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The Advantages of Potassium

By Matthew Lee

Potassium is an important mineral that is abundant in seafood, organ meats, bananas, citrus juices and some legumes. Along with sodium, chloride, calcium and magnesium, potassium is one of the main electrolytes in your body. By helping to conduct electricity, potassium is vital to the regular functioning of all of your body's tissues, cells and organs. Due to the versatility of this important mineral, potassium has advantages beyond its electricity-conducting properties.

Muscle Building

Potassium is essential to your muscles contracting as you exercise, thus indirectly helping you to build muscle. Aside from this, potassium also directly builds muscle through its effects on dietary carbohydrates and protein. Assisting in the breakdown of carbohydrates and synthesis of protein from amino acids, potassium is a necessary part of building muscle through diet and exercise. Similar to its role in helping you to pack on muscle, potassium's effects on muscle development make it essential to the growth of children and adolescents.

Bone Health

Further aiding in regular growth, potassium is an important part of healthy bone function, development and maintenance. As your body may sap calcium from your bones and diet in the absence of other buffers and electrolytes, ensuring that you eat adequate amounts of protein may prevent bone loss. This may help to increase your bone mineral density, thus ensuring that your bones function and develop properly. In addition, potassium's effects on bone health may play a role in preventing osteoporosis and other bone conditions later in life.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can result from the excretion of abnormally high levels of calcium in your urine. By eating a diet rich in potassium, you may be able to avoid kidney stones or reduce their severity if you suffer from frequently occurring stones. Similar to the effects of potassium on bone health, eating too little potassium can lead your body to use calcium as a buffer for dietary acid. As this calcium eventually exits your body as urine, a potassium-rich diet can decrease the amount of calcium passing through your kidneys, thus helping to reduce the frequency and severity of kidney stones.

Cardiovascular Health

Sodium and potassium are both essential to the regular functioning of your body's cells. As such, maintaining an approximately equal balance of these minerals is important to your overall health. In addition, as high sodium intake may increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and other cardiovascular health issues, increasing your potassium intake may help to balance out these effects. As reported by Jill Adams in the July 24, 2011 issue of the "Los Angeles Times," eating approximately equal amounts of sodium and potassium can lower your risk of dying due to a cardiovascular issue by nearly 50 percent.

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