High Potassium Foods for a Healthy Balance

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
11/8/2010 6:26 AM   :  60 comments   :  33,875 Views





Perhaps you have heard eating a banana or drinking a glass of orange juice or milk can help relieve the pain of leg cramps. Maybe you have read that a diet high in potassium can help reduce blood pressure or the risk of a kidney stone incident.



If you don't battle with any of those issues, you may not be familiar with the benefits of consuming an adequate potassium intake. Minerals work throughout the body to regulate processes and provide structure including potassium.



What is it?

Potassium is a mineral that is necessary for cells, tissues, and organs to function properly in the human body. It is also an electrolyte working with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium to conduct electricity throughout the body. It is vital for proper heart function and plays a significant part in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, which helps maintain a regular heartbeat and aids in peristalsis and digestion.

Potassium serves as the body's major intracellular cation that helps regulate body fluids and cell mineral balance. Small changes between extracellular and intracellular potassium ratios greatly influence neural transmission, muscle contraction, and vascular tone. In healthy individuals, 85 percent of dietary potassium is absorbed and about 80 percent is excreted in urine with the remainder lost in feces or sweat. Too much potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia while too little is called hypokalemia.

How much do I need?

Maintaining the correct level of potassium is dependent on sodium and magnesium amounts in the blood. Because of the relationship between sodium and potassium, the richer the diet in sodium, the more potassium is necessary as well to maintain balance. This is especially true if you cope with sodium-influenced hypertension. Excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, certain medical conditions, or medications can also increase potassium needs. The recommended daily allowances for potassium in adults are 4700 milligrams (4.7 grams) per day but many people consume only about half this amount.

Where do I find it?

In unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables, potassium is predominately found with bicarbonate-generating precursors like citrate and phosphate. These favorably affect acid-base metabolism and reduce risks of calcium kidney stones or bone demineralization. When potassium has been added to processed foods or supplements, it is generally in the form of potassium chloride. In addition to working opposite sodium and potassium to maintain proper serum osmolarity balance, chloride also combines with hydrogen in the stomach to make hydrochloric acid, which can be problematic. It is best to meet your daily potassium needs from whole food sources since it is readily available in fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meats, fish such as salmon, cod or flounder, dairy and legumes.

Some sources of potassium include :

Artichoke

Avocado*

Bananas*

Beans* such as baked, kidney, Lima, pinto, black-eyed peas, chickpeas (including hummus), or lentils

Beets

Black strap molasses*

Bran cereal

Brussel sprouts

Carrots (including carrot juice)

Dried fruits such as raisins, dates, apricots, figs, or prunes (including prune juice)

Kiwi fruit

Meat such as beef, chicken, halibut, pork, salmon and veal

Melons such as cantaloupe or honeydew

Milk and other dairy such as cheese and yogurt

Potatoes* including sweet, white and red

Oranges* as well as orange juice nectarines and tangerines

Squash especially winter*

Spinach

Tomatoes* whether canned or fresh as well as juice including vegetable juice

(*) Denotes highest sources

Additional Considerations

Diuretics are frequently used as part of medical treatment for conditions such as hypertension or congestive heart failure. Some are "potassium sparing" and have little influence on serum potassium levels. Others are "potassium losing" because they increase the urinary excretion of potassium, which can lead to hypokalemia. The body's response and influence on potassium is dose-dependent. Many people can counter balance low dose potassium losing diuretics with a potassium rich diet. Higher doses of diuretics that result in a continual loss of potassium can result in clinical signs and symptoms of potassium deficiency. In those cases, a potassium chloride supplement may be prescribed as well. When taking diuretics or any other medication that influences electrolyte balance, be sure you are seeing your medical provider regularly to have serum potassium levels monitored.

It is not uncommon to experience increased losses of potassium while sweating from extended heat exposure or exercise. A variety of studies found that healthy adults did not experience serum potassium changes despite the increased losses from perspiration but urinary losses were decreased. This indicates that the body is able to make necessary adjustments to maintain proper serum potassium levels to ensure health and safety under normal conditions. If persistent excessive perspiration is experienced frequently, talk with your medical provider about the need for increased potassium requirements.

Many studies have demonstrated a relationship between the modern Western diet and bone demineralization. Epidemiological and metabolic studies over the last several decades found potential causes for bone demineralization leading to osteoporosis and kidney stones related to metabolic acidosis. It is felt that typical Western diet meals and snacks tend to be higher in acid-generating animal proteins and cereal and grain products and lower in bicarbonate-generating plant foods. To decrease your risk, be sure to include fresh fruits and vegetables regularly into your meals and snacks.

The kidneys help ensure the correct amount of potassium is in our body. If the kidneys are not functioning properly it is possible for serum potassium levels to become high which can lead to irregular heartbeats, heart failure or even death. For this reason, it is very important that potassium supplements or salt substitutes (which are potassium chloride) be avoided until you have consulted with your medical provider and are certain of your kidney function.

