- Related Resources - Are You Getting Enough Potassium in Your Diet?
- Fat-Fighting Foods Slideshow
- Food Frauds Slideshow Pictures
- Take the Diet & Nutrition Quiz
- Why is potassium so important?
- What is potassium? What does it do?
- How much potassium do you need each day?
- What foods are rich in potassium?
- How can you raise your potassium levels?
- How does potassium in the diet lower blood pressure? Can it prevent bone loss?
- What is the DASH Diet?
- What drugs effect potassium levels?
- Can low potassium levels be dangerous?
Why is potassium so important?
As a key player in good overall health, you may not be getting enough potassium - the vital mineral essential to ensuring optimal health. Understanding how potassium contributes to good health and determining which foods give you the most potassium bang for your buck will ensure you don't miss the many benefits of this powerful nutrient.
What is potassium? What does it do?
Potassium is an important electrolyte, and is one of the main minerals in the blood. A person cannot live without potassium. Potassium helps carry electrical signals to cells in your body and is essential to ensure our nerve and muscles cells, particularly heart muscle cells, are functioning properly. However, often, potassium is taken for granted despite its role in maintaining fluid balance, and keeping your brain, nerves, heart, and muscles functioning normally.
Eating enough potassium daily is a necessary component to feeling your best, and to help prevent certain chronic conditions. Falling short on potassium on a regular basis could jeopardize your long-term health in more ways than one.
How much potassium do you need each day?
Experts suggest 4,700 milligrams of dietary potassium a day for adults as part of a balanced diet. However, studies show the average intake for U.S. adults averages only 3,200 milligrams per day. Women on average, only ingest an average of 2,400 milligrams.
Why aren't we getting enough potassium? "Relying on convenience and restaurants foods and not eating enough fruits and vegetables is why so many people don't get enough potassium," Heller says. "Fresh and lightly processed foods, including dairy and meat, have the most potassium."
But cooking fruits and vegetables at home is not enough. The way in which you cook determines the potassium levels in produce, too. For example, boiling depletes potassium. That means a boiled potato has almost half the potassium of a baked potato. To preserve potassium in the foods you eat, aim to either leave them raw, roast or lightly steam them.
Of course it's not always possible to eat home cooked meals, so when dining out, make an effort to increase potassium by ordering a side salad, extra roasted vegetables, bean-based dishes, fresh fruit, and low-fat milk instead of soda.
What foods are rich in potassium?
While it may seem easier to add potassium into your diet with vitamins and supplements, experts encourage incorporating whole foods into your diet to meet potassium needs. The great news is many fruits and vegetables contain potassium, including potatoes, white beans, and squash. Interested in learning which foods you should consider adding to your current diet? We've rounded up a list of ideas to get you started.
- Winter squash, cubed, 1 cup, cooked: 896 mg
- Sweet potato, medium, baked with skin: 694 mg
- Potato, medium, baked with skin: 610 mg
- White beans, canned, drained, half cup: 595 mg
- Yogurt, fat-free, 1 cup: 579 mg
- Beets, 1 cup, cooked: 518 mg
- Halibut, 3 ounces, cooked: 490 mg
- 100% orange juice, 8 ounces: 496 mg
- Broccoli, 1 cup, cooked: 457 mg
- Cantaloupe, cubed, 1 cup: 431 mg
- Banana, 1 medium: 422 mg
- Pork tenderloin, 3 ounces, cooked: 382 mg
- Lentils, half cup, cooked: 366 mg
- Milk, 1% low fat, 8 ounces: 366 mg
- Salmon, farmed Atlantic, 3 ounces, cooked: 326 mg
- Pistachios, shelled, 1 ounce, dry roasted: 295 mg
- Raisins, quarter cup: 250 mg
- Chicken breast, 3 ounces, cooked: 218 mg
- Tuna, light, canned, drained, 3 ounces: 201 mg
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- The Predicted 'Tripledemic' Is Here: Why Isn't There an RSV Vaccine?
