Spotlight on Potassium Benefits – Much more than just bananas

Wondering exactly how potassium benefits your health and wondering what foods, other than bananas, can give you your daily dose?

... You've come to the right spot.

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Potassium is a dietary mineral, essential for nerve and muscle function as well as fluid balance. The problem is that we often don’t get enough.

In fact, researchers at University of London estimate that potassium consumption in developed countries is only one third of our evolutionary intake! This is mainly because of increased intake of processed foods combined with a dearth of potassium-rich fruit and veg in the typical Western diet.

No wonder that the typical developed-world-diet is potassium deficient and that many of use aren’t getting the potassium benefits we might.

Spotlight on Potassium Benefits: Other than not enough fruits and veggies, why are we so potassium defiicient?

The problem of too little potassium is exacerbated because of our passion for salted foods and food manufacture’s penchant for putting sodium chloride (and oodles of it) in so many packaged products.

The trend has gotten worse with the surfeit of “low fat” grocery items on offer that are marketed as heart healthy. Often, salt merely replaces the tasty fat, lest the food taste like a dishrag.

The result of all this extra salt can be high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease. So much for how a low fat (but high salt) diet can lead to health problems! Enough potassium rich fruits and veg could help.

Another piece in the potassium deficiency story is magnesium. If you’re not eating enough magnesium rich foods, you won’t be able to retain the potassium you get.


Spotlight on Potassium Benefits:  So what are they?

Key potassium benefits include:

  1. Lowering blood pressure both for those with normal and high levels
  2. Reducing cardiovascular disease risk  including heart attack and stroke
  3. Preventing osteoporosis and bone fracture
  4. Managing kidney stones
  5. Preventing side effects of diuretics
  6. Avoiding glucose intolerance
  7. Preventing heart arrhythmia


Spotlight on Potassium Benefits: Signs you are potassium deficient and who is at risk for deficiency

As mentioned, potassium is essential for nerve and muscle function as well as fluid balance including calcium and sodium balance. Not surprisingly, symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle weakness, heart arrhythmia, low blood pressure, fainting and bone fracture as well as  insulin resistance.  Whoah!

I don’t know about you but I’m for making sure I get enough potassium?

Aside from low intake of potassium foods, dehydration including vomiting and diarrhea can cause potassium deficiency.

Because of this, people with digestive conditions like crohn’s, colitis and IBS are at risk for potassium deficiency.

A magnesium deficiency can contribute to low potassium levels and make it hard to boost your potassium. Untreated diabetes can lead to potassium deficiency through urine excretion.

Potassium Benefits –Food Sources of Potassium per 100 g/3.5 ounces*

*List from Clinical Nutrition, a functional approach, second edition, by Deana Liska among others, published by The Institute for Functional Medicine, 2004

  • Dulse– 8060 mg
  • Kelp -5273 mg
  • Sunflower seeds -920 mg
  • Wheat Germ – 827 mg
  • Almonds – 773 mg
  • Raisins - -763 mg
  • Parsley – 727 mg
  • Brazil nuts – 715mg
  • Peanuts -674 mg
  • Dates – 648 mg
  • Avocado – 604 mg
  • Pecans – 603 mg
  • Yams – 600 mg
  • Swiss chard – 550 mg
  • Soybeans , cooked – 540 mg
  • Garlic – 529 mg
  • Spinach - 470 mg
  • English walnuts – 450 mg
  • Millet – 430 mg
  • Mushrooms – 414 mg
  • Potato with skin – 407 mg
  • Broccoli – 382 mg
  • Meats – 370 mg
  • Winter squash – 360 mg
  • Chicken -366 mg
  • Carrots -341 mg
  • Celery – 341 mg
  • Radishes – 322 mg

  • Cauliflower – 295 mg
  • Watercress – 282 mg
  • Asparagus – 278 mg
  • Red Cabbage – 268 mg
  • Lettuce – 264 mg
  • Cantaloupe – 251 mg
  • Lentils, cooked – 249 mg
  • Tomatoes – 244 mg
  • Sweet potato – 243 mg
  • Papaya – 234 mg
  • Eggplant – 214 mg
  • Green pepper – 213 mg
  • Beets – 208 mg
  • Peach – 202 mg
  • Summer squash – 202 mg
  • Orange – 200 mg
  • Raspberries – 199 mg
  • Cherries – 191 mg
  • Strawberries – 164 mg
  • Grapefruit juice – 162 mg
  • Grapes -158 mg
  • Onions – 157 mg
  • Pineapple – 146 mg
  • Milk whole – 144 mg
  • Lemon juice – 141 mg
  • Pear – 130 mg
  • Eggs – Apple – 110 mg
  • Watermelon – 100 mg
  • Brown rice, cooked - 70 mg

Spotlight on Potassium Benefits: How much do you need to get potassium benefits.*

Recommended  potassium intake for kids

  • Infants birth - 6 months: 400 mg/day
  • Infants 7 months - 12 months: 700 mg/day
  • Children 1 -3 years: 3 grams (3,000 mg)/day
  • Children 4 - 8 years: 3.8 grams (3,800 mg)/day
  • Children 9 - 13 years: 4.5 grams (4,500 mg)/day

Recommended potassium  intake for adults

  • Adults 19 years and older: 4.7 grams (4,700 mg)/day
  • Pregnant women: 4.7 grams (4,700 mg)/day
  • Breastfeeding women: 5.1 grams (5,100 mg)/day

*Source: University of Maryland Medical Center 


Spotlight on Potassium Benefits:  What are the best dietary sources of potassium

In short the best food sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables, especially sea vegetables like dulse and kelp. Use the below list to help get your potassium intake to where it should be.

Spotlight on Potassium Benefits:  Normal range

Potassium is a mineral in which balance is key. Too little (hypokalemia), as seen above, is bad; too much (hyperkalemia) can have negative health consequence too and suggest underlying disease or nutritional problems.

Kidney disease can reduce your ability to excrete potassium leading to high levels that can do further damage, so be careful of potassium supplementation when you are older or at risk for compromised kidney function.

Spotlight on Potassium Benefits:  Supplements

If you need a boost to your potassium intake, consider taking potassium supplements. Many multi-vitamins contain potassium. As well you can supplement separately. The most common forms are potassium acetate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, potassium chloride, and potassium gluconate.

Nutritional potassium supplements often contain dulse or kelp or other sea vegetables, which are available in powder and pill form. This is a relatively safe way to get potassium but, like with mineral source supplements, don’t overdo it.


If you are older, have compromised kidney function or on certain meds, you should check with your doctor before supplementing potassium or any mineral for that matter.

 Remember, whenever we’re talking about minerals including electrolytes we’re talking about balance. Excess intake of any mineral, including potassium, can play havoc with your health. 


Spotlight on Potassium Benefits:  Downside of too much potassium – Conditions in which potassium plays a role

High potassium levels (hyperkalemia), even with normal potassium intake, are the sign of several conditions including kidney disease, certain kinds of adrenal gland dysfunction (the adrenals produce a hormone that regulates electrolytes), certain low blood pressure conditions and for some individuals taking ACE inhibitors or particular kinds of diuretics. A low potassium diet may be necessary in these situations, so check with your doctor if needed. 

If you suffer kidney disease your doctor will test your urine potassium levels.  For more info on how a heart healthy diet is a kidney disease diet and can help slow kidney disease progression, press here.  



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