Q: "I’ve heard it’s important to eat enough potassium, but why? What are the symptoms of low potassium? And how much should I eat daily?"
Bronwyn Lee, NSW
A: Accredited Practising Dietitian Zoe Wilson says:
Potassium is an electrolyte that’s important for normal function of the nervous system, muscles, kidneys and adrenal glands and also for bone health. Potassium works against sodium to keep our blood pressure at the right level (too much sodium raises blood pressure).
Too little potassium can lead to weakness, tiredness, cramping, tingling or numbness and palpitations or, in severe cases, can cause heart attack.
An adequate daily intake of potassium is 2800mg for women and 3800mg for men. Foods high in potassium include fruit (especially bananas, apricots and avocados), vegies (like spinach, potatoes and beetroot), nuts, lean meat, fish and bran.
Natural, unsalted foods usually have twice as much potassium as sodium, which is ideal. Most people who eat plenty of these foods will get enough potassium. Athletes who lose lots of fluids, along with people with a bout of severe diarrhoea or vomiting, and people taking certain medications may need to add a bit more potassium. Speak to your GP if you’re concerned.