Well, no—you probably don’t get enough—and you’re not alone. Fewer than 2% of people do.
Experts say 4,700 milligrams (4.7 grams) of potassium is the minimum daily intake required for health and to reduce risk of chronic disease.
Yet, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reports the average potassium intake for Americans is 2,640 milligrams (2.6 g) daily. This low intake remains unchanged over decades! Most people get less than half the amount of potassium needed to meet “adequate” or minimum levels.
Given essential roles played by potassium in the body, and the known health benefits it confers, almost everyone — including you — can benefit from additional potassium. From where will it come?
That is to say, will the average person really meet recommended potassium intake from diet alone? I’m a huge advocate for increasing intake of dietary potassium, but long-term evidence suggests the answer is “no.” Supplementing with certain forms of potassium can be an effective adjunct to dietary intake.
It therefore can be highly beneficial to take a potassium-containing formula like pH Adjust, which provides potassium bicarbonate that boosts potassium levels and powerfully alkalinizes the body.
THE “NEGLECTED” MINERAL?
For years, a parade of minerals—calcium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, and yes, sodium—have drawn attention from health professionals, consumers, and the media. Whither potassium?
Yet despite compelling scientific studies, articles, and books, potassium has not “caught on” among doctors, consumers, or health aficionados. Nevertheless, knowledgeable health professionals and a small number of health-consious individuals have known of its importance for decades and longer.
Potassium has become known as the “forgotten” or “neglected” mineral. It’s time to revisit what we thought we knew…or never knew. It’s time to recognize potassium as “first among equals” in the pantheon of macrominerals.
If you think you know potassium, prepare to think again.
A review from Nutrition 101…and some things you may not know:
The symbol for potassium is “K” in the periodic table. It is one of seven essential macrominerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, and sulfur.
• Regulates fluid balance in the body by means of the sodium-potassium pump (Na+/K+ pump)
• Controls electrical activity of cardiac muscle (heart) and other muscles
• Counters the effects of sodium and thereby maintains proper blood pressure
• Maintains proper acid-base balance in the body
BENEFITS OF HIGH (ADEQUATE) POTASSIUM:
• Decreases risk of dying from all causes (20%)
• Reduces risk of stroke
• Lowers blood pressure
• Protects against loss of muscle mass
• Preserves bone mineral density
• Reduces formation of kidney stones
POTASSIUM – NEEDED MORE THAN EVER?
Beyond the benefits you may take for granted that are provided by the mineral you don’t get enough of…there are many reasons why potassium is more important than ever.
One major reason potassium is needed more than ever: sodium.
Sodium is the essential macromineral no one seems to be lacking. Just the opposite! When people talk about sodium, it is usually about how to avoid it. Sodium is blamed for hypertension and adverse cardiovascular health. What is the connection between sodium and potassium?
It all starts at the level of the cell with the “sodium-potassium pump” (or N+/K+ pump). The sodium-potassium pump is responsible for keeping sodium out of cells and keeping potassium in. But it also a carrier for nutrients going into cells, and it is involved in the energy production.
The typical modern diet —low in potassium and high in sodium (and sugar)—is a major problem for cells because it compromises the function of the sodium-potassium pump. Optimal function of the sodium-potassium pump requires not only increasing potassium intake, but also reducing sodium intake.
SODIUM – POTASSIUM RELATIONSHIP:
• Humans once consumed high levels of potassium (12 g or higher) and low levels of sodium (<2 g) daily. That 6:1 ratio in favor of potassium has radically shifted to a 2:1 or even 4:1 ratio in favor of sodium. Salt is everywhere in the food supply. The potassium to sodium ratio (K/Na ratio) is called the “K Factor.”
• High “K Factor”: During evolutionary history, humans consumed 5–10+ times more potassium than sodium. Because the prehistoric diet contained little sodium, the body developed means for conserving it through resorption. Conversely, our potassium supplies were higher, and therefore the body developed no system for conserving it—it is absorbed, filtered by the kidneys, and eliminated.
• Cellular imbalance between potassium and sodium can cause strokes and other damage without increasing blood pressure (K Factor xxix). An exclusive focus on decreasing blood pressure (whether through diet or drugs) that fails to take potassium into consideration may not produce desired results.
• The sodium-potassium (Na+/K+) pump is an important pump that exists in cells. Its job is to keep sodium levels low in cells (pump out sodium and wastes) and pump in potassium, glucose, and other nutrients. Sufficient potassium is critical for this all-important pump that keeps us healthy.
