What Does Potassium Do For Your Body?

Dec 20, 2022 Potassium 7 MIN

What Does Potassium Do For Your Body?

Quick Health Scoop

  • Potassium is an electrolyte and mineral involved in fluid balance, as well as heart, muscle, and nerve function
  • Potassium needs depend on age and sex and are based on adequate intake (AI) amounts
  • The best sources of potassium are whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and certain beverages

Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte. You need to get potassium from your diet and withoutenough potassium, bodily functions related to heart health, muscle and nerve function, fluid balance and pH maintenance, and even the synthesis and metabolism of nutrients can’t occur properly. A dietary shortfall in potassium can lead to negative health effects over time, so it’s important to get the recommended 2600–3400 mg per day. Our product includes 90 mg per day to help supplement your diet towards that goal.

What Are the Three Benefits of Potassium?

If you’re wondering what does potassium do for your body, it’s a key player in many critical functions that work to keep us healthy. Three of the main benefits of getting enough potassium are discussed below.

Heart and Fluids

Potassium is the main electrolyte in your intracellular fluid, which resides inside your cells and accounts for forty percent of the water found in your body. Working alongside sodium, potassium determines fluid balance, or how much water is inside and outside your cells at any given time. [1]

When the number of electrolytes inside and outside of your cells is balanced, this is called having normal osmolality. If osmolality is abnormal, this fluid imbalance can cause cells to shrink and burst, which can lead to health conditions. [2]

Potassium supports heart function by helping to control the activity of the heart muscle. Having enough potassium is necessary for healthy nervous system signals and normal muscle contraction. The movement of potassium in and out of your cells supports a regular heartbeat.

Supports muscle and nerve function

The involvement of potassium in nerve and muscle function means that imbalances can impair these normal processes in the body. Nerve impulses, which help regulate heartbeat, muscle contractions, and reflexes, occur when sodium moves into cells and potassium moves out of cells. [3]

Having too low or too high levels of potassium can alter the voltage of nerve cells throughout the body. For instance, if potassium levels drop too low, this  may have a negative impact on your body.search has demonstrated the importance of getting enough potassium for heart health, particularly in relation to sodium intake. Research has shown the importance of following dietary patterns that are rich in potassium and low in sodium for heart health. Specifically, the DASH trial showed that a diet higher in potassium and lower in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars supported healthy blood pressure. Those on the DASH diet consume about 4,000 mg potassium/day and 8 servings of fruits and vegetables. [10] For heart health and to counteract the effects of excessive intake of sodium in the diet, professional organizations recommend no more than 2,300 mg/day of sodium and 4,700 mg/day potassium.

Synthesizes proteins and metabolizes carbohydrates [11]

While it’s a nutrient on its own, potassium is also involved in larger nutrition-related processes in the body. It helps synthesize proteins as well as metabolize carbohydrates, both of which are essential macronutrients for health, growth, and energy.

Other research suggests that decreased intracellular potassium slows the rate of cell growth because of how it impacts protein synthesis. [5, 6]

How Much Potassium Do I Need Daily?

Now that we’ve covered what does potassium do for your body, you’re probably wondering how much of this mineral you need.

There isn’t enough evidence to establish a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for potassium, so instead there are adequate intakes (AI) for this mineral. AIs indicate the daily amount presumed to be enough to ensure nutritional adequacy for healthy individuals.

Below is a list of AIs for potassium based on sex and age: [7]

  • 0-6 months, male and female: 400 mg
  • 7-12 months, male and female: 860 mg
  • 1-3 years, male and female: 1000 mg
  • 4-8 years, male and female: 2300 mg
  • 9-13 years, male: 2500 mg
  • 9-13 years, female: 2300 mg
  • 14-18 years, male: 3000 mg
  • 14-18 years, female: 2300 mg
  • 19+ years, male: 3400 mg
  • 19+ years, female: 2600 mg
  • Pregnant: 2600-2900 mg
  • Lactating: 2500-2800 mg

If you have kidney function issues, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before supplementing.

Potassium Deficiency or Shortfall?

Potassium is considered a shortfall nutrient. What this means is that a high percentage of the population is not consuming enough of an essential nutrient in their diet to meet recommended daily amounts. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans list potassium as a “nutrient of public health concern” since a dietary shortfall of this nutrient is associated with adverse health effects, including heart health concerns. Women of childbearing age, especially, are not consuming enough potassium since 68% of women ages 31-44 years and over 66% of women ages 15-30 years have an inadequate intake of potassium in their daily diet. Even more concerning, only about 2% of Americans overall are meeting daily potassium recommendations as set by professional health organizations (4700 mg per day)[8,9]. Because of inadequate daily potassium intake among so many Americans, the Food and Drug Administration required manufacturers to include potassium content on the Nutrition Facts food label [7]. Potassium deficiency is uncommon and requires a blood test to confirm levels. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have questions about the test.

