Potassium is an electrolyte that is critical in ensuring the proper functioning of your heart, kidneys, and other organs (1).
It’s also a mineral that can be found in most foods.
Among many other functions, your body uses potassium to (1):
- Build proteins
- Break down and use carbohydrates
- Build muscle
- Maintain normal body growth
- Control the electrical activity of the heart
- Control the acid-base balance
- Keep blood pressure in check by lessening the effects of sodium
However, many many people aren’t getting enough of it in their diet. In fact, Michael Greger M.D.. writes the number is as high as 98%. He says 98% of American diets are potassium deficient.
Another source, Harvard Health Publications states, “most healthy Americans consume less than half of the recommended amount of potassium.”
If you are interested, watch Dr. Greger’s 2 minute video below.
Potassium deficiencies are especially more common in people who:
- Use certain medicines, such as diuretics and certain birth control pills
- Have physically demanding jobs
- Are athletes
- Have health conditions that affect their digestive absorption, such as Crohn’s disease
- Have an eating disorder
- Abuse alcohol or drugs
Taking in more potassium from high-potassium foods is beneficial for your health.
According to one four-year-long study published on World’s Healthiest Foods that tracked over 4,000 male health professionals in America, men who ate diets higher in potassium-rich foods had a substantially reduced risk of stroke.
World’s Healthiest Foods
Another evidence is in the potassium-rich DASH diet.
Clinical research shows great reductions of blood pressure in people who follow the DASH diet.
How much should you take?
The Institute of Medicine has set an adequate intake for potassium.
|Category||Adequate Intake (AI)|
|0-6 months||400 mg/day|
|7-12 months||700 mg/day|
|1-3 years||3,000 mg/day|
|4-8 years||3,800 mg/day|
|9-13 years||4,500 mg/day|
|14 years and up||4,700 mg/day|
|18 years and up||4,700 mg/day|
|Pregnant women||4,700 mg/day|
|Breastfeeding women||5,100 mg/day|
There is no set upper limit for potassium. So it’s not clear exactly how much potassium you can take safely.
However, too much potassium (or too low) can be dangerous. Aim just the right amount for optimum health.
As Harvard reports, most Americans consume far too much sodium and too very little potassium, increasing their risk for heart disease and death.
Shifting the eating pattern to include more foods with potassium can help shift the balance.
One of the major “health benefits of potassium” is its ability to lower blood pressure.
Potassium Lowers Blood Pressure
Center of Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 70 million American adults have high blood pressure.
That figure equates to about 30% of the population or 1 in every 3 adults.
They also reported that 1 in 3 adults have prehypertension, a condition that indicates higher than normal blood pressure level but not yet in the high blood pressure range.
For America’s with high blood pressure issue, potassium rich diet may be the cure.
In the study published on Harvard Health Publications, foods high in potassium are shown to help push your blood pressure down.
They also encourage ‘potassium rich foods’ for managing blood pressure over dietary supplements.
They stated lowering blood pressure does not necessarily require a new dietary supplement.
Watching what you eat is an effective tactic to meet your recommended potassium intake.
For most, it seems that eating more potassium rich foods is recommended.
However, not everyone needs to increase it.
According to Healthline, people who have problems with kidneys need to watch how much potassium they consume.
David Heitz, writer of the kidney disease article on healthline.com explains the reasoning.
He writes, “That is because the kidneys regulate potassium. If they aren’t working correctly, the potassium may not be flushed out of the body properly.” To minimize potassium buildup, he recommends a person with chronic kidney disease should stick to a low-potassium diet of between 1,500 and 2,000 milligrams (mg) per day.
Takeaway: You may need more or less potassium depending on your health conditions, but for most people, taking in more potassium is recommended. If you have hypokalemia, low potassium levels or high blood pressure, you may need more potassium.
On contrary, you may need to limit the amount of potassium you take in, if you have hyperkalemia (high potassium levels) or kidney disease.
Most people who eat a healthy diet should get enough potassium naturally.
How to get potassium naturally from foods:
According to Reena Pande, M.D, it’s best to get potassium from food, especially fruits and vegetables.
In general, leafy greens, beans and fruits are all have in potassium.
Here is a comprehensive list of foods high in potassium from Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
WebMD released four categories for potassium foods.
Depending on food’s potassium content, it is classified as a low, medium, high or very high-potassium food.
|Low-potassium foods||Medium-potassium foods||High-potassium foods||Very high-potassium foods|
|less than 100 mg||101-200 mg||201-300 mg||over 300 mg|
Here’s a list of the 8 best foods with potassium.
Bananas are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat for your health.
They are a great source of potassium.
Although bananas are not the most rich source of potassium foods out there, they are certainly the most well known one.
1 medium-size banana contains 422mg of potassium or about 12 % of daily-recommended intake.
As food that contains more than 300mg of potassium is considered rich source.
Banana surely makes the cut and wins the title of very high-potassium.
