If you’ve been following a Keto diet for a while you might have stumbled across mention of how important potassium is. Getting enough electrolytes can be tough while you’re on Keto so it’s important to keep your potassium and magnesium levels high. But how are you supposed to get enough potassium? What Keto friendly foods are potassium superstars? The following article will take you through the importance of potassium and some great foods that can help you reach your daily requirements while on Keto.
Why do you need potassium?
What is potassium and why do you need it? Potassium is a mineral that’s found in your muscle and bone cells. When it’s placed in water it becomes particularly active and full of positively charged ions. These positive ions are known as electrolytes and they conduct electricity through your body to the areas that need it. Your heart, muscles, lungs and other organs all use electrolytes in order to contract and they’re vital to the function of a large part of your body. In order for your nerves to communicate with your brain and send signals throughout your body they need the electricity conducting powers of electrolytes such as potassium.
Potassium also helps regulate the amount of fluid in different areas of your body. We have fluid both inside and outside of our cells. In order to keep cells healthy and prevent shrinkage or expansion there needs to be an equal number of electrolytes inside and outside of the cells. This is determined by your electrolyte levels. If your levels are too high the cells can burst, if your levels are too low your cells can shrivel up. Neither is good so it’s important to maintain an appropriate amount of potassium in your body.
In addition to the importance of potassium for your body’s daily processes, potassium is also linked to several other health benefits. There’s signs that it may help reduce the amount of sodium in your blood which can help get rid of high blood pressure. Proper potassium levels might also help prevent strokes by increasing blood flow to the brain. It might help prevent osteoporosis as well as reducing your risk of heart disease, decreasing your water retention and preventing you from developing kidney stones.
In order to get enough potassium daily you need to be taking in 3000-4700 mg through either your food or special mineral supplements. The majority of people can get enough potassium through their diet alone.
Why is it important to get enough potassium on Keto?
Low electrolyte levels are often a big problem on the Keto diet. When you first begin the Keto diet your body needs to adjust to receiving drastically lower levels of carbohydrates then it’s used to. One of the ways that it does this is by changing the relationship it has with sodium. Sodium and other electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium have a very delicate balance and it’s easy for one to become out of balance. When you restrict your carb counts your kidneys start getting rid of excess levels of sodium and this is enough to throw off the electrolyte balance in your body. The medical term for low potassium levels is hypokalemia.
This adjustment period of Keto is often referred to as the “Keto Flu” and is associated with a lot of common flu symptoms. When you have the Keto flu you might feel draggy and lacking in energy. You might experience headaches and nausea along with chills and muscle aches. You might have a difficult time falling asleep at night and concentrating during the day might also be tough. The good news is, these symptoms are often associated with low electrolyte levels and they can be remedied by increasing the amount of sodium, potassium and magnesium you eat. If you’re willing to wait, the majority of people stop experiencing Keto flu symptoms after a few months of sticking to a Keto diet; however, with some simple food additions you don’t need to suffer.
Signs of low potassium levels
So how do you know if your body is lacking in potassium? There are some key symptoms that can point to an electrolyte imbalance in your body. When you have a potassium deficiency you might feel like you are more aware of your heart beating in your chest, like it’s beating stronger or faster. Your heart usually beats on its own without you noticing so if you have heart palpitations or you feel like you’re very aware of your heart beat, this could be a sign that you need more potassium.
Because electrolytes such as potassium play a role in fluid regulation and muscle contractions, you might feel very achy if your potassium levels are low. There’s not enough fluid moving through your muscles in order for them to contract properly and the shrinkage can lead to muscle aches, cramps and random muscle twitches.
You also might experience some constipation if your potassium levels are too low. There isn’t enough fluid to help move water through your intestines and the cells in your intestines become shriveled up and dehydrated which prevents them from contracting and moving anything through your intestinal tract.
A general sense of fatigue and a lack of concentration can also happen when your potassium levels are low. It can even affect your breathing and cause mood changes if it gets too low.
What Keto friendly foods have potassium?
Even though low electrolyte levels are a problem when you begin Keto, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of Keto friendly food options that are high in potassium. The majority of people only need to make a small change to their diet in order to neutralize any mineral deficiencies so begin by adding one or two of the foods on the following list and see if that doesn’t make a difference in your energy levels, aches and pains and general feeling of well being.
- Almonds: 30g (1oz) of almonds contains 200mg of potassium
- Salmon: 114g (4oz) of salmon contains between 430-500mg of potassium
- Cooked spinach: 180g of cooked spinach contains 840mg of potassium
- Artichoke: A medium artichoke contains 345mg of potassium
- Avocado: A medium avocado contains a whopping 1000mg of potassium
- Cooked mushrooms: A cup of cooked mushrooms contains 550mg of potassium
- Meat: 4oz of meat (114g) contains between 400-500mg of potassium
- Cooked broccoli: One cup of cooked broccoli contains 460mg of potassium
- Hemp Seeds: 30g of hemp seeds contains 335mg of potassium
- Cooked Swiss chard: A cup of cooked Swiss chard contains 950mg of potassium\
- Cooked Brussels sprouts: A cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 500mg of potassium
- Asparagus: 1/2 cup of asparagus contains 202mg of potassium
What about supplements?
Should you take a potassium supplement? That’s up to you and how you feel. Some people don’t experience any low potassium symptoms. Just because you’re on the Keto diet it doesn’t mean that you’re going to automatically be low in potassium. If you feel good, have tons of energy and aren’t experiencing any negative symptoms then your potassium levels might be fine and there may not be any need to change your diet or add in a supplement.
If you are experiencing negative symptoms I recommend starting by adding potassium rich foods into your diet to see if you can’t increase your potassium levels naturally. This shift in your diet might be enough to get rid of or reduce any negative symptoms that you might be feeling.
If you’ve loaded up your meals with potassium superstars and you still aren’t getting enough then it might be time to consider adding in a mineral supplement. Your body needs between 3000-4700 mg of potassium daily. The average supplement contains around 99 mg of potassium which may not seem like a lot, but there’s a good reason for this. High potassium levels can be dangerous and it’s important to keep your blood potassium levels within the healthy range. The tablets that you can take contain 99 mg of pure potassium which is all that your system can handle in a concentrated form.
You should always speak with a doctor before taking any supplements in order to reduce the chances of having a negative reaction or taking too much. Your doctor can advise you as to how much you really need to be taking in conjunction with the potassium that you get through your diet. You should never take a potassium supplement if you have high blood pressure or if you’re on blood pressure or water pills. This can raise your potassium levels to a dangerous degree.
Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte for a variety of functions in your body including the movement of fluids and the contraction of your muscles. The Keto diet can lead to a potassium deficiency; however it’s easy to remedy this and bring your levels back to normal with a few minor changes to your diet and potentially adding in a potassium supplement. Remember to always talk to your doctor about any changes to your diet and consult with them before taking any form of supplement.