We have all heard that potassium-rich foods are important for us. But potassium is another one of those mystifying minerals whose name we know but whose qualities we don’t always understand. Potassium is considered one of the most important minerals inside the human body. This crucial component works with the body to establish and maintain a balance of fluid. This balance helps prevent cramping, high blood pressure, kidneys stones, and bone degeneration. In other words, potassium is pretty important. Funnily enough, this necessary mineral is one that many adults do not consume enough daily. The reason is fact is almost funny is because potassium is very easy to come by, and most potassium-rich foods are truly delicious. If you find that you are potassium deficient or just running low on potassium in general, you do not need to worry. It is a mineral that is easy to come by and simple to incorporate into your diet.
Table of Contents
- Why Do We Need Potassium?
- What Are The Recommended Intakes For Potassium?
- Top Foods High in Potassium
Why Do We Need Potassium?
For starters, potassium is found in every tissue in the human body. Without potassium, your body cannot run as well as it would if this necessary nutrient were present. Potassium is a proactive mineral that protects the body. Among the many illnesses that it prevents include cardiovascular disease, specifically high blood pressure and risk of stroke. Potassium also works with your kidneys to help them continue to run smoothly. Furthermore, potassium helps regulate blood glucose levels, which reduces a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes. Potassium acts as a counterbalancing force to sodium. We know that the body needs sodium. Too much sodium throws the body’s systems out of equilibrium, though. By increasing your daily dose of potassium, you can balance out the amount of sodium in your body and keep your blood pressure more regulated.
What Are The Recommended Intakes For Potassium?
The recommended intakes for potassium depends on your gender and your age. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “The recommended intake of potassium for adolescents and adults is 4,700 mg/day”. When it comes to adults, we’re all the same in what we need. On the other hand, when it comes to children, the recommended intake varies based on gender and age. The USDA states, “Recommended intakes for potassium for children 1 to 3 years of age is 3,000 mg/day. 4 to 8 years of age is 3,800 mg/day, and 9 to 13 years of age is 4,500 mg/day”. Unfortunately, most children and adults do not get enough potassium in their daily diet. The National Institutes of Health reports that males aged 2-19 receive roughly half of what they need when it comes to potassium. Females aged 2-19 fare far worse, only ingesting about a third of what they need. Finally, they found that “in adults aged 20 and over, the average daily potassium intake from foods is 3,016 mg for men and 2,320 mg for women.” Fortunately, this problem is an easy one to remedy since potassium needs can be met just by increasing the number of certain high potassium foods.
Top Foods High in Potassium
Several food groups serve up high doses of potassium. Fruits are definitely the strongest source of potassium. Legumes are another great way to meet your daily recommended intake of the essential mineral. Leafy greens and root vegetables also offer hearty doses of potassium into your diet, and finally, fish is a great, albeit unlikely, spring of potassium. By incorporating more of these foods into your diet, you will be able to meet your potassium goal in no time!
Fruits are one of the best sources of potassium. They are also one of the most adaptable. You can work these potassium sources into literally any meal of the day without it being a hassle or prohibitively expensive. Not to mention, fruits that have high amounts of potassium in them also tend to be some of the tastier ones out there.
A single avocado contains a whopping 975mg of potassium. This creamy fruit is perfect on its own, on whole-grain toast, added into salads or worked into one of your favorite entrees.
Bananas are known for their high levels of potassium. Especially if you were an athlete at any time in your life, you have probably heard a coach tell you to eat a banana after working out to prevent cramps. A medium banana contains 422mg of potassium, just shy of 9% of what an adult needs in a day. Have a banana for breakfast and start the day right!
A whole pomegranate contains 666mg of potassium. Half a cup of those yummy seeds on the inside contains about 205mg. These sweet treats are great in yogurt, smoothies, salads, or even as a garnish for protein-heavy meals. Potassium never tasted so sweet!
A cup of cubed acorn squash contains 486mg of potassium. Acorn squash is so versatile and is great during all seasons of the year. Acorn squash is the perfect fruit to have in a stew, soup or bisque, and they also make a great addition to one-sheet bakes.
A cup of dried apricots contains 1510mg of potassium, though a smaller serving is often recommended, as dried apricots also pack on the sugar. These little treats are the perfect snack for a weekend hike and are also great when worked into salads.
An 8oz serving of coconut water contains 410mg, or 10% of your daily recommended intake, of potassium on average. Coconut water is a refreshing beverage on its own and is also an excellent base for smoothies, as well.
