What is Potassium? - Definition, Sources, Benefits & Side Effects

What is Potassium? - Definition, Sources, Benefits & Side Effects
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  • 0:04 What Is Potassium?
  • 0:17 Potassium & Our Bodies
  • 1:03 Sources of Potassium
  • 2:11 Side Effects of Potassium
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

We need nutrients for our body to be healthy and to function well. One of the essential nutrients we need is potassium. Continue reading to find out where can we get potassium and why it is so essential to our bodies.

What Is Potassium?

Potassium is an alkali metal, a highly reactive substance symbolized by the letter 'K' on the periodic table of elements. In appearance, potassium can be described as a silvery-white solid.

Potassium & Our Bodies

Without potassium, our bodies would not function properly. For example, potassium serves as an electrolyte, so it helps to conduct electrical charges. Why are these electrical charges important? Well, the electrical charges are responsible for making our muscles contract, in particular, our heart muscles. Additionally, potassium promotes cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of having a stroke.

Another benefit of potassium is that it helps control or lower higher blood pressure. Potassium is also good for our bone health. As we grow older, our bone mineral density decreases. By having a diet that is rich in potassium, our bone formation can actually increase. This results in increased bone mineral density and healthier bones.

Sources of Potassium

Our bodies cannot store potassium, that's why it's so important for us to have a diet rich enough in this valuable nutrient. In the absence of a healthy diet, we could be deficient in potassium without even knowing it. If we don't get enough potassium, we may suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, or digestive and muscle disorders, among other conditions. Here is a table that shows how much potassium people of different age groups' should have per day.

Above: daily potassium recommendations

Do you love green leafy vegetables? What do you think about beans? If you do, the good news is, these are key sources of potassium that can help you meet your daily intake of this essential element. Here are some excellent potassium-rich sources, shown in milligrams per serving size.

Above: sources rich in potassium

If you are not too fond of the previously mentioned food sources, there are others that also have a high potassium content. Here are some fruits and other vegetables that are also great sources of potassium.

Above: other sources of potassium

Now that we've identified some great food sources for potassium, we can try to include them in our diet. If you've lost too much of the nutrient due to illness or don't get enough in your regular diet, then you can use potassium supplements.

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