Here's What Happens to Your Body When You Don't Get Enough Potassium

Natalie Off Duty

In the U.S., the recommended daily intake of potassium is a minimum of 3500 milligrams, but according to a 2012 CDC National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Americans only consume an average of 2640 milligrams a day. That's about 1000 milligrams under the bare minimum recommendation, which means the average American diet is potassium-deficient. But what happens to our bodies when we aren't getting enough potassium? For starters, potassium is an electrolyte mineral, which means it's essential for proper digestive and muscle function, as well as heart and skeletal health. In other words, it makes sure that our cells are regenerating at a normal rate to keep our bodies energized and efficient.

More severe symptoms of hypokalemia (the clinical term for potassium deficiency), include issues like high blood pressure, rapid or irregular heartbeat, kidney disease, and osteoporosis. But there's good news: Slightly low potassium levels don't necessarily indicate a full-on deficiency, but the not-so-good news is that you can still experience the less severe (but uncomfortable) symptoms.

In fact, things like muscle spasms, cramps, weakness, constipation, slower metabolism, and fatigue are all linked with low potassium intake, as published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health. It makes sense if you think about it in the context of exercise: If you've ever had an intense workout without hydrating, you probably experienced cramping and soreness. This is because you don't have enough electrolytes to maintain proper pH levels and healthy muscle function.

This can true when you're not working out, too. So if you're wondering why you keep getting random muscle spasms, feeling achy, and bloated, aside from drinking more water, consider introducing more potassium to your diet. Luckily, potassium-rich foods are already found in many of your favorite dishes. To help stabilize your potassium levels, we compiled five recipes that represent a day full of healthy eating. Read on to see which foods have the highest levels of potassium, and start cooking the five recipes below for a healthier digestive system and muscle function.

The Breakfast Recipe Remedy: Yogurt Banana Smoothie

Mitzy at Home

Nutrition Profile: One banana is 23% of your daily value (DV) of potassium, and a serving of Greek yogurt is 20%.

The Dish: This yogurt banana cream smoothie from Mitzy at Home will be a healthy and delicious start to your day. Made with tart and decadent Greek yogurt, subtle bananas, slightly salty macadamia nuts, sweet vanilla paste, and nutty hemp seeds, this recipe is a must-try. Bring it with you when you head out the door in the morning, have it as an afternoon pick-me-up, or enjoy it as a post-dinner treat.

The Lunch Recipe Remedy: Chicken Avocado Bowl

Half Baked Harvest

Nutrition Profile: Avocados have 21% of your DV of potassium, and both peaches and chicken have 10%.

The Dish: This peachy chipotle chicken and avocado rice bowl from Half Baked Harvest is a total winner when it comes to health and taste. If you love cheese, this meal will make your dreams come true since it's topped with slices of lightly fried halloumi. It manages to be decadent and filling, as well as light and refreshing all at once. As such, it's the ideal midday meal.

The Vegan Lunch Recipe Remedy: Grapefruit and Bean Salad

The First Mess

Nutrition Profile: White beans are 34% of your DV of potassium, beets are 13%, and grapefruit is 9%.

The Dish: This flavorful recipe from The First Mess calls for plenty of beautiful whole foods. It also happens to be vegan-friendly, although meat lovers will love it as well. Comprised of grapefruit, beets, white beans, and plenty of greens, it's a healthy and filling lunch option that also happens to look pretty on a plate. It's also topped with pistachio butter for a perfectly nutty finish. Serve it as a side dish for dinner, or eat it on its own for lunch.

The Dinner Recipe Remedy: Roasted Salmon

From the Kitchen

Nutrition Profile: Salmon contains 28% of your DV of potassium.

The Dish: If you prefer fish to other animal-based sources of potassium like red meat or chicken, then salmon is your best bet. This recipe is brought to us by From the Kitchen, and it yields a perfectly prepared salmon filet. Roasted in a pomegranate glaze with herby, garlicky aioli, it's sure to become a dinnertime staple at your house, and it makes potassium intake that much more tasty.

The Vegan Recipe Remedy: Sweet Potato Bowl

Minimalist Baker

Nutrition Profile: Sweet potatoes have 27% of your DV of potassium, chickpeas have 14% value, and broccoli has 8%.

The Dish: You know a recipe is going to be good when 90% of the ingredients it calls for are readily available at your local farmers market. Though you can get your produce at any grocery store, this sweet potato, chickpea, and broccoli bowl from the Minimalist Baker is a crowd-pleaser, but it's even better for anyone with a plant-based diet. Aside from being rich in potassium, it's also full of fiber and protein.

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