Coffee has an extensive myriad of health benefits to show for. From the caffeine dose that wakes you up and readies you for the day, to its richness in antioxidants, which reduces inflammation too. But does it have any effects on the Potassium levels in your body and in turn your overall health?
The caffeine in coffee can affect your potassium and can make you lose it faster through your urine.
This happens because the properties of caffeine make your body filter out minerals to produce more urine while also increasing the need for you to go to the bathroom.
However, if caffeine is consumed in moderate amounts, which is around 400 milligrams or less in a day, it should be safe and have little to no negative effects.
There are many things that play into the amount of potassium in, as well as entering and exiting our bodies.
Keep reading to get a deeper look at this nutrient and how coffee plays a role as part of your diet.
A Quick Primer on Potassium
Whether you need to understand potassium due to health issues or just would like to know the importance of this nutrient here is a quick rundown:
Potassium is a mineral that is an electrolyte. One of the most important functions of the electrolytes in our bodies is that they conduct the electric impulses from our nervous system into our muscles. They are a means to “send commands” to the muscles telling them to contract, or tighten, or to relax.
Electrolytes also balance the acidity and alkalinity in your body, also known as pH.
Other important functions Potassium helps include:
- Blood pressure
- Digestive health
- Heart health
- Water balance
- Conducting electricity through the body
Along with Potassium, you need a balance of all essential electrolytes, which include Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, Bicarbonate, Phosphorus, and Chloride.
What are some sources of Potassium and other electrolytes?
You’ll often find Potassium teaming together with other electrolytes in foods including, but some that are the richest in potassium include:
- Lean meats
- Potatoes (these have the highest potassium of any food)
- Coconut Water
- Leafy greens like spinach or bok choy
Does Drinking Coffee Affect the Potassium in my body?
Drinking coffee may cause us to lose potassium if consumed in excess.
However, it’s worth noting that coffee when consumed in moderation, is one of the healthiest drinks in the world!
Coffee is rich in antioxidants, and the compounds in its caffeine help with things circulation, heart health, and weight loss while the caffeine itself stimulates our nervous system, giving us energy.
How can Coffee Cause My Potassium to Drop?
It is not the coffee itself per se, but the caffeine in the coffee. Caffeine is both a stimulant and a diuretic.
It stimulates your nervous system and makes you alert, but it makes your body engage in diuresis: the process of making more urine in the kidneys. This is usually done to get rid of excess materials and minerals.
If you’ve ever had high blood pressure or know someone who has high blood pressure you may have heard of medications called “salt pills” which are diuretics that make you lose water in order to lose excess sodium.
However, caffeine and diuretics in general also make you lose other minerals, potassium being one of them.
So by causing you to urinate more often, coffee can reduce the amount of potassium in your blood and cause problems.
This usually happens when too much caffeine is consumed. The question is, how much is too much caffeine?
The safe limit for the average size adult without any major health issues is about 300 mg – 400 mg of caffeine. Note that it’s for the average, many people will have to adjust the amount to fit their body’s limits.
In terms of how many cups of brewed coffee that is, it takes about 4 cups to reach the maximum 400 mg. Caffeine limit.
Going over 500 mg and above can lead to some problems.
Some minor negative effects include irregular or fast heartbeat, tremors, heart palpitations, insomnia, dehydration, and Hypokalaemia, which is most important one when looking at our body’s potassium.
What is Hypokalemia and How Can Coffee Cause It?
Hypokalemia is when the potassium in your blood is too low. Not to be confused with Hyperkalemia, where the potassium is too high. You won’t start experiencing symptoms until your potassium is very low.
When you do, those symptoms include fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, digestive problems, and irregular heart rhythm if it gets severe.
One study from 2010 documents a woman who had experienced Hypokalemia that was confirmed by researchers was caused by too much coffee consumption.
It was only after she stopped drinking coffee and with the aid of potassium supplements did her ailment get better.
The Key to Healthy Potassium Levels is to Regulate Coffee Consumption
In order to maintain a healthy amount of potassium in your blood and not get too low is to moderate the amount of coffee and caffeine you drink in a day.
400 milligrams or less is the safe amount for adults to consume while still getting the benefits of a couple of cups of joe.