• When sodium (salt) levels are high and potassium levels are low, the pump does not function efficiently. Cells cannot prevent sodium from entering, causing them to swell from osmotic pressure, and causing metabolic blockage.
• The sodium-potassium pump uses sodium as a “carrier” to bring in potassium, glucose, and other nutrients. For every glucose molecule, two sodium molecules are pumped into a cell. With high sodium intakes, cells become overloaded with sodium, and the pump works far less efficiently.
• Low potassium creates greater imbalance preventing the pump from excreting sodium, and also preventing nutrients from entering cells. The cell produces less energy and enters a type of metabolic stasis.
• Studies show the greatest decreases in blood pressure occur not only when sodium intake decreases, but when potassium intake simultaneously increases.
The role of potassium in the sodium-potassium pump has implications for nearly every function in the human body. And potassium does a lot more.
MANY HEALTH BENEFITS
Potassium provides many benefits. These include known benefits for reducing hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, and kidney stones, as well as supporting cardiovascular health, and stabilizing blood glucose. Many of potassium’s benefits relate to its role in the sodium-potassium pump. Other benefits relate to different aspects of potassium.
POTASSIUM ALKALINIZES YOUR BODY
Among the most significant features of potassium is its ability to alkalinize the body. Potassium neutralizes acids by itself and especially when combined with minerals such as bicarbonates.
I have recently posted several articles that discuss potassium’s role in keeping the body alkaline. Specifically, how consuming more potassium-rich fruits and vegetables remains the most important means for maintaining alkaline conditions in the body.
Potassium contributes mightily to acid-alkaline balance essential for health by boosting alkalinity. pH levels in the range of 7.35–7.45 provide many benefits. Because modern diets and lifestyles tend to produce acidic conditions (acidosis) in the body, it is important to recognize potassium’s role as “ultimate alkalinizer.”
Known benefits of ideal pH levels (slightly alkaline) include:
• Optimal function of enzymes
• Proper mineral retention, including electrolyte reserves
• Better tissue oxygenation
• Beneficial effects on microbiome
The alkaline-forming minerals include potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium. They work together to keep you alkaline—all are important. Yet, in terms of what in your diet most drives alkalinity, potassium is the king. In fact, certain measures of pH indicate that alkalinity is a function of potassium intake. This means potassium intake most effectively creates alkaline conditions.
High dietary intake of potassium-rich, alkaline-forming fruits and vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables) and vegetable juices is the best way of supporting proper pH. This is a proven means for balancing the effects of acid-forming foods like meats, and most grains and starches (simple carbohydrates).
Known factors producing overly acidic conditions in the body include consuming meats, sugar, processed foods, and simple carbohydrates like wheat, corn, rice, and most pastas and breads.
IT’S REALLY ABOUT DIET?
TOO LITTLE POTASSIUM…TOO MUCH SODIUM
The human story behind potassium begins with dietary intake. Once upon a time, we “got plenty” of potassium in our diets. Now, not so much.
Indeed, humans have a long history of high potassium intake from foods. Our paleolithic ancestors ate a lot of vegetables, fruits, and nuts—all of which are high in potassium. This helped balance their intake of nutrients from animal foods, which are typically lower in potassium.
During the rise of agriculture (20,000–30,000 years ago) and settled communities, grains became a significant portion of our diet. Yet, grains contain relatively low levels of potassium.
In addition, salt was added to foods in larger quantities as a preservative and taste enhancer. A long, slow slide toward decreasing potassium levels— and simultaneously increasing sodium levels—was set in motion.
Sodium is an essential mineral for health—it is one of the alkalinizing minerals. But historically, humans obtained 5–10+ times as much potassium as sodium. We have now “successfully” reversed potassium preponderance by consuming 2–4 times as much sodium as potassium. This causes lots of problems, and is one of the major elements creating dysfunction in sodium-potassium pumps in cells (see above).
In our modern age, and especially since the later decades of the the 20th century, intake of fresh vegetables and fruits has fallen dramatically. And so has the dietary intake of potassium.
The 20th century witnessed an unprecedented and dramatic rise in consumption of processed, packaged, and “fast” foods — most of which are low in potassium and high in sodium.