Legumes are known to be a versatile food group. They are high in fiber, helping your gastrointestinal system to stay regular and your appetite satiated. They are excellent sources of protein, making them a great alternative to meat. Finally, they are a surprising source of potassium that is a cinch to work into a lunch or dinner any day of the week. In fact, legumes are one of the best sources of potassium out of any food group on this list, so feel free to work them into as many meals as you can this week!
When it comes to potassium, lima beans are where it’s at! A single cup of lima beans contains 729mg of potassium. Lima beans are great in soups and are a fantastic source of fiber, bringing in about half of what an adult needs in a day.
White beans are another great way to work more potassium into your diet. A single cup of canned white beans serves up 1190mg of potassium. Like lima beans, white beans are also a great source of fiber and are the perfect addition to any soup.
You may not have liked them as a kid. In fact, I do not think I can name a single kid I grew up with who enjoyed peas or even tolerated them. As an adult in search of potassium, though, you might not be so quick to turn your nose up at peas. A cup of peas has 354mg of potassium. This lovely legume is an excellent addition to any meal as a side dish but is also great in casseroles and soups as well. You can eat them raw, pureed, baked into a pie or even mixed in with some carrots like you did (or said you did!) as a kid. Pack on the potassium!
You might be noticing a theme here. Leafy green vegetables are pretty much good for you for every reason under the sun. They are an excellent source of vitamins. They are the premier place to get magnesium into your diet. They are even rich in antioxidants.
With regard to potassium, they even have you covered there. Leafy green vegetables do not have as much potassium as some of the other groups on the list (here’s looking at you, legumes!). They are still an outstanding source of potassium that you can easily work into any meal of the day.
A cup of Swiss chards has 136mg of potassium. Swiss chards are perfect raw in a salad, retain their potassium when sautéed with your favorite lean protein and are particularly palatable when baked in the oven.
Spinach is another versatile leafy green that is a good way to get more potassium into your diet. A cup of spinach contains 167mg of potassium. Spinach is great on its own, an excellent addition to any salad, almost imperceptible when blended into a smoothie and downright delectable when baked in the oven.
You really do not hear about root vegetables all that often. In general, though, root vegetables are a truly solid source of potassium. They are also one of the heartier sources of potassium on this list, so try working them into your lunch or dinner meals this week! Your taste buds will surely thank you.
Not that anyone ever needs an excuse to chow down on a sweet potato, but they are a great source of potassium. In fact, a cup of sweet potato contains 448mg of the necessary nutrient. Sweet potatoes are delicious when simply baked but are also great in stews, soups, and casseroles as well.
Beets provide an absurd amount of nutrition. A single cup of beets contains 442mg of potassium, in addition to serving up a high amount of magnesium, vitamins, and antioxidants. Beets are great on their own, albeit a little messy, and are also a wonderful addition to salads, sandwiches and your favorite pickling recipe.
Fish are undoubtedly one of the healthiest protein sources around. They are high in antioxidants, high in good fats, low in the less favorable fats and rich in flavor. Because they are a lighter protein, they are easy to pair with other potassium-rich foods to create a well-balanced lunch or dinner.
Wild Caught Salmon
You have probably heard that wild-caught salmon is good for you in general, but it is an excellent source of potassium, in particular. Half a fillet of wild-caught salmon packs a whopping 970mg of potassium. Wild-caught salmon is excellent grilled or baked and can be served with other potassium-rich sides such as peas or Swiss chards. You can make it for dinner, or meal prep wild-caught salmon on a Sunday and have a potassium-rich meal every day of the week!
These salty little sardines might not seem like a great source of anything except for sodium, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! In truth, a cup of sardines offers up 592mg of potassium, with only 20% of your daily recommended sodium intake. So that salty taste you most likely associate with saltines is a rouse at best! On the contrary, sardines are an excellent source of nutrition. Sardines even pack a protein punch of 37 grams. These little fish are great on their own, topped on a pizza or as the protein in your favorite salad recipe.
With its status as such an important nutrient, potassium should be at the forefront of your mind when you are planning your meals for the week. Your body needs potassium to perform at its very best, and without it, crucial systems can begin to falter and even shut down. Don’t wait until you are experiencing regular muscle cramps to increase your potassium intake. Start small with a banana or piece of avocado toast for breakfast and begin to work your way up to the daily recommended intake of 4,700mg a day. Remember, foods that are higher in potassium are delicious and nutritious, so feel free to indulge from time to time!