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Potassium
Recommended daily allowance: 3500 mg (milligrams)

Symptoms of deficiency: Heartbeat irregularity, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in the legs, confusion, hypokalemia.

Benefits: Regulates blood pressure, normal muscle contraction, promotes regular heartbeat, maintains water balance in tissues and cells, causes normal function in body cells.

Good food sources: Potatoes, fresh fruit, fish, citrus and tomato juices, milk, nuts, raisins, canned sardines, whole grain cereals. Fruits that contain significant sources of potassium are citrus fruits, apples, bananas, and apricots. Dried apricots contain more potassium than fresh apricots.

Cautions: Consult your doctor if you have diabetes or kidney disease or take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, diuretics, ACE inhibitors and heart medications.

Substance interactions: These medications cause excessive rise in blood potassium levels: amiloride, captopril, enalapril, spironolactone, triamterene. These increase the possibility of intestinal ulcers: atopine, belladonna. These decrease potassium's effect: laxatives, cortisone. Calcium increases possibility of irregular heartbeat.

Signs of toxicity: Irregular or fast heartbeat, paralysis of limbs, drop in blood pressure, convulsions, coma, cardiac arrest, black or bloody stool, diarrhea, confusion, breathing difficulty, vomiting.

* Dietary sources of potassium are better absorbed than supplements. Supplements may be necessary for those who take diuretic medications or digitalis, which cause the body to secrete potassium.

* Some doctors recommend potassium chloride more than the other forms (bicarbonate, citrate, gluconate) as it is better absorbed by the body.

* Processing reduces the amount of potassium in foods. Try to eat the skins of fruits and vegetables when possible. Don't cook foods in large amounts of water.

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