Potassium: What You Need To Know

potassium containing foods

Potassium: What You Need To Know

potassium containing foods

By Rachel Green, Contributing Blogger

“Eat your fruits and vegetables,” is the plea of every nutritionist. Why? Unhealthy eating patterns—like diets low in fruits and veggies–contribute to low intake of the following nutrients: potassium, dietary fiber, choline, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, D, E, and C. The new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines identified these as “nutrients of concern”, or nutrients that many people don’t consume enough . Potassium has always been a nutrient of concern and continues to be one in the newly updated guidelines.

Many people are unfamiliar with the pivotal role that potassium plays in our health. This electrolyte, which, is vital to cellular function, is found almost entirely (98%) in the cells with a trace amounts in the blood. Potassium controls water and pH balance, and an inadequate balance could cause the body to retain water and cause unnecessary swelling. Similarly, potassium reduces the risk of high blood pressure and keeps the heartbeat regular. Lastly, it aids in the growth of body tissues such as muscle and helps store carbohydrates in the liver. This makes potassium vital to all you gym-goers!

What causes many people to be at risk of having a potassium deficiency? Eating too many processed foods or foods high in sodium, having high blood pressure, and profusely sweating all require a higher intake of potassium. Furthermore, potassium helps metabolize coffee and other caffeinated drinks, sugar, and alcohol. A potassium deficiency can cause number of health issues, including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and depression. These issues may present with the following symptoms: fatigue, muscle weakness, slow reflexes, dry skin, and/or acne. If deficiency progresses, the symptoms could become much more severe, including nerve disorders, irregular heartbeat, and/or impaired carbohydrate metabolism.

In order to meet the daily nutritional goal of potassium per day, different age groups should strive to consume the following amounts:

  • 1-3 years – 3000 mg
  • 4-8 years – 3800 mg
  • 9-13 years – 4500 mg
  • 14+ years – 4700 mg

These goals can be reached by adding the following best sources of potassium (per 100 grams of food) to the diet:

  • Potato, baked, flesh and skin (1 medium) – 941 mg
  • Prune juice, canned (1 cup) – 707 mg
  • Carrot juice, canned (1 cup) – 689 mg
  • Tomato paste, canned (1/4 cup) – 669
  • Beet greens, cooked from fresh (1/2 cup) – 654 mg
  • Adzuki beans, cooked (1/2 cup) – 612 mg
  • White beans, canned (1/2 cup) – 595 mg
  • Plain yogurt, nonfat (1 cup) – 579 mg
  • Tomato puree (1/2 cup) – 549 mg
  • Sweet potato, baked in skin (1 medium) – 542 mg
  • Salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked (3 oz.) – 534 mg
  • Clams, canned (3 oz.) – 534 mg
  • Plain yogurt, low-fat (1 cup) – 531 mg
  • Chard, Swiss, cooked (1/2 cup) – 481 mg
  • Lima beans, cooked (1/2 cup) – 478 mg
  • Banana (1 medium) – 422 mg

It is a myth that bananas are the best source of potassium – potatoes, tomatoes and tomato products, beans, fish, and fruit juices are just some examples of the many foods that offer a healthy dose of this vital electrolyte!


Rachel Green is a registered dietitian currently working in the food industry. Originally from Pennsylvania, she attended the University of Delaware for biochemistry but quickly realized her interest in nutrition. Since completing her dietetic internship at Cornell University, Rachel has enjoyed gaining experience in many aspects of nutrition, from interning at Shape magazine to working as a cooking counselor at a summer camp. Throughout her career, Rachel aspires to work in nutrition communications, focusing on educating consumers to improve their health and wellness. In her spare time, she loves cooking (of course), traveling, yoga, hiking, gardening, and a tasty cup of strong coffee.

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