Beyond the rise of processed foods, there are declines in nutrients (including potassium) in foods due to steadily poorer soil quality on farmland. And adverse impacts on nutrients in food crops relating to the rise of industrial agriculture—with its dependency on chemicals—and failure to replenish soils.
DIET REMAINS BEST TO INCREASE POTASSIUM INTAKE
Potassium remains high in vegetables and fruits, including dried fruits. And vegetable broths. The best solution to low intake of potassium in the diet is simply consuming higher levels of vegetables and fruits, especially those that are fresh and organic.
Leafy greens (raw or cooked) are among the very best sources. Beet greens contain 1,300 mg of potassium per cup and spinach about 800 mg per cup.
Fresh carrot juice is my favorite providing nearly 700 mg per cup. Even comfort foods like baked potatoes (or sweet potatoes) provide high levels (1,000 mg) with skin. Avocado lovers rejoice, as there are 400–500 mg per avocado.
Beans and nuts are good sources, too. Fruits like bananas (400 mg), cantaloupe (350 mg), and even fruit juices like orange juice (650 mg) are significant sources. Among animal foods, fish, chicken, and pork are highest in potassium.
Nutritionists frequently suggest a 80–20 rule: simply consume 80% alkaline-forming foods to 20% acid-forming foods.
With this simple 80–20 formula, nearly everyone can achieve high—or at least adequate—potassium intake through their dietary choices.
The question is: Will people CHOOSE high-potassium foods? Do you?
SOLUTIONS FOR INCREASING POTASSIUM AND REDUCING SODIUM
You can point a person to high-potassium foods, but you can’t make them eat them. Despite exhortations from all sides for greater consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other high-potassium foods, “potassium sufficiency” isn’t the reality for most people. Potassium intake has been steady for decades.
Regarding sodium, it is just as easy (and important) for most people to decrease sodium in the diet as it is to increase potassium intake. Reduce use of salt. Choose low-sodium options when possible. Sodium is now on the radar as a mineral that promotes hypertension, so low-sodium options are increasingly available.
But like eating more fruits and vegetables, getting more exercise—and other things we know we “should” do—reducing sodium requires a conscious effort. The first part is awareness on the part of the individual. That leads to greater responsibility.
I also believe manufacturers, restaurants, and the food industry in general should voluntarily limit the amount of sodium they put in foods. That would go a long way toward making it easier to reduce salt.
Coming back to potassium, an interesting fact is that based on US research, Finland in the 1990s replaced their salt shakers with potassium shakers. It’s true. And among other benefits, the incidence of strokes and heart attacks decreased by 60%.
Much can be done by individuals to improve their lives by increasing their potassium intake. Unless and until people eat enough high-potassium foods (and/or the US replaces its salt shakers with potassium shakers—which actually would help solve two problems), another viable option is potassium supplements.
For individuals who do not (or will not) consume sufficient potassium in their diets—this includes the vast majority of people—potassium supplementation can be beneficial.
Even for those who often consume adequate potassium, but sometimes fall short, supplementation is a useful option because it allows for increased potassium intake during times when they need more of it. And who doesn’t?
There are various potassium supplements, typically either capsules or alternate “salts” comprised partly or wholly of potassium bicarbonate. This form of potassium found naturally in fruits and vegetables (versus potassium chloride), and therefore is considered safe. Even when taken in amounts beyond normal recommended daily values, excesses will typically be excreted.
A few caveats. Most nutritional supplements only provide small amounts (100 mg) due to government rules created to avert “hyperalkemia,” defined as too much potassium in the blood. Hyperalkemia can be caused by acute or chronic kidney failure, so if you suffer from kidney failure, please leave potassium supplements alone.
Hyperalkemia can also be caused by medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (taken for lowering high blood pressure, ironically), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and blood thinners like heparin. It may also relate to alcoholism, diabetes (type 1), or excessive use of potassium supplements.
The “normal” range of potassium in blood is 3.6–4.8 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L).
On the reverse side: while most people get less than ideal amounts of potassium in their diets, deficiencies that would qualify as too little potassium (“hypoalkemia”) are not common. (Symptoms of hypoalkemia can include irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, cramping, mood changes, nausea, and vomiting. Severe deficiencies may lead to muscle paralysis and abnormal heart rhythms.)
