Potassium is a macro mineral that is found in many foods. Potassium helps keep the heart beating regularly, maintains electrolyte fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve impulse signals. As one of the seven essential macrominerals, potassium is the third most important minerals in the body.
The kidneys are the primary organ that controls the level of potassium in the blood. Therefore, people who take certain medications or who have chronic kidney disease must follow the direction of their clinician because they may need to limit the amount of potassium in their diet in order to keep their potassium levels within a normal range.
In a similar way that the body uses insulin to control blood sugar, the body uses potassium to balance sodium and thereby control your blood pressure. However, one really important difference between insulin and potassium is that potassium is not produced inside the body like insulin! The only way to get the potassium needed for the body to function is by eating potassium-rich low carb foods.
In a person with normal kidney function, a high potassium diet can help reduce high blood pressure and water retention. Therefore, when a person with normal kidney function eats enough potassium, they can protect themselves against high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney disease. In addition, potassium can help retain muscle mass and prevent osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, in the United States, very few people get enough potassium in their daily diets which leads to high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke, and heart disease.
According to WebMD, the recommended dietary intake of potassium is 4,700 milligrams a day for healthy adults to maintain a balanced diet. In a person with healthy kidneys, potassium is needed to regulate electrolyte fluid balance. It does so by balancing out the sodium consumed in the diet. To get more potassium in your low carb diet, you must eat high potassium, low carb foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and some fish. Please read the disclaimer located at the bottom of the page before starting a high potassium, low carb diet.
Dehydration can cause an electrolyte imbalance. When electrolyte balance is altered, the ability to conduct electricity for muscle contraction is altered. A potassium deficiency can result from dehydration. This typically occurs when the body loses a lot of fluids from diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive urination. Excessive urination is very common when you start a keto diet or when you have high blood sugar levels. And, as a result, you may experience fatigue, weakness, lightheadedness, muscle cramps, muscle aches, numbness, tingling, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal issues, and an altered mental status.
So, what does potassium do for the body?
1. Reduce & Prevent High Blood Pressure
One of the things potassium does for the body is help control blood pressure. It does so in conjunction with sodium and calcium.
2. Prevent Kidney Stone Formation
When we do not eat enough potassium, the body can start to pull calcium from our bones. When this occurs, calcium levels will increase in our urine. Then, the excess calcium can result in painful kidney stones forming in the kidneys. Because of this, eating enough potassium can prevent calcium kidney stones.
3. Improve Bone Mineral Density
On the other hand, when we eat enough potassium, it can help us build stronger and healthier bones. This is accomplished by an increase in bone mineral density.
4. Help Prevent & Control High Blood Sugar
There are some studies indicating a connection between a high potassium diet and blood sugar control. However, better research is needed to prove this. One reason why blood sugar control improves is because potassium is found in high fiber foods. Therefore, a higher fiber diet may be contributing to this finding.
5. Regulate Muscle Contraction
Potassium also plays an important role in muscle contraction. Therefore, heart palpitations are common when a person is dehydrated. In addition, leg and muscle cramps can occur when their is a sodium-potassium imbalance.
(1) Eating a high potassium diet does not cause complications in a person with normal kidney function because any excess potassium is simply excreted in the urine. On the other hand, a person with kidney disease or renal failure should NOT eat a high potassium diet because it can result in a build-up of potassium in the body. Therefore, a person with known or unknown kidney disease or failure should follow the recommended dietary guidelines provided by their health care practitioner.
(2) The best way to increase the potassium in your diet is by eating food with potassium. Potassium supplements are NOT recommended unless under the direction of a physician.
(3) Keep in mind that most “salt substitutes” are laced with potassium supplements that do not have the same beneficial effects that fresh low carb fruits, low carb vegetables, and low carb nuts provide.