Symptoms of Hypokalemia

The most notable symptoms of low serum potassium levels are an irregular or rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, muscle spasms, or weakness. If there are other medical conditions accompanying low potassium, people may also experience bladder weakness, fluid retention, increased blood glucose levels, fatigue, weight gain, and impotence. If you experience any of these, it is very important you speak with your medical provider right away.

Tips and Tricks

  • Be sure to select at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day making at least two of them high potassium choices.

  • Eat potatoes with their skin to increase potassium intake. One medium white potato baked with skin will provide 610 mg of potassium.

  • Three servings of dairy in your diet each day from low fat milk, cheese or yogurt can provide nearly one third of your daily potassium needs. Eight ounces of milk offers about 360 mg of potassium while an eight-ounce serving of yogurt can provide 490 mg.

  • Include lean meats into your diet several days a week such as salmon which provides 470 mg of potassium or chicken 410 mg.

  • Almonds make a wonderful protein alternative that is also rich in potassium with four ounces providing a whopping 786 mg. Include them in wraps, salads or as a snack regularly to boost your daily intake.
Do you have a hard time meeting your potassium needs? List some of your favorite high potassium meal or snack ideas that can help people meet their daily needs.



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Comments

  • 60
    One food that really amazed me was Portabella mushrooms (about 630 g of potassium) which I use in place of a burger with some melted fat free mozzerella cheese on a sandwich thin roll . Calories are so low for a whole meal.
    Delicious with a squirt of ketchup or Dijon mustard and any burger fixin's you like. I also started making my snacks fresh fruits; As 'snacky" as I am. the count goes up quickly, although iidon't eat bananas. - 6/10/2013   2:02:25 PM
  • 59
    Thanks for this article - something that really touched me as I know I don't get enough potassium in my diet! - 5/18/2013   3:02:41 PM
  • 58
    Great articlde. I have been wondering about this. - 5/8/2013   6:49:35 AM
  • MSBEEPBEEP
    57
    After reading all these comments re: meeting the 4500 potassium requirement, I am confused! I also eat bananas, lots of spinach, natural almonds, some dried fruits, yogurt, tomatoes, sweet potatoes with skin, etc. but I rarely go over 2500 mg of potassium! Since I am also concerned with calories/carbs/fats in my diet, that limits the quantities that would be required to meet the 4500 goal! I have discovered no salt V-8 juice and will be starting to have two 8 ounce glasses daily....providing 1,640 potassium for a total of only 100 calories (and lots of good nutrition). I suspect that either there are MANY who are way below the 4500 measure OR "hidden potassium" not listed on labels have us all higher than we think? - 7/13/2012   6:18:46 AM
  • 56
    Bananas and avocados are 2 of my favorite foods. I love beans and yogurt too. I eat loads of fruits and veggies and take electrolyte tablets. I tend to get foot and leg cramps at night though if I have not had the electrolyte tablets and/or bananas for a while. I was actually low on potassium but wouldn't take the pills--I opted to eat 4 bananas a day until i was up in the 'normal' range again--a much better alternative. :) - 7/11/2011   10:56:51 PM
  • GREENWELLIES
    55
    This is a very good article for me as I have an allergy to bananas. I know brazil nuts are a good source of potassium but the list gives me a lot more choice. It does seem difficult to reach the daily target, day in and day out. Keep trying. - 7/11/2011   7:19:15 PM
  • 54
    I would like to see more inclusion of potassium and magnesium listed on food labels. I have a very limited diet due to my gastroparesis. I do have a nutritionist that has assisted me eliminating foods I can not tolerate and adding lots of wonderful foods I can. However not all healthy products list how much potassium and magnesium are in them. For example goat milk is high in these two but amount is not listed on the label. - 6/20/2011   4:31:35 PM
  • 53
    I grind my almonds very fine in a blender and use them to coat my fish. Both are good source of potassium. I also have a banana with my shredded wheat and skim milk each morning. - 2/22/2011   12:07:57 AM
  • 52
    So I guess the old saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," has some merrit. Bottom line is that the less processed foods we eat, the better it is all around for our bodies. Really enjoyed this article. Got a lot more good info on this vital mineral. - 1/25/2011   12:51:19 PM
  • 51
    What about Coconut water!! It has way more potassium in it than bananas or potatoes!! There are a lot of brands out there but I usually find I like VitaCoco the most. For the plain coconut water there is the 8.5fl oz (two servings in one container) that is 90 calories. 1030mg Potassium. Sometimes if I'm tired of water and want a sports drink I'll drink that instead, especially if I'm having problems with cramps while exercising. - 1/5/2011   10:31:10 AM
  • HEALTHYGEEK
    50
    I found a nice site where you can find foods rich in potassium - www.caloricious.com - 12/14/2010   3:54:19 PM
  • QUEENCAT25
    49
