Potassium is a crucial electrolyte to your health and wellness. There are countless healthy foods with way more potassium than a banana.
Let me tell you why potassium is so important. It is the third most common mineral in your body. Fun fact right?
Potassium helps to regulate fluid balance, nerve signals and muscle contractions in your body. It does this by interacting with sodium -- the two work together to keep your body's minerals in homeostasis.
How does eating potassium rich foods help you?
There are many powerful health benefits of a high-potassium diet. For example, it can lower blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke and prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones (1).
The big issue is that most adults in Canada and the USA get half of the recommended daily intake of potassium (2).
Most experts recommend getting between 3500-4700 mg per day. What’s interesting is that there are no additional health benefits to getting more potassium, except under extreme conditions.
Athletes or those who perform long, strenuous exercise will lose more potassium from sweat and may need more.
High risk groups like those at risk for osteoporosis, kidney stones, stroke or high blood pressure may benefit from more potassium than 4700 mg per day as well.
Potassium and Fluid Balance
The amount of water in your body is regulated by the concentration of electrolytes, mainly potassium and sodium.
Potassium regulates water inside your cells, while sodium is in charge of the water outside of your cells.
There should be an equal balance of electrolytes both inside and outside the cells within your body.
When they are unbalanced, water will move from one area to another to try to balance electrolyte levels. Your cells will either swell up or shrink, leading to dehydration which can affect your heart and kidneys (3).
Eating potassium rich foods is important to keep you hydrated and regulate fluid balance.
Potassium Regulates Your Nervous System
Eating enough potassium also helps you maintain healthy nerve function. How?
Potassium is needed to generate nerve impulses inside your body.
What are nerve impulses? They basically do everything: from regulating your heartbeat to reflexes and muscle contractions (4).
Potassium’s Important Role in Heart Contractions and Muscle
Low levels of potassium directly affects your muscles ability to work properly, making them weak and useless.
Potassium is also crucial to healthy heart function. Too much or too little will cause an irregular heartbeat (5).
If your heart doesn't work properly then bad things happen. Eventually your heart won’t be able to effectively pump blood to your brain and organs (6).
Potassium Health Benefits
A diet full of potassium rich foods is shown to reduce the likelihood of stroke and heart disease (7).
Adequate potassium in your diet helps your bones stay healthy and strong by reducing how much calcium your body loses in urine (8).
A potassium-rich diet might lower blood pressure by assisting in the removal of excess sodium in your body (9).
Kidney stones are clumps of material, mainly calcium, that are concentrated in urine. We know that potassium lowers calcium in your urine to help fight kidney stones (10).
You can decrease your water retention by consuming large amounts of potassium. This will make you pee which reduces your sodium concentrations (11).
Top 10 Potassium Rich Foods
Want more? See our list of 10 Magnesium-Rich Foods.
1. Beet Greens
1 cup, cooked: 1309 mg - 28% DV
The green leaves of the beetroot plant are edible and have more potent health benefits than the actual beet.
Beet greens are full of Vitamin C to keep your immune system healthy and strong. The naturally occuring Vitamin C also assists in skin, bone, hair and teeth health.
Beet greens also help with eye and vision health because of the high amounts of Vitamin A. Lastly, beet greens are full of fibre, Vitamin K2, iron, copper and manganese.
I roast them in the oven for 5-10 minutes with some oil and salt, then add to whatever I am cooking. They are delicious!
You’ll find similar levels of potassium in swiss chard.
1 whole: 975mg - 21% DV
Certainly having a moment, and for good reason. Avocados are nutrient dense, delicious and full of potassium, fibre and monounsaturated fats (the ‘good’ kind).
Research shows that those who eat avocados tend to have better diets with higher nutrient intake (thanks, captain obvious) but they’re also at a lower risk for metabolic syndrome (12).
3. Acorn Squash
1 cup, cooked: 896mg - 19% DV
Acorn squash is a cool looking vegetable with naturally occurring antioxidants and electrolytes. As a result of carotenoid antioxidants, acorn squash promotes overall health and may protect against heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes (13).
4. Wild-Caught Salmon
4 oz filet: 712mg - 16% DV
Who would have thought salmon had potassium? Salmon is also full of omega 3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA, which are important for just about everything from inflammation to brain development.
Salmon also has high quality protein, Vitamin D, selenium and other fats that are beneficial for skin health too.
5. White Potatoes (With Skin)
1 medium: 620mg - 14% DV
These guys get a bad rep due to the hype around sweet potatoes and yams. However, good ol’ fashioned white potatoes have tons of potassium, magnesium, B6, fibre and antioxidants. They are cost effective and easy to cook and eat. Great source of carbohydrates to fuel your needs.
1 mug (375ml): 600mg - 13% DV
Chicken bone broth is the perfect source of hydrating electrolytes including potassium, phosphorus, chloride and sodium.The slow simmer process and types of bones used is key to extracting the electrolytes into the broth. Bone broth has 26 times more potassium than collagen powder and 1.5 times that of a banana.
7. Coconut Water
1 cup: 600mg - 13% DV
Another liquid with lots of potassium is coconut water. Be careful with drinking coconut water as most of the over the counter versions are full of sugar and excess calories. Check the nutrition label to ensure there are limited added ingredients. That being said, coconut water is a great solution if you are low on electrolytes and hydration.
8. Mushrooms (White or Portobello)
1 cup, cooked: 555mg - 12% DV
White mushrooms have a variety of vitamins and minerals offering many health benefits. These include cholesterol-controlling effects, cancer-fighting properties and gut health (14). Mushrooms are also high in B vitamins, low in calories and relatively high in protein.
9. Large White Beans or Lima Beans
½ cup, cooked: 502mg - 10% DV
White beans are full of fiber, protein, potassium and vitamin B6. Fiber is important to your overall health and wellness as it helps you control blood sugar and protects you from chronic diseases.
10. Vegetable Stock
1 mug (350ml): 450mg - 9% DV
Properly made vegetable stock is the perfect complement to your cooking. It also has all your electrolytes in perfect balance including: potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride, calcium and sodium.
This is a shameless plug for our vegetable stock with superfoods like reishi and shiitake mushrooms, wakame seaweed, ginger and garlic. Easily the best tasting vegetable stock you’ll ever try.
Do I Need To Take A Potassium Supplement
You do not need to take a potassium supplement in most cases. Why? Most countries limit the dosage of potassium supplements to 100mg per serving or 2% of your daily intake.
This is because potassium supplements are dangerous in high amounts to gut and heart health (15). You are better off getting potassium from whole foods.
The Bottom Line
- Potassium is incredibly important to maintaining your fluid-electrolyte balance, muscle and nerve health within your body.
- If you want to perform better and live a long and healthy life, you should eat more potassium rich foods.
- There are many delicious foods (not just bananas) that are naturally high in potassium.
Questions About Potassium
How can I raise my potassium levels quickly?
Good news! You can raise your potassium levels quickly by eating potassium rich foods listed in this article. These include beet greens, avocado, potato, acorn squash, salmon, bone broth and vegetable stock.
What food has more potassium than bananas?
There are countless foods with way more potassium than bananas. White beans, potatoes, avocados are common foods with double the potassium.
Can drinking too much water lower potassium levels?
Drinking too much water without necessary electrolytes in balance can lower your potassium levels. It is best to drink water with necessary electrolytes from food to keep your fluid balance in check.
What are signs of potassium deficiency?
Early signs of potassium deficiency include: fatigue, muscle cramps, constipation, weakness and abnormal heartbeat.
Photo by Pexels, Unsplash.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the CFIA or FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.