- 'Tumor Progressing,' 'Positive Findings': Patients Often Confused by Medical Jargon
- Seizures Seem Tied to Faster Decline in People With Dementia
- Few Americans Understand Alcohol's Impact on Cancer Risk: Survey
- Frozen Stuffed Chicken Products & Microwave Ovens: A Recipe for Salmonella
- More Health News »
How can you raise your potassium levels?
Potassium levels in your body are influenced by several factors beyond diet, including kidney function, hormones, as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications. People who take thiazide diuretics, often used to treat high blood pressure, may need more potassium. That's because thiazide diuretics promote potassium loss from the body. Steroids and laxatives also deplete potassium. Other drugs used to lower blood pressure, including beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, raise potassium levels in the body. People with reduced kidney function may need to limit their daily potassium intake.
In order to determine the proper potassium levels for you, talk to your doctor for recommendations.
How does potassium in the diet lower blood pressure? Can it prevent bone loss?
"Potassium in the diet lowers blood pressure. High blood pressure is the major risk factor for stroke and heart disease," says Lawrence Appel, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and international health at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
Appel, who studied the effects of diet on blood pressure, also advises that potassium may curb elevated blood pressure by contributing to more flexible arteries, and by helping the body get rid of excess sodium. Sodium promotes fluid retention, which may result in higher blood pressure.
Maintaining healthy levels of blood potassium is extremely important. While kidneys help regulate potassium levels in our blood, age, diabetes, heart failure, and other conditions may impair kidney function. As a result, potassium levels can rise to high levels called hyperkalemia, which can lead to dangerous arrhythmia, a heart rhythm disorders, and cardiac arrest, which usually is fatal.
Potassium may bolster bone strength by helping guard against bone loss. Potassium-rich diets also may help reduce the risk for kidney stones.
What is the DASH Diet?
While there's more to lowering blood pressure than a single mineral, potassium can be a great place to start. "Diets that include foods rich in potassium are associated with lower blood pressure, but it's not entirely accurate to give all the credit to potassium," says Marla Heller, MS, RD.
Of all the diets created to address blood pressure, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet contains healthy eating strategies to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Heller, author of The DASH Diet Action Plan, says the DASH diet is based around large amounts of fruits and vegetables, low-fat and nonfat dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean meats, fish, and poultry. Not only is the DASH diet is a treasure trove of potassium, it's also rich in calcium and magnesium, and minerals, which help reduce blood pressure.
Appel researched the effects of the DASH diet on elevated blood pressure and found that it's capable of lowering blood pressure (hypotension), often in a matter of weeks. Additionally, controlling blood pressure, potassium-rich diets have also been linked to lowering the risk of stroke.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating Resources
What drugs effect potassium levels?
Some blood pressure medications, especially diuretics, can have an averse affect on potassium levels. Some will lower potassium levels while others may have the opposite effect raising potassium levels (hyperkalemia). Common pain relievers may effect potassium levels, including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your potassium levels in the blood. He or she can design a health plan to maintain normal potassium in the blood.
Can low potassium levels be dangerous?
Understanding the benefits of a high-potassium diet is not enough. Hypokalemia, also known as lower than normal levels of potassium in your bloodstream, has many dangerous side effects. A blood test can determine if you have low levels of potassium. Rarely, low levels can cause isolated symptoms including muscle cramps, weakness, fatigue, and constipation. If you believe you may be suffering from low levels of potassium, call you doctor to discuss any health concerns that you have.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Are You Getting Enough Potassium in Your Diet Related Articles
Colon Polyps: Symptoms, Causes, Cancer Risk, Treatment, and PreventionColon polyps are common growths on the inner lining of the colon. Colon polyps may become cancerous. There are several different types of colon polyps, and the chance of the polyp becoming cancerous depends on the type, size, and histology. Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding are the most common symptoms of colon polyps. Treatment for colon polyps depend on the type, size, and histology.
DiarrheaDiarrhea is a change is the frequency and looseness of bowel movements. Symptoms associated with diarrhea are cramping, abdominal pain, and the sensation of rectal urgency. Causes of diarrhea include viral, bacterial, or parasite infection, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and drugs. Absorbents and anti-motility medications are used to treat diarrhea.
