According to health professionals, getting enough potassium can reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.1 Yet most American adults are falling short of the recommended daily intake. Research suggests that consuming an optimal amount of this crucial mineral may protect against a host of ailments including cardiovascular disease, muscle wasting, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. It can help to maintain healthy blood pressure and ensure proper nerve, kidney, and heart functions. In 2016, the FDA added potassium to the list of nutrients required to be listed on a food’s nutrition panel.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most adults should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day, but a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition2 found that the average potassium intake for adults is around 1,755 milligrams. According to the journal, fewer than 2 percent of US adults meet the daily requirement. That means that almost no one consumes the minimum amount of potassium recommended. To get there, the average adult would have to add up to eleven bananas to their daily food intake.
If you’re looking to boost your potassium intake, health.gov offers a handy chart3 that shows how much potassium is contained per serving of various foods. Although potassium is commonly associated with bananas, this fruit surprisingly doesn’t even come close to the top of the list. A medium banana provides 422 milligrams of potassium, whereas a serving of sweet potato (1 medium sweet potato) delivers 694 milligrams. Other top sources include beet greens (655 milligrams of potassium per ½-cup cooked), white beans (595 milligrams of potassium per ½-cup serving), and nonfat yogurt (579 milligrams of potassium per 8-ounce serving). In general, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables like spinach, cabbage, and parsley, and fruits like bananas, cantaloupe, papayas, