Potassium: properties, foods, daily requirement and DEFICIENCY

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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Potassium is a mineral salt that our body is unable to synthesize on its own and therefore we must take it through food. So let's find out all the properties, the daily requirement and the foods that contain more potassium, all useful information to avoid a deficiency.

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Potassium is a mineral salt that our body is not able to synthesize by itself and therefore we must take it through food. Let's find out then all the property, daily requirement and foods that contain more potassium, all useful information avoid a shortage.

Il potassium (K) it is one of the minerals most present in our body and is commonly found in many foods, especially of plant origin. This means following a diet very rich in fruit, vegetables and legumes we can safely reach the daily requirement of this mineral.

We all know that potassium is essential for our well-being but exactly what is it for?



There are different functions of potassium in our body, it is a mineral present mainly inside cells although a small amount is also found in extracellular fluids.

This mineral is crucial in the so-called sodium-potassium pump or that mechanism that regulates neuromuscular excitability. Potassium is then essential for the regulation of acid-base balance, for the heart rate, pressure osmotic and in general the water balance of our body. It is also useful for bone and brain health and helps reduce stress.

Absorption occurs in the intestine while the amount of this mineral which is sometimes in excess it is eliminated in the urine and therefore thanks to the work of the kidneys.

It is important that, through a balanced diet, you take the right amount of potassium and must be greater than the amount of sodium, this in such a way as to favor the expulsion of excess sodium from the urine and the regulation of blood pressure.

The body throughout the day must keep potassium levels stable at all times to avoid consequences on the well-being of the organism. The balance is achieved by using the potassium stored by the cells when necessary (therefore evident how important it is to eat foods that contain potassium every day) and eliminating the excess through the urine.

To recap potassium serves a:

• Maintain the body's water balance

• Regulate the pH of the blood

• Activate neuro-muscular excitability

• Regulate blood pressure and heart rate

• Well-being of bones and brain
• Reduce stress


Potassium is contained in many foods, however, are particularly rich: legumes such as beans and peas, spinach, bananas, apricots, potatoes, cabbage, asparagus, dried fruit such as almonds, squash, avocado, raisins. But there are also many other plant sources of potassium including pine nuts, black olives, dried figs, dried broad beans, dried chestnuts and dried chickpeas as well as kiwi, whole grains, rocket, artichokes, citrus fruits and grapes.

It is therefore evident that if you eat in a balanced way, consuming 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day (always better in season) is difficult to find yourself struggling with a potassium deficiency unless there are ongoing pathologies or intestinal absorption problems.

Drinks like tea, coffee and milk also contain potassium and few people know that ketchup sauce contains well 5901 milligrams of potassium per 100 grams of product.

To recap among the foods richest in potassium we find:

• Banana

• Apricots

• Spinach

• Cabbages

• Peas

• Beans

• Asparagus

• Pumpkin

• avocado

• Mushrooms

• Raisins

• Almonds

• Pine nuts

• Black olives

• Dried figs

• Dried broad beans

• Dried chickpeas

• Dried chestnuts

• Kiwi

• Whole grains

• Rocket

• Artichokes

• Citrus fruits

• Grape

• Coffee, tea, milk

• Ketchup sauce


Il daily potassium requirement settles down on average about 3 grams, it is therefore a macro element or a mineral salt which, together with calcium, phosphorus, sodium and magnesium, we must take in discrete quantities compared to micro elements, useful only in small quantities or in traces, such as iodine, zinc and copper.

The potassium needed every day by our body can vary in the case of particular pathologies or at a young age. THE children in fact they need a quantity equal to 800 mg up to 3 years and then the requirement gradually increases until reaching the aforementioned 3 grams in adolescence. Also pregnancy and breastfeeding they see the average requirement of potassium varying respectively at 4,7 and 5 grams of mineral per day.

infants < 1 anno: 800 milligrammi / giorno

children 1 - 3 years: 800 milligrams / day

children 4-6 years: 1.100 milligrams / day

children 7 - 10 years: 2.000 milligrams / day

young people and adults: 3.100 milligrams / day

pregnancy - breastfeeding: 4.700 milligrams - 5000 milligrams / day


It is easier to find yourself in potassium deficiency especially in the summer when you sweat a lot or if you do sport regularly and you don't get enough of this mineral with the right diet or supplements. But there are others too risk factors for a potential deficiency of this mineral such as gastroenteritis that caused you to lose a lot of fluids, the use of diuretics or laxatives, a diet too rich in salt, kidney disease or other.

A potassium deficiency can cause several ailments including muscle cramps or weakness, tachycardia, drowsiness, confusional states, anxiety, insomnia and bad mood. Then, if the potassium intake is lower or not well balanced with that of sodium you can run into problems hypertension, cellulite, edema.

Yes they can check potassium levels with a specific blood test. Only in this way can a real deficiency be ascertained or not (always with the help of a doctor, of course).

To recap the possible symptoms of a potassium deficiency I'm:

• muscle cramps

• muscle weakness

• tachycardia

• sleepiness

• confusional states

• anxiety

• insomnia

• bad mood

• hypertension

• cellulite

• edema (swelling)

There are also some potassium supplements but they must always be taken under the advice of an expert who will have assessed the actual state of shortage. In fact, very often it is enough to calibrate the diet well by increasing the consumption of fruit, vegetables and legumes to increase the intake of this mineral salt and not have any type of deficiency.

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