What Foods Have Potassium?

Knowing what does potassium do for your body is one thing, while understanding where it’s found is another. Potassium is found in many types of foods that are easy to incorporate into meals and snacks, especially those listed below.


Some of the most potassium-rich fruits are bananas, cantaloupes, cherries, oranges, tomatoes, and watermelons. Enjoy fruits as a snack on their own, as a topping for cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, or yogurt, or blended into smoothies.


Avocados, beets, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, parsley, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are great sources of potassium. Vegetables can be eaten raw with a creamy dip, roasted in the oven, pureed into sauces, or cooked in soups and casseroles.

Juices and Other Drinks

In addition to foods, you can also find some potassium in orange juice, milk, coffee, and certain types of non-dairy milk. Check the label to see how much potassium is provided per one-cup serving.

Nuts and Legumes

Beans are a nice meat alternative and can offer up to a whopping 1800 mg of potassium in just a half-cup serving. Peas and lentils, as well as nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews, are also good sources that you can add to soups, salads, casseroles, or grain dishes.

If you’re not sure where to start, try to include at least two or three servings of potassium-containing foods at a meal.

Learn More: 7 Best Healthy Foods To Incorporate Into Your Diet

When Should You Consider Taking a Potassium Supplement?

The best place to find potassium is in whole foods like the ones listed above, as these foods also offer other health benefits. However, if a potassium-rich diet is not feasible, a potassium supplement may be helpful to make sure you’re meeting the AI for this nutrient.

Note that if you take a multivitamin with minerals, these generally include approximately 99 mg of potassium in them already. While this is only a small portion of the AI for potassium, check the label before adding another source of supplemental potassium. Always speak to your doctor before adding a potassium supplement, or other dietary supplements, to your routine to make sure that it’s safe and appropriate for you to do so.

Potassium supplements can come in forms like powders, capsules, liquids, and tablets. The most common forms include potassium chloride, potassium citrate, potassium gluconate, potassium phosphate, potassium bicarbonate, and potassium aspartate. There is no strong evidence that one form is better than the others. [7] Nature Made Potassium Gluconate 550 mg contains 90 mg of potassium, which helps control the normal activity of the heart, muscle, and nerve function.

The Bottom Line

Potassium is a critical nutrient for numerous bodily functions, and many of us aren’t getting enough of it in our diets. Fortunately, it’s easy to find in foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and certain beverages. If you don’t eat a potassium-rich diet or are concerned about your intake, speak to your doctor about adding a potassium supplement.

Learn More About Potassium:

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


  1. Campbell I. Physiology of fluid balance. Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine, 2009;10(12)593-596. doi:10.1016/j.mpaic.2009.09.001
  2. Scales K, Pilsworth J. The importance of fluid balance in clinical practice. Nurs Stand. 2008;22(47):50-60. doi:10.7748/ns2008.
  3. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How does the nervous system work? 2009 Oct 28 [Updated 2016 Aug 19]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279390/
  4. Yang Q, Liu T, Kuklina EV, et al. Sodium and potassium intake and mortality among US adults: prospective data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(13):1183-1191. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.257
  5. Lubin M, Ennis HL. On the role of intracellular potassium in protein synthesis. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1964;80:614-631. doi:10.1016/0926-6550(64)90306-8
  6. Carbohydrate metabolism in potassium deficiency. Nutr Rev. 1950;8(9):278-279. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1950.tb02476.x
  7. Office of dietary supplements - potassium. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/. Accessed October 12, 2022.
  8. Cogswell ME, Zhang Z, Carriquiry AL, et al. Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES 2003-2008. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(3):647-657. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.034413
  9. Devarshi PP, Legette LL, Grant RW, Mitmesser SH. Total estimated usual nutrient intake and nutrient status biomarkers in women of childbearing age and women of menopausal age. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021;113(4):1042-1052. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqaa392. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8023996/. 
  10. Saneei P, Salehi-Abargouei A, Esmaillzadeh A, Azadbakht L. Influence of DASH diet on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis on randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2014;24(12):1253-1261.  
  11. Sheng H-W. Sodium, chloride and potassium. In: Stipanuk M, ed. Biochemical and Physiological Aspects of Human Nutrition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company; 2000:686-710.


Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

NatureMade Contributor

Lauren specializes in plant-based living and vegan and vegetarian diets for all ages. She also enjoys writing about parenting and a wide variety of health, environmental, and nutrition topics. Find her at www.laurenpanoff.com.

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Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

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