Given that most people do not obtain sufficient potassium, eating more fruits and vegetables and perhaps taking a high-quality potassium supplement will help the average person. That is, most people benefit from more potassium—not less—which they can get from diet and/or supplements.
pH ADJUST & POTASSIUM
HPDI recently launched pH Adjust, which is probably the world’s most sophisticated alkalinizing formula. pH Adjust is not a potassium supplement, per se. Yet, it provides easily assimilated potassium as part of a synergistic formula (including other important macrominerals) that is exceptionally well designed for increasing pH levels in the body.
pH Adjust is already popular because many people are overly acidic due to dietary and lifestyle choices, including—but not limited to—not consuming enough vegetables and fruits and over-consuming meats, grains, and other acid-forming foods.
pH Adjust is an excellent formula for those interested in safely and rapidly increasing their pH to overcome acidosis, and creating alkaline conditions in the body.
One gram (1/4 teaspoon) of pH Adjust provides 141.7 mg of potassium from potassium bicarbonate and potassium glycinate. This means that one teaspoon — which is the amount I take daily — gives me 567 mg (.567 g) of potassium. That is not a huge amount of potassium, perhaps as much as you would obtain from mid-sized banana. However, if you consider that pH Adjust is a dietary supplement, which in conjunction with improved diet (i.e., consuming more potassium-rich foods) can make a difference in your potassium intake.
And for the many individuals whose potassium intake is less than 2.6 g — recall that 2.6 g is the AVERAGE intake — a 1/2 gram increase in potassium can make a big difference (a 20% boost!) in terms of improving total intake.
Then consider the “healthy” person whose potassium intake may hover around 4 g, which is above average, but less than the suggested 4.7 g intake level. One teaspoon of pH Adjust will move them into the range where they will meet— or get much closer to—the recommended daily intake.
pH ADJUST: MINERALS FOR ALKALINITY
Taking one teaspoon of pH Adjust daily not only helps boost potassium intake, but represents a HUGE move toward being alkaline, which is a major benefit for health, as I wrote in my last blog article.
Equally important in terms of alkalinizing the body, the bicarbonate form of potassium in pH Adjust is hugely alkaline-forming. That is, while potassium itself neutralizes acids in the body, potassium bicarbonate is substantially more alkalizing because of the tremendous alkaline-forming power of bicarbonate.
That is why HPDI created pH Adjust—to rapidly and effectively create alkaline conditions in the body.
Other significant facts: pH Adjust contains magnesium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate. Magnesium carbonate helps neutralizes stomach acids (hydrochloric acid) and then after it is absorbed (as magnesium ions) it continues to neutralize acids throughout the body. The sodium bicarbonate similarly splits: sodium neutralizes acids and bicarbonates alkalinize the body.
Moreover, it is known that without sufficient magnesium, cells cannot retain potassium. pH Adjust provides a significant amount (105 mg) of magnesium (from carbonate) per 1/4 teaspoon. Think about it—pH Adjust supplies more than 400 mg of easily assimilated magnesium in a single teaspoon! (This means you can reduce or drop your other magnesium supplements.)
pH Adjust provides a 3:1 ratio of potassium to sodium. This ratio is known to be ideal for optimal uptake of potassium.
Potassium powers sodium-potassium pumps in your cells and keeps you alkaline. It supports proper blood pressure and cardiovascular function. It balances the effects of sodium and works synergistically with other macrominerals keeping you healthy.
Potassium loves you. Yet, you hardly know potassium—or how deficient you are.
Love potassium like it loves you. Eat more potassium-rich fruits, vegetables, and fresh juices. Take a potassium-containing formula like pH Adjust. Not only will it supply you with easily assimilated potassium, but also powerfully boost your alkalinity.
Eat less salt. For God’s sake, eat less salt. Do all these things. Then it’s likely your poor sodium-potassium pumps will revive themselves. I promise, you will feel it!
BOOKS & SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES
The High Blood Pressure Solution by Richard D. Moore, MD, PhD
The K Factor: Reversing and Preventing High Blood Pressure without Drugs by Richard D. Moore, MD, PhD
The XXL Syndrome by Max Rombi, MD
Acid & Alkaline by Herman Aihara
Acid-alkaline balance: role in chronic disease and detoxification
(Altern Ther Health Med, 13(4):62-5)
Potassium Intake of the US Population (PDF)
(NHANES Food Surveys Research Group, USDA)
LIST OF HIGH-POTASSIUM FOODS
This article is dedicated to the memory of our friend Dr. Victor A. Galunic, who provided HPDI with information, resources, and technical assistance.