    No problem here! I love my bananas. - 12/1/2010   1:52:01 AM
  • 48
    No mention here of another great source....Coconut Water. It has 670 mg potassium for 11.2 oz with only 60 calories. That's more than a large banana! O.N.E is one brand but there are several others. It comes plain or with a splash of pineapple, mango or guava. I love to have a cold one after a workout. SO REFRESHING!!! - 11/20/2010   4:13:24 PM
  • DDEZINE
    47
    I was wondering if potassium would help with charlie horse problems. Whenever I exercise alot, I wake up in the middle of the night with a charlie horse in my calves. Really painful. - 11/13/2010   2:22:07 PM
  • 46
    I know how important it is to get the proper diagnosis. I struggled with some of these symptoms and was diagnosed with hypokalemia a while back. Increasing potassium intake did not help. I am on a potassium-sparing diuretic. Even then I remain on average in the low normal end of the range. Potassium is one of the items I track on my nutrition page. - 11/12/2010   5:55:03 AM
  • PAMELALANDIS
    45
    I didn't realize almonds have potassium. Another reason to love the little nuts! - 11/11/2010   12:28:16 PM
  • 44
    Low sodium V-8 or tomato juice is chock full of potassium and good for you! - 11/11/2010   9:16:01 AM
  • 43
    Another reason to beat down my husband's sodium intake. He WON'T reduce the salt and although he takes potassium supplements, he cramps very easily. Now I think I know the reason why. He is getting way too much sodium and not getting enough potassium to counteract it. - 11/11/2010   8:59:19 AM
  • 42
    Even though I eat a healthy diet, it is very rare for me to get enough potassium in one day. Both potassium and magnesium are hard to get sufficient amounts. I wonder if those who say they get enough track it every day. If so, I would like to see their food plans so I could adjust mine.
    PS I take a daily potassium supplement and still can't get enough potassium. - 11/10/2010   8:11:12 PM
  • 41
    I don't have any trouble meeting my potassium needs. i eat quite healthy most of the time. I eat all of the foods above, so things are good. - 11/10/2010   12:50:47 PM
  • ENNAHTUR
    40
    I have leg cramps daily. My Doc. is aware. I eat bananas but did not know about meds for this problem. I will ask my Doc. Thanks for the info. - 11/10/2010   8:56:43 AM
  • 39
    You need to eat 45 bananas a day to get the 4500 mg recommended. I find the easiest way to get potassium is using NO SALT that I buy in the grocery for $2. I take 1 tsp and that is 2500 mg. Now I never have Leg Cramps at night. - 11/10/2010   1:50:15 AM
  • 38
    my potassium is actually too high, so this will help me avoid potassium rich foods. I knew about bananas, but beans? darn, I'll miss them! - 11/9/2010   5:43:30 PM
  • 37
    Looks like I eat a boat-load of high potassium foods -- I eat bananas, almonds, and dairy every day, plus I have Brussels Sprouts, spinach, and sweet potatoes every week. I think I'll start tracking just to see how I'm doing though, because I have been retaining a lot more fluid and been a little more sore than usual the past few weeks! - 11/9/2010   4:11:10 PM
  • JKN049
    36
    Wow! I've been having trouble meeting the potassium requirements - now I have a little extra help. Thank you! - 11/9/2010   12:17:16 PM
  • 35
    Thanks for the article. I new that bananas were a potassium food and new there were more, but was unsure as to what they were. Now I know and can use this list to add in my food selections. - 11/9/2010   12:11:13 PM
  • MIEZEKATZE
    34
    4700 mg a day? Yikes! Even though I love my bananas, avocados and sweet potatoes, I already know that I'm not getting enough! I do take a vitamin pill every day though, so hopefully that counts? - 11/9/2010   11:40:52 AM
  • 33
    I snack on almonds (whole, natural, raw, or dry roasted. I don't eat almonds with added sodium)
    I make fruit smoothies with banana, yogurt, sometimes milk, and lately I've been adding spinach (I also put in berries, flax oil or ground flax seed, and whey protein)
    I eat tomatoes regularly.
    I eat brussel sprouts, melon, kiwi, citrus,dried fruit, carrots, chicken, and halibut.
    I think I've got the potassium covered. - 11/9/2010   9:15:06 AM
  • 32
    Until food packaging lists potassium, I've abandoned hope of knowing how much I consume. I do my best to eat some fruits and vegetables, and cross my fingers that my yogurt and other non-reporting foods are filling in the gaps. - 11/9/2010   7:00:02 AM
  • 31
    So happy to see this article. When I was placed on a diuretic, I was given potassium chloride as a med...but still lost enough potassium that I blacked out while driving. Who knew the role of potassium?? Now I'm on a potassium sparing med...but get my potassium from veggies and fruits...they taste a lot better than those huge pills!! There are a few new veggies here that I didn't know were a source of potassium...so I'll be hitting those artichokes and dried fruits!! Thanks for an important article...especially for those of us with hypertension! - 11/9/2010   6:59:19 AM
  • OMAIMA1
    30
    Many Thanks - 11/9/2010   6:38:19 AM
  • 29
    When I learned of the 4700mg min requirement, I started tracking potassium. I eat up to 10cups of spinach, 5 dates, a banana, raisins, dried apricots and yet I haven't ever been able to meet the requirement and stay in my calorie range.

