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Facts About Potassium That Will Make You Go Bananas!

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In the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, potassium is noted as a nutrient of public health concern. This is due to low intakes of fruits, vegetables, and dairy (1).

What Is Potassium?

Baked potatoPotassium is an important mineral and electrolyte in our bodies. The most important function of potassium is that it helps lower high blood pressure, especially in salt-sensitive individuals. Potassium leads the kidneys to excrete sodium when consumed in excess, which lowers blood pressure (2). The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet promotes meals rich in potassium to bring down blood pressure. Another role of potassium involves smooth muscle contraction, which promotes normal digestion. Potassium also functions in bone health and decreases the incidence of kidney stones. Potassium is a blood buffer, so it assists in keeping phosphorus and calcium from being lost from the bones. Studies have shown that increasing potassium in the diet helps strengthen bones. When potassium is increased in the diet, calcium is retained from being excreted in the urine. This reduces the incidence of kidney stones because of the reduced amount of calcium excreted in the urine (3).

Food Sources

What food is high in potassium? Most people are going to answer bananas. However, there are a wide variety of potassium-rich foods other than bananas. In fact, a number of these items even contain a higher potassium content than bananas!  Some of the most common include potatoes, leafy greens, lean meats, and nuts (2).  Listed below are the potassium contents of some foods.

Food (portion size)

Mg Potassium

Baked Potato with skin (1 medium) 941
White Beans (1/2 cup) 595
Plain Yogurt (1 cup) 579
Banana (1 medium) 422

Potassium can also be found in a wide variety of fortified and enriched foods such as ready to eat cereals, fruit juices, whole grain products, pasta, and even sports drinks like Gatorade.

Food

Mg Potassium

Orange Juice (1 cup) 496
Raisin Bran (1 cup) 352
English Muffin, Whole Wheat (1 muffin) 139
Gatorade (12 oz.) 45

Additionally, potassium is available in forms such as potassium acetate, potassium, bicarbonate, and potassium citrate. These can be additives in food or used as medicines to treat potassium deficiencies.  

Deficiency

Studies suggest that older women need to ensure they are consuming enough potassium in order to prevent osteoporosis. Low potassium levels are also seen in those suffering from anorexia and bulimia. This can lead to heart problems and hypertension.  High blood pressure is often linked to low potassium. Studies exclaim that diets high in potassium decreases the risk of cardiovascular complications since potassium lowers blood pressure. The symptoms of low potassium levels consist of lethargy, an abnormal heartbeat, muscle cramps, and stomach troubles (3).

How Much Potassium Do You Need?

Age (years)

RDI (mg)

1-3 3,000
4-8 3,800
9-13 4,500
14 and older 4,700

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that only 2% of Americans consume the correct amount of potassium per day. So use these tips and tricks to increase your potassium today!

Learn more about potassium with our handy infographic

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Citations

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
  1. “Potassium.” University of Maryland Medical Center. Accessed June 15, 2016. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/potassium.
  1. Blake, J. S., Munoz, K. D., & Volpe, S. (2013).Nutrition: From science to you, books a la carte edition. Benjamin-Cummings.

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