Healthy Decisions for the Love of Health

Nutrient Sources of Potassium

Absolutely the best sources of potassium are fresh natural foods. Supplements may have side effects and large doses must be taken to approach the levels of potassium that can be obtained from food; the average tablet contains about 90 mg, for example, and a medium banana contains 500 mg. Vegetables containing the highest levels of potassium are generally those containing the lowest levels of starch. Seaweed has an amazingly high potassium content, containing roughly ten times as much as leafy vegetables, but also contains a large amount of mineral salt. Green coconut milk is another source of potassium.

Plentiful sources of potassium

These include avocados, bananas, chard, citrus fruits, juices such as grapefruit, tomato and orange, dried lentils, green leafy vegetables, milk, molasses, nuts such as almonds, brazils, cashews, peanuts, pecans and walnuts, parsnips, dried peaches, potatoes, raisins, sardines, spinach, and whole-grain cereals.

Cooking

Boiling food in water is a sure way to lose the potassium in it, unless it is to make soup. Baking and broiling are ways in which food can be cooked while at the same time preserving the potassium content, indeed, these methods preserve all the nutrients apart from vitamin C and some of the B vitamins which are destroyed by heat. Broiling also oxidizes essential fatty acids. Stir-frying is also a good way of preserving nutrients. It is important to vary the intake of potassium rich foods in order to ensure adequate intake of other nutrients and to avoid the possibility of toxicity, as some vegetables contain elements that are toxic if they are eaten in large amounts (oxalic acid in rhubarb for example). It is important to note that freezing also depletes potassium levels in foods.

Many variations are to be found under the heading "potassium broth," and most natural health practitioners recommend one version or another, but the main constituents are the following vegetables, generally any vegetable of choice can be added to this base.

Ingredients

* 2 lb potatoes
* 1 lb carrots
* 1/2 lb peas
* bones for stock, or a vegetable bouillon cube
* 4 oz cracked wheat or pearl barley

First, in a stainless steel pan, boil the stock bones, if using them. After about one hour, add the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer in plenty of water for about another hour. It is preferable to use the potatoes and carrots well scrubbed, but with their skins on, as this retains valuable nutrients. Keep any unused soup in the refrigerator.


Potassium supplements

Potassium supplements come in either tablet or liquid form, and anything over 390 mg needs a prescription in the United States and Canada. Enteric coated tablets have been known to cause ulcers, as they do not dissolve until they reach the intestines and may prove too concentrated for the undefended intestinal wall. To be on the safe side, supplements should be taken with a glass of juice. Slow-release enteric-coated supplements are now available, which decrease the danger of ulcers. Potassium gluconate is the ideal supplement, as it more closely resembles the potassium found in plants. Small divided doses should be taken, as opposed to one large dose, when treating a potassium deficiency. Athletic drinks are an electrolyte replacement and as such contain potassium. Potassium supplements should be kept in a cool, dry place, out of direct light. They should not be frozen, and should not be kept in the bathroom medicine cabinet as heat and moisture may reduce effectiveness.

Precautions

In general, the multitude of nutrients that humans require in order to stay healthy are synergistic, which means they are interdependent. If depleted of one, it is highly likely that there are deficiencies in others. Many nutrients, for example, require the presence of either calcium or vitamin C for efficient use by the body, and if suffering from a deficiency of any of the B vitamins, there is almost certainly a deficiency in the B vitamins in general, as they occur together in nature. With this in mind, it is very unwise to take large amounts of any one nutrient without making sure that the full spectrum of nutrients is plentifully available for the body to make use of. This can best be achieved by making sure that a large proportion of the daily diet is in the form of raw fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and unroasted nuts.

Of all the essential nutrients that are commonly taken as supplements, potassium is perhaps the most dangerous. Only 14 grams of potassium can cause death under certain circumstances, particularly when intake is low at other times, as it has been found that when potassium intake is restricted, somehow the mechanism for utilizing it is altered, so that large amounts cannot be processed.

Just the right amount of potassium is essential. Too much or too little can cause muscle spasms and cramps if a calcium deficiency also exists. With this in mind, it is important to ensure adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, which will promote the uptake of calcium in the body.

Many sufferers of degenerative diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer, and arthritis, suffer from high serum potassium levels. This is not because they have too much serum, but because the disease affects body functions in such a way that it throws off this valuable nutrient instead of using it. In such cases, natural sources of potassium, such as fresh fruit or vegetable juice, can be more effective than supplements.

Copyright 2005 HealthSmart Nutrition. All rights reserved.
Revised: January 31, 2006

 

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