Potassium – A Tiny Mineral with a Huge Impact

A very great king wrote the following prayer to God, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”[1]

His words ring so true when it comes to potassium and its role in the human body.

You and I cannot live without potassium. Potassium is chief among those minerals called “electrolytes.” Other electrolyte minerals include: sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.[2]

energy and potassiumPotassium is the most commonly measured mineral in the blood. We each carry around a little over a quarter pound (120 grams) of this precious mineral, but 98 percent of it is distributed in miniscule portions throughout the cells of our bodies.[3]

In our cells, potassium serves as the primary positive ion responsible for a myriad of biochemical and electrical functions. Potassium plays a significant role in:[4],[5]

  •        Regulating the heartbeat
  •        Building and operation of the muscles
  •        Maintaining bone health
  •        Keeping blood pressure down
  •        Assisting the cells in the production of proteins
  •        Sending electrical impulses to the nerves
  •        Maintaining normal body growth
  •        Metabolizing carbohydrates
  •        Sustaining energy levels

Where does potassium come from?

The body cannot produce potassium, but most of us get all the potassium we need from eating healthy foods. In fact, nearly all natural foods (from living organisms) contain potassium.[6]

However, it is possible to suffer from hyperkalemia (too much potassium) or hypokalemia (too little potassium). Hyperkalemia usually only occurs when there are other serious medical issues. Under normal circumstances, the kidneys function to rid the body of too much potassium.[7]

Hypokalemia is more common and can be brought on by many factors including:[8]

  •        26 potassium foods to loveDiarrhea
  •        Vomiting
  •        Other gastrointestinal problems
  •        Excessive sweating
  •        Diuretics
  •        Eating a high sodium diet
  •        Poor diet of too much sugar and junk food

Severe hypokalemia can lead to very serious consequences and even death. Symptoms of hypokalemia can include:[9],[10]

  •        Fatigue
  •        Weakness in the muscles
  •        Slow reflexes
  •        Dry skin or acne
  •        Cardiac arrhythmia
  •        Muscle cramps
  •        Impairment of glucose metabolism
  •        Insomnia
  •        Anorexia
  •        Depression
  •        Nervous disorders

If you engage in sports or other physical activity at a higher than moderate level, you may experience the fatigue, muscle cramps and other symptoms associated with loss of electrolytes. When you exercise hard, you lose these minerals through your sweat.

What’s the best way to replace electrolytes (potassium)?

Contrary to popular opinion, reaching for a sports drink is not the best way to replenish potassium and the other important electrolytes in your system. Those drinks are also usually packed with sugar, food dye and other unnatural ingredients.[11]

Instead, the best source of potassium is found in healthy, whole foods. Potassium is found in nearly all whole foods, but here are some foods with the richest levels of potassium:

  • Fruits—citrus fruits, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, prunes, raisins, dates, and apricots (especially dried apricots)
  • Vegetables—broccoli, peas, lima beans, tomatoes, potatoes (with the skin), sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, avocado, and winter squash
  • Meats and fish—beef, chicken, halibut, salmon, cod, sardines
  • Dairy—milk and yogurt
  • Nuts

homemade electrolyte drinkI recently went on a very long hike into the mountains and took along fresh fruit and a healthy trail mix of dried fruits and nuts to replenish my electrolytes.

Most people do not need to supplement with potassium and you should consult your doctor before doing so, because of the delicate balance of potassium required by the body.[12]

How to make a homemade electrolyte drink

If you are physically active and find the need to replenish your electrolytes you can easily mix your own electrolyte drink. Here’s what I do:

  1.      Fill a tall glass with pure drinking water.
  2.      Add about a ¼ teaspoon of salt (sea salt or Himalayan salt is best)
  3.      Mix in about 1 tablespoon of lime or lemon juice.
  4.      If desired, add organic cane sugar to taste.
  5.      Stir until the salt (and sugar) is completely dissolved.
  6.      Drink it down—“To your health!”

We have seen that potassium plays a huge role in maintaining good health. But did you notice that, as with so many areas of good health maintenance, first and foremost we must eat healthy whole foods.

Take inventory of your current diet. How do you fare when it comes to avoiding prepackaged, prepared foods that contain who knows what? To what extent do you avoid excess sugars, fats and empty carbs? Stay away from junk foods and fast foods.

The best way to maintain healthy levels of potassium and the other essential minerals is simply to eat those healthy whole foods. And don’t forget to exercise!


Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.



[1] Psalm 139:13-14, Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[2] MedlinePlus, “Electrolytes,” 15 August 2014,http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002350.htm.
[3] Elson M. Haas, MD, “Role of Potassium in Maintaining Health,” Periodic Paralysis International, July 17, 2011,http://hkpp.org/patients/potassium-health.
[4] Elson M. Haas, MD.
[5] University of Maryland Medical Center, “Potassium,” July 10, 2011,http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/potassium.
[6] University of Maryland Medical Center.
[7] Elson M. Haas, MD.
[8] Elson M. Haas, MD.
[9] Elson M. Haas, MD.
[10] FitDay, “Potassium: Why It’s Essential for Your Body,” nd,http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/vitamins-minerals/potassium-why-its-essential-for-your-body.html#b.
[11] Hollis Templeton, “5 Foods that Help Replenish Electrolytes,” nd,http://www.fitbie.com/slideshow/5-foods-help-replenish-electrolytes.
[12] University of Maryland Medical Center.