    I urge everyone to track potassium. Like someone else stated, 400mg for one banana will not get you to 4700 mg.

    The ONLY way I meet this is by having two servings of Trader Joe's Defatted Peanut Flour. Each 1/4 cup has 1,150mg of potassium. I add 2 teaspoons of Agave syrup and enough water to make a creamy peanut butter. Another excellent reason to have this as your peanut butter is that since it has been defatted, it only has 4gm of fat. The jar of Jiff in my cupboard has 16gm for the same serving size. I told a friend and she uses the flour in pancakes, and breads.

    So eating two servings plus all the other foods puts me into the range, and since it is 110 calories, I stay in calorie range too. - 11/9/2010   3:54:26 AM
  • 28
    When I am low on potassium, my skin becomes very sensitive. Very painful to the touch. I up the potassium for a few days and it goes away. - 11/8/2010   11:06:51 PM
  • 27
    I eat a banana everyday and also my doctor has me on prescription potasium for leg cramps. - 11/8/2010   10:21:23 PM
  • 26
    Through blood tests I found out I was deficient in potassium and Vitamin D and I thought it was no big deal. I am finding out differently now and with hypertension in the mix. Gotta find a way to get my potassium levels up. - 11/8/2010   4:40:14 PM
  • 25
    Thanks for the information. It is good to know which other foods have potassium besides bananas. - 11/8/2010   3:09:52 PM
  • 24
    Didn't know all of these foods were great in potassium, it is good to know. - 11/8/2010   3:04:49 PM
  • 23
    Great article, I knew postassium was important it is nice to understand the back ground. Since day one of going on the Sparkdiet, I've made it a point of shooting for the 4700mg of potassium, (most days I make it). The benfit has been, lost a lot more weight than I though possible, my BP is now normal, and my leg cramps have gone away. But I will say my diet is driven by meeting the potassium numbers daily. - 11/8/2010   3:02:59 PM
  • KLOGAN4
    22
    I always have a hard time getting enough potassium. I am grateful for the list of foods high in potassium, hopefully, it will help me get at least the minimum I need. - 11/8/2010   2:24:33 PM
  • SUNSET09
    21
    It's such an easy fruit to eat as well as transport! Didn't know it was that good for me, thanx! - 11/8/2010   2:15:39 PM
  • LARENK
    20
    I don't think I am meeting the target so yes I will track!! - 11/8/2010   1:21:06 PM
  • 19
    I would advise tracking your potassium intake on your nutrition tracker. The 400 mg in a banana doesn't go far when you need 4700 daily. I've been tracking mine for a few months now, and it is very hard to meet. On a day that I had 3 cups of chili, and a smoothie containing 1 cup spinach and banana , I still didn't meet my quota. - 11/8/2010   12:44:01 PM
  • 18
    I think Im good. I eat banannas every week but not daily bc they spoil to quick to catch up. I eat spinich daily, tomatoes, 1% milk, chicken :D - 11/8/2010   12:41:40 PM
  • ANGIESDIET2
    17
    I freaken love bananas so I am in the good. - 11/8/2010   11:36:49 AM
  • 16
    Good information. Love bananas. Will start eating more. - 11/8/2010   11:27:28 AM
  • 15
    I can't even enough Kiwi with the skin on is the best, but I usually fall short even with a 3% tablet supplement. - 11/8/2010   11:16:00 AM
  • TERRIF2U
    14
    I have been having a lot of leg pain lately, I will try and eat more potassium. - 11/8/2010   11:09:22 AM
  • 13
    Four ounces of almonds may provide 786 mg of potassium, but also provide 655 calories and 57 grams of fat (4.4 grams saturated). Just something to keep in mind. - 11/8/2010   11:02:01 AM
  • NGAIBRUCE
    12
    I thought the papaya was one of the best sources of potassium (Really high?). I'm a bit disappointed to find you've omitted such a great food! Makes me wonder if there aren't a lot of other good sources out there? - 11/8/2010   10:54:14 AM
  • 11
    I have been eating more of the potassium rich foods lately but now I am going to start keeping track of my intake. - 11/8/2010   10:48:37 AM

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