisine, be careful to never overlook beans in your diet. Namely, white and black beans.
Skip cans of sugar-laden BBQ baked beans or refried beans with lard. More potassium is all about simple, whole black and white beans.
One cup of beans will provide more than half of your daily fiber. Half a cup of white beans will give up around 15% of daily potassium, which is more than a large banana.
Additionally, beans are a great source of folate. Folate is a B vitamin that promotes cell repair, among many other benefits.
This spicy black and white bean soup comes together quickly and is perfect for lunch throughout the week.
4. Acorn Squash
One cup of acorn squash packs in more potassium than a banana and a half, at 27%.
As a bonus, it contains almost as much magnesium and manganese. This makes it a perfect food for those who need to catch up on minerals.
It’s a good source of vitamin C and fiber as well.
I’m never one to turn down a pureed acorn squash soup, but lately, I prefer stuffing them.
This holiday season, you can bet I’ll be making quinoa and cranberry stuffed acorn squash. It’s even suitable to make the day before you eat it.
Honestly, enjoying salmon just gets harder and harder with the proliferation of fish farming. Fish raised here are shown to have higher contaminant levels, among other problems.
But if you’re lucky enough to catch a wild salmon, it’ll help out with potassium.
Just ½ of a fillet will net you almost 30% potassium.
You also would be hard-pressed to do better where omega-3 fatty acids and selenium are concerned.
Because wild salmon can be rare or pricey for a lot of us, keep it simple. Easy, pan-seared salmon with fresh lemon is a safe bet.
I bet you didn’t know that half of an avocado is just as rich in potassium as an entire banana. We all know and love avocado as a healthy fat, but it’s nutritionally dense, too.
Avocado contains other minerals like copper and magnesium, as well as vitamin C, folate, and pantothenic acid.
It’s no surprise when you consider how often avocado appears in DIY treatments.
B5, in combination with healthy fats, is great for encouraging hormonal balance.
My love for avocado toast runs deep, but try a classic chocolate mousse with avocado.
Switching dairy fat for plant fat without compromising chocolatey taste?
7. Coconut Water
On average, too many of us turn to sports drinks for electrolyte replacement.
Coconut water is not only higher in natural minerals, but isn’t made sweeter with extra sugar.
Switch out post-soccer practice sports drinks with coconut water. Make sure your variety is just the pure water; some companies capitalize on the coconut trend and throw in additives.
Coconut water is biologically similar to the fluid inside of our red blood cells. This makes it really bioavailable and compatible with our bodies.
In emergencies, it can even be used in an IV.
Still, it’s best we stick to medical-grade solutions for intravenous hydrotherapy.
Just drink it!
8. Cooked/Frozen Spinach
As we see with dried apricots, sometimes some processing can actually release more potassium - sometimes.
One cup of cooked spinach will give you 24% of our daily allowance of potassium.
It’s also high in other good things we’ve seen here today: vitamin A, magnesium, and fiber. Also, it’s a prime source of vitamin K.
Vitamin K is good for bones, blood, and heart.
And there’s calcium.
I’ll never forget that Harvard study featuring women who drank milk regularly for years.
They broke more bones than those who didn’t drink so much milk!
I thought to myself: “Hmmm. Interesting.”
As an alternative, spinach is a pretty good source of calcium, but it’s easier to get if you cook it.
I like to whip up this spinach dip for guests.
It features tofu and cashews - two ways to get creamy texture without dairy, which does little for bones, apparently.
One of my biggest health secrets is how to make getting a ton of spinach easy.
Smoothies are easiest, but frozen spinach goes very well in pasta.
This recipe uses fresh, but I’ve used frozen many times.
Okay... that is all I have on...
Potassium Deficiency Health Secrets
In closing, don’t feel bad about being low on potassium - pretty much all of us are.
What’s important is that we’re mindful about expanding our diets to include foods that are known to make up for it.
If we don’t, the symptoms can be rather severe, and mimic that of pretty serious illnesses.
Once you get to the point where symptoms appear, you need a blood test to determine where the problem is.
Does it surprise you to know that we’re all low on potassium?
Moreover, are you shocked to know that bananas really aren’t as good for potassium as other foods?
Share your thoughts in the comments below, and I’ll be back real soon.