Although green tea often gets the most credit as the world’s healthiest beverage, its caffeine drink counterpart, coffee is in fact a very healthy drink.
To start, it is loaded with many minerals and beneficial nutriens that can improve your health.
One of them is potassium.
Since coffee contains potassium, you can easily pack in a good amount of potassium at breakfast, from your coffee.
According to USDA coffee’s potassium data, coffee contains as much as 15 mg of potassium per ounce. In a small cup of coffee, you are taking in as much as 116 mg of potassium before you even start your day.
Here is the thing with coffee and potassium.
The actual potassium content in coffee (15mg/oz.) in fact puts coffee into low-potassium food category assuming you only drink one small cup a day.
However, you and I both know that sometimes, it takes a lot more than a small coffee to get through a day.
In fact, Zagat’s study on Americans’ coffee habits shows 82% of coffee lovers drink 2 cups per day on average. And as you age, you drink more, says Zagat showing people in 50s and 60s drink 2.4 drinks per day compared to 1.8 cups teenagers drink.
If you need to up your potassium intake, this might be an ok habit.
However, if you need to limit your daily potassium, sip with caution. Especially us women need to take extra caution as research shows female coffee drinkers prefer lattes over coffee, and milk in the latte is another rich source of potassium (see No. 4: 2% Milk).
If you need to limit your potassium, take the advice from National Kidney Foundation who recommends them limit their daily coffee intake to one cup a day.
3. Beet Greens
Beet greens… It’s about time its name should be added as a synonym to ‘super food’.
Beet greens is like a nutrient-density undefeated champion.
Its nutrition profile includes vitamin K, omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium just to name a few.
But what’s really impressive is its potassium content in them.
According to WebMD’s overview of high potassium foods, one cup of boiled and drained beet greens contains 1309 mg of potassium.
On Potassium Intake of the U.S. Population written by Mary K. Hoy, EdD, RD, and Joseph D. Goldman, MA, cooked beet greens contain 903mg per 100 grams, making it the highest potassium food on their list.
Next time you have a serving of cooked beet greens, know that you are taking in close to 30 percent of your daily recommended potassium.
If you are ordered to limit potassium and your suggested daily recommendation is 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams (mg), you are almost satisfying your daily intake.
4. Milk (2%)
Milk is named a major contributor to dietary potassium by the Dietary Guidelines for America 2005.
In one cup of 2% milk, there is 342 mg of potassium, reported “WebMD”.
According to Melodie Ann, SF Gate Healthy Eating writer, more fatty the milk is, less potassium it contains.
For example, 8 oz of whole milk provides 320mg of potassium compared to 8 oz skim or non-fat milk that has 380 mg of potassium.
5. Baked potato with skin
Normally, I’m not a big fan of potatoes, unless it’s sweet potato.
But when it comes to potassium, it’s only fair I include it in this list of high potassium foods. According to USDA’s nutritional data on a baked potato, 1 medium baked potato with skin contains a whopping 926 mg of potassium.
The secret seems to be in the skin. “Jillian Michael”, America’s favorite trainer writes eating the interior potato flesh will provide 610 mg of potassium, but eating the skin too can nearly double the nutrient value.
Oh, let’s also not forget that white potatoes are higher in potassium than sweet potatoes. Compared to white potatoes, 1 medium-size baked sweet potatoes offer 542 mg of potassium, per USDA data.
6. Chocolate, semi-sweet
Is your potassium level low? Eat chocolate, says Livestrong.com.
Jessica Bruso, livestrong.com writer and nutritionist with Master of Science says chocolate is actually a good source of potassium.
In fact, 1.5 oz. to 2 oz. of chocolate contains more than 200 mg of potassium.
It’s a sweet deal for those who need to up potassium, but a sour one for those who need to limit.
Unlike some potassium foods like beet greens and spinach, chocolate is way too easy to overeat.
Especially when the standard chocolate bar size is 3-4 oz, you can consume more than 400 mg of potassium by finishing the entire bar.
It’s great indulgence for those who need potassium, but it can be the danger zone for those who need less.
Go for dark chocolote with at least 70% cocoa.
Spinach is no doubt a superfood, containing a chock full of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, vitamin B-6, Magnesium and potassium.
In fact, it’s ranked 5 on the list of nutrition powerhouse fruits and vegetables published on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(By the way, beet greens are number 4 on the list. See the list of top 11 superfoods.)
Per “USDA nutrition data”, one cup of boiled spinach contains 839 mg of potassium.
In the DASH diet that promotes the intake of potassium (up to daily recommended amount) and suggests limiting the sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg a day, spinach is their favorite food.
As Stephanie Chandler, SF Gate writer puts it, a diet rich in vegetables like spinach helps most people meet their potassium needs.
There you have it! You just learned what potassium is and how it’s important to your health.
You also learned foods rich in potassium that help with your daily intake of this essential mineral.
Do you know of any other foods we should add to this list? Leave us a comment below to let us know.