It's rare for a teenager to suffer from hypokalemia -- potassium deficiency -- because potassium is present in such a wide range of foods, but if he's recently been ill with vomiting or diarrhea, he might need a little boost. How much potassium does your teen need daily, and where does it come from?
Ideally, teens need 4,700 mg of potassium in any given day -- the same as an adult. This might sound high, but it's easily achieved by eating a variety of healthy foods every day. The key is eating a range of foods from across the groups, with a concentration on fruits and vegetables. Five daily servings alone of fresh or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables will keep your teen's potassium level where it needs to be.
Foods with Potassium
Encourage your teen to eat vegetables such as broccoli, potatoes, spinach, squash and tomatoes to help boost potassium levels. Fruits such as bananas, avocados and cantaloupe are beneficial as well. Serve meals featuring beef, pork, fish or poultry with sides of split peas or beans. Breakfast items including milk and dairy products, such as yogurt, provide reliable sources of potassium, as do wheat germ and bran cereals.
Too Much Versus Too Little
Never begin a regimen of potassium supplements or administer multivitamins containing potassium without first consulting a doctor. Too much potassium -- hyperkalemia -- can cause irregularities in heart rhythm and kidney malfunction. It often results from a combination of factors, such as a prior medical condition, potassium-rich diet and the ingestion of potassium supplements. Too little potassium in the body is called hypokalemia; symptoms may include constipation and fatigue. Eating disorders, antibiotics and illness accompanied by severe bouts of diarrhea and vomiting may contribute to hypokalemia.
Eating well is always a smart choice, even for teens with no potassium issues. A healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, legumes, meats and whole grains goes a long way toward preventing the onset of a number of undesirable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. If you're worried about your teen not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals, pump up his meals with good, healthy foods before looking to bottled supplements.