Iron and potassium are both essential minerals, meaning that your body requires them for normal function, yet it cannot make them. You must, therefore, get them from your diet. Neither of them directly provides your body with energy, yet lacking either of them can interfere with your body's ability to derive energy from foods. Both minerals differ in that, while iron is a trace or micro-mineral, potassium is a major mineral. By definition, your body needs major minerals-also known as macro-minerals-in relatively large quantities. In contrast, you only need small amounts of micro-minerals for optimal health.
Iron is a key constituent of hemoglobin and myoglobin, the two main proteins responsible for oxygen transport and storage. Hemoglobin occurs in all your red blood cells, while you find myoglobin n muscle tissue. Iron also gives structure to various enzymes and helps your body synthesize DNA, your genetic material. Potassium plays a number of critical roles. It helps with muscle contraction, nerve activity, energy production and the synthesis of genetic material. It also maintains fluid volume in your body and counters the blood pressure-raising effect of excess sodium.
Recommended Intake and Sources
According to the Physician's Desk Reference, your recommended daily iron intake is 8 milligrams if you are a man above age 18 or a woman older than 50. Other adult women need 18 milligrams daily and should increase their intake to 27 milligrams during pregnancy. The PDR considers a daily potassium intake of 4,700 milligrams adequate for all healthy adults, including pregnant women. Organ meats, oysters, egg yolks and red meats provide the richest dietary iron sources. In contrast, fruits and vegetables-including green leafy vegetables, dates, potatoes and bananas-are your best sources of dietary potassium.
Low levels of iron lead to iron deficiency anemia, a condition that is characterized by weakness, shortness of breath and paleness. According to nutrition columnist and author Carol Ann Rinzler, mild iron deficiencies can also negatively affect mental performance. Deficiencies in potassium can result from vomiting, diarrhea, certain gland disorders or medications. Severely low potassium in your blood can lead to muscle weakness, twitching, heart rhythms disturbances or paralysis.
Iron can accumulate in your body as a result of chronic alcoholism, repeated transfusions, iron therapy or an overdose of supplements. According to the Merck Manual Home Health Handbook, a genetic condition known as hemochromatosis is an additional, although rare, cause. Excess iron can cause vomiting, diarrhea and bowel damage. In the long run, it can also damage some of the arteries leading to your heart. High potassium levels can result from kidney disorders, certain medications or excessive dietary intake-especially from supplement overdose. Excessive blood potassium levels cause abnormal heart rhythms. According to the Merck Manual, your heart can stop beating if the levels are very high.