How Much Potassium Does a Female Need?

by Melodie Anne Coffman, Demand Media Google
    Baked potatoes are one of the best ways to boost potassium intake.

    Baked potatoes are one of the best ways to boost potassium intake.

    As a woman, you need the same amount of potassium as a man, even if you are pregnant. However, your recommendation goes up if you are breastfeeding. Potassium is essential for normal heart rhythm, muscle function and everyday movements. Almost all plant foods, including fruits, nuts and vegetables, provide potassium, so you should get everything you need from your diet.

    Recommendation

    From the age of 14, throughout adulthood and during pregnancy, women need 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day. Even during menopause and throughout your senior years, the recommendation remains the same. If you breastfeed after delivery, this is the only life stage in which your recommendation increases. While breastfeeding, the recommended potassium intake goes up to 5,100 milligrams, notes the Linus Pauling Institute.

    Food Sources

    Finding more ways to boost your potassium intake is easier than you may think. Adding raisins to your morning oatmeal or enjoying them as a mid-morning snack are quick ways to get extra potassium. A half-cup of raisins offers more than 590 milligrams of potassium. Eating a baked potato with the skin on adds potassium at dinner; a medium, 6-ounce baked potato offers about 1,000 milligrams of potassium. A medium, 6-inch banana provides about 420 milligrams of potassium, 1 cup of cooked spinach offers almost 840 milligrams, 1 ounce of almonds contains 200 milligrams and a 6-ounce glass of orange juice has more than 370 milligrams.

    Function

    Potassium is an electrolyte, along with calcium, magnesium and sodium. Electrolytes maintain fluid balance throughout your body and conduct electricity. Most potassium in your body rests inside cellular fluid. Potassium crosses cell membranes, if needed, creating equal pressure of fluid in and around cells. This function is vital for a steady flow of electricity to move between cells and throughout your body. Electrical flow makes your heart beat and allows muscles to relax and contract.

    Deficiency

    Having a deficiency is rare, since potassium is readily available in many foods. However, if you are training for an athletic event and work out for hours at a time, you lose potassium and other electrolytes through sweat. Or if you are sick with a bad spell of diarrhea and vomiting, you'll also lose potassium, depleting the levels in your body. When electrolytes, including potassium, become diminished, extreme fatigue and muscle weakness are the initial warning signs. As symptoms worsen, your digestive tract has a hard time functioning, leading to constipation, abdominal cramping and bloating. Drinking a sports beverage full of electrolytes is an easy way to quickly replenish potassium and other electrolytes. During pregnancy, your physician may suggest drinking a sports beverage to replace electrolytes that you lose from vomiting caused by morning sickness.

    About the Author

    Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

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