Potassium and weight loss

      
     
Potassium and weight loss

The combination of being overweight and maintaining a diet high in sodium puts many of us at great risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and many other life threatening or debilitating diseases.

Consuming adequate amounts of Potassium each day can help us to reduce our risk of developing these diseases and achieve our weight loss goals.

This article explains what Potassium is, why we need it, what diseases it helps combat, how it helps with weight loss and how to get more of it into our daily diet.

What is Potassium?

Potassium is an essential dietary mineral and electrolyte which is stored inside our body cells.

Potassium is an essential dietary mineral because it helps:

  • build muscle
  • prevents excess fluid retention and maintain a healthy electrolyte balance
  • optimize nerve functions
  • the release of energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates during metabolism
  • regulate blood pressure
  • our heart and kidneys to function properly


Why do we need Potassium?

In addition to, and because of the bodily functions it helps listed above, having an adequate Potassium intake can assist us in achieving weight loss and because Potassium has many protective properties, it can help us fight some of Australia 's most dangerous diseases.

Let's have a closer look at how it helps us lose weight and how it protects us from disease.

Potassium and weight loss

Because Potassium helps us to build muscles, helps our muscles work properly and helps us convert the food we eat into energy, it is particularly important to those of us who have weight loss goals.

Bigger muscles burn more calories, so by helping us to build slightly bigger and stronger muscles, Potassium has a direct impact in helping us to turn our bodies into calorie burning machines.

By helping to provide the energy we need, helping our muscles (including our heart) work efficiently and effectively and ensuring a proper balance of electrolytes, Potassium helps us exercise daily, which is critically important to anyone wanting to shed a few unwanted kilos.

Because Potassium is excreted from our body in sweat, those of us who are exercising to lose weight need to be extra diligent, conscious of the fact that we also need to be replacing the Potassium lost during exercise.

As you can see, because daily exercise is a critical element to successful long term weight loss and improved general health, all of us with weight loss goals need to have sufficient levels of Potassium in our bodies at all times.

Potassium and disease prevention

It is estimated that on average, Australians eat twice as much sodium (salt) as we need on a daily basis.

Diets containing high levels of sodium are dangerous and put us at greater risk of experiencing serious health risks which are compounded by excess body fat.

Among the health risks associated with high sodium diets, the most serious include:

  • Heart failure
  • Kidney problems and kidney stones
  • Stroke
  • Gastric cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Liver disease
  • Fluid retention
  • Certain types of asthma


As well as helping to balance the sodium in our cells, Potassium can actually help facilitate its excretion from our bodies as well.

As long as it remains within safe levels, increasing Potassium in our bodies is believed to have the same effect as reducing our sodium intake and in doing so reduces our risk of developing high blood pressure and the other health conditions identified above.

It is because the balance of Potassium to sodium in our bodies is so important, that many of us need to pay more attention to our Potassium intake and look for ways to increase it in our daily diets.

How much Potassium do we need?

According to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) in Australia, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for Potassium for adults is between 1950 to 5460mg per day.

As with many of the elements in our body, getting the right amounts each day is very important and having too little or too much in our body at any one time can have serious implications on our health.

Symptoms of low Potassium levels often include:

  • tiredness
  • muscle weakness
  • nervous disorders
  • insomnia
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • constipation
  • a slow and irregular heartbeat
  • muscle damage
  • poor appetite
  • mental apathy


People with diabetes are often deficient in Potassium and prolonged diarrhoea, vomiting, sweating and the use of some diuretics can deplete our Potassium stores.

Having too much Potassium in our bodies is called hyperkalemia.

At best, levels of Potassium that are too high can produce minor ailments like stomach irritation. At worse, severely high levels can cause heart attack, so it is very important to get just the right amount each day.

How to get more Potassium into our daily diet

Eating a wide variety of foods that contain Potassium is the best way to get an adequate amount of it each day.

To find out exactly how much potassium the foods we eat contain, we can all start reading food labels more carefully and looking up the potassium content of foods in the Nutritional Food Tables available free on this website.

Having said that, generally speaking, good natural sources of Potassium include:

  • breads, cereals, and other grain products
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • meat, poultry and fish
  • dairy products


Breads, cereals, and other grain products

Among this food group, the best sources of Potassium are found in:

  • Wheat germ
  • Bran cereal
  • Whole-wheat hot cereal, cooked without salt
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Oatmeal, cooked without salt


Fruits

Among fruits, the best sources of Potassium include:

  • Dried apricot halves
  • Prune juice
  • Orange juice
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Peaches


Vegetables

Among vegetables, the best sources of Potassium include:

  • Squash
  • Potato
  • Avocado
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes


Meat, poultry, fish and alternatives

Among protein sources, the best sources of Potassium are:

  • Beef
  • Veal
  • Pork
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Peanuts (dry-roasted, without salt)


Dairy

Within dairy, good sources of Potassium include:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt


In addition to eating a wide variety of foods that are naturally high in Potassium, it's also important that we avoid destroying the Potassium naturally found in the foods we eat.

Two of the greatest "destroyers" of natural Potassium in food are food processing and food preparation.

Let's have a quick look at each of these.

Potassium and Processed Foods

Generally speaking, food processing tends to lower the Potassium levels in many foods while increasing the sodium content. Therefore, it is better to eat unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals.

This suggestion is supported by the fact that approximately 75% of the sodium that we consume comes from the processed foods that we eat each day.

Potassium and Food Preparation

The Potassium found in some foods is easily destroyed if that food is soaked or boiled.

To minimize Potassium loss during food preparation:

  • cook Potassium containing foods in a minimal amount of water
  • cook Potassium containing foods for the shortest possible time


Conclusion

When we are overweight, we are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and many other life threatening or debilitating diseases.

As well as contributing to the healthy operation of many essential body functions, Potassium can help fight some of these dangerous health conditions and improve our chances of successfully achieving our weight loss goals.

This article explained what Potassium is, why we need it, what health conditions Potassium helps fight, how it helps us achieve our weight loss goal and how to get more of it into our daily diet.

If you need further help to ensure you're getting the right amount of Potassium in your diet, make an appointment with a dietitian listed in our weightloss business directory.

Good luck with your weight loss and thanks for visiting weightloss.com.au.

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This article was written by Scott Haywood.

Scott Haywood is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.

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