Digestive Disorders: Worst Foods for DigestionDiscover which foods to avoid in order to prevent diarrhea and digestive problems. Find out which foods can trigger diarrhea and other digestive problems such as gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn and more.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)An electrocardiogram is known by the acronyms "ECG" or "EKG" more commonly used for this noninvasive procedure to record the electrical activity of the heart. An EKG generally is performed as part of a routine physical exam, part of a cardiac exercise stress test, or part of the evaluation of symptoms. Symptoms evaluated include palpitations, fainting, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or chest pain.
ElectrolytesElectrolytes are substances that become ions in solution and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. The balance of the electrolytes in our bodies is essential for normal function of our cells and our organs. Common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate. The functions and normal range values for these electrolytes are important, and if an electrolyte is at an extreme low or high, it can be fatal.
Heart Palpitations: 14 Possible Causes and Should You Worry?Heart palpitations are caused by stress, exercise, caffeine, nicotine, hormone changes, fever, medications, low blood sugar, overactive thyroid, heart rhythm problems, alcohol, PVCs, and illegal drugs. Doctors may use tests like an ECG, Holter monitor, event monitor, and electrocardiogram to help diagnose the underlying cause of heart palpitations.
Laxatives for ConstipationLaxatives types for treatment of constipation include over-the-counter (OTC) preparations, for example, bulk-forming laxatives, stool softeners, lubricant laxatives, stimulant or saline laxatives, enemas, and suppositories. Some OTC laxatives are not recommended for people with specific diseases or conditions (for example, people with diabetes). Some laxatives may have negative side effects if taken over a long time. Laxatives are not recommended for weight loss.
Low Potassium (Hypokalemia)
Potassium is an essential electrolyte necessary for cell function. Low potassium (hypokalemia) may be caused by diarrhea, vomiting, ileostomy, colon polyps, laxative use, diuretics, elevated corticosteroid levels, renal artery stenosis, and renal tubular acidosis, or other medications. Symptoms of low potassium include weakness, aches, and cramps of the muscles. Treatment is dependent upon the cause of the low potassium (hypokalemia).
Muscle CrampsMuscle cramps are involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscles that do not relax. Extremely common, any muscles that have voluntary control, including some organs, are subject to cramp. Since there is such variety in the types of muscle cramps that can occur, many causes and preventative medications are known. Stretching is the most common way to stop or prevent most muscle cramps.
Muscle Cramps (Charley Horse) and Muscle SpasmsWhat are the differences between muscle spasms and cramps? Learn about the causes of muscle spasms and cramps (charley horse) in the calf, leg, and more.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is an uneasiness of the stomach that often precedes vomiting. Nausea and vomiting are not diseases, but they are symptoms of many conditions. There are numerous cases of nausea and vomiting. Some causes may not require medical treatment, for example, motion sickness, and other causes may require medical treatment by a doctor, for example, heart attack, lung infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Some causes of nausea and vomiting may be life-threatening, for example, heart attack, abdominal obstruction, and cancers.
Treatment of nausea and vomiting depends upon the cause.
How to Get Rid of Nausea and VomitingWhat is nausea? Do you want to know how to get rid of nausea and how to stop vomiting? Learn home remedies for nausea, anti-nausea medication, what causes nausea, and other info crucial to nausea relief. Understand why we vomit, how vomiting can be treated or prevented, and more.
PalpitationsPalpitations are uncomfortable sensations of the heart beating hard, rapidly, or irregularly. Some types of palpitations are benign, while others are more serious. Palpitations are diagnosed by taking the patient history and by performing an EKG or heart monitoring along with blood tests. An electrophysiology study may also be performed. Treatment of palpitations may include lifestyle changes, medication, ablation, or implantation of a pacemaker. The prognosis if palpitations depends on the underlying cause.
Salt & Low Sodium Diet QuizDo you love salt? Take the online Salt Quiz to get the facts about dietary salts and sodium in fruits, vegetables, processed foods, snacks and soups!
Which Fruits Are High in Potassium?Potassium is an important mineral that plays a vital role in the body. Fruits that are high in potassium include bananas, cantaloupe, oranges, avocados, grapefruit, apricots, honeydew, guava and kiwi.