Are you getting enough potassium in your diet? Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure by reducing the effect of sodium. About 90 percent of the population in the United States consumes more sodium than recommended with only about 3 percent meeting the recommendations for potassium. Age and racial/ethnic groups have little effect on the amount of sodium and potassium consumed. Research indicates increasing potassium creates a protective effect against hypertension (high blood pressure).
The essential mineral potassium also regulates fluid and mineral balance throughout the body’s cells, helps muscles contract—including your heart—and helps with nerve function. Consuming a high potassium diet has been linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Recent research shows a protective effect of dietary potassium on reducing age-related bone loss and risk of kidney stones. Consuming the recommended potassium levels may be influential in glucose control and the risk of diabetes.
Guidelines from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science recommend people age 14 and over consume at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day. For children ages 9 to 13, the potassium recommendation is 4,500 milligrams per day, with children ages 4 to 8 requiring 3,800 milligrams per day. Recommendations for toddlers ages 1 to 3 years old are 3,000 milligrams daily.
Most people only consume about half of the potassium level recommended. To help increase potassium, try following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet; this is higher in potassium, magnesium and calcium. Eating a variety of potassium rich foods daily is the best way to obtain the potassium the body needs.
If too much potassium is consumed, it is normally excreted from the body without any problems. Some medical conditions such as kidney disorders or heart arrhythmias may require limiting potassium consumption.
Ways to Increase Potassium in your Diet
- Consume five or more (better to consume seven to 11) servings of fruits and vegetables daily, including some high potassium fruits and vegetables. Choose fruits and vegetables for snacks.
- Drink non-fat or low-fat milk or consume low-fat or non-fat yogurt, both of which contain 300-400 milligrams of potassium.
- Include beans and legumes in your meals. If buying canned beans, buy no-salt added canned beans or drain the liquid from the can and rinse the beans to reduce the sodium consumed. You can also choose to cook dry beans or legumes.
- Be sure to prepare sweet potatoes and potatoes with the skin on to get the most potassium.
- Include lean meats such as fish, chicken and turkey in the diet.
Sources of Potassium
Dietary sources of potassium include a wide range of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Foods high in potassium include:
|Food||Portion size||Potassium in milligrams|
|Baked potato with skin||1 medium||941|
|White beans, canned||½ cup||595|
|Plain nonfat yogurt||1 cup||579|
|Sweet potato||1 medium||542|
|Salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked||3 ounces||534|
|Orange juice||1 cup||496|
|Swiss chard, cooked||½ cup||481|
|Chili with beans, canned||½ cup||467|
|Mackerel, halibut or tuna, cooked||3 ounces||443-474|
|Chocolate low-fat milk||1 cup||418-425|
|Spinach, cooked, fresh or canned||½ cup||370-419|
|Milk, white, non-fat||1 cup||382|
|Refried beans, canned||½ cup||380|
|Tomatoes, fresh||½ cup||214|
|Carrots, cooked||½ cup||183|
Many other fruits, vegetables, dairy, beans, fish, poultry, meat and nuts contain potassium. You can check nutrient levels including potassium levels at USDA Food Composition Database.
- American Heart Association. (2016). A Primer on Potassium. Available at sodiumbreakup.heart.org/a_primer_on_potassium.
- Bailey, R.L., Parker, E.A., Rhodes, D.G., Goldman, J.D., Clemens, J.C., Moshfegh, A.J., Thuppal, S.V., & Weaver, C.M. (2016). Estimating Sodium and Potassium Intakes and Their Ratio in the American Diet: Data from the 2011-2012 NHANES. The Journal of Nutrition. Available at web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.ohiostate.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=17a44fb4-a11b-45ea-aec7-e32aa50129c4%40sessionmgr4008&vid=1&hid=4204.
- D'Elia, L., Iannotta, C., Sabino, P., & Ippolito, R. (2014). Potassium-Rich Diet and Risk of Stroke: Updated Meta-Analysis. Nutrition Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. June;24(6): 585-7. Available at https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/pubmed/24780514.
- Eat Right. (2014). What is Potassium? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Available at eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/potassium.
- Lanham-New, S.A., Frassetto, L., & Lamber, H. (2012). Potassium. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal. November 3:820-821. Available at http://advances.nutrition.org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/content/3/6/820.f....
- Medline Plus. (2016). Potassium in Diet. National Institutes of Health. Available at medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002413.htm.
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). USDA Food Composition Data Base. Available at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list?qlookup=&new=1&ds.
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2010, 2016). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010-2015 and Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Available at cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/dietary_guidelines_for_americans/AppendixE-3-12-Potassium.pdf and cnpp.usda.gov/dietary-guidelines.
- Weaver, C. (2013). Potassium and Health. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal. May 4:368S-277S. Available at advances.nutrition.org/content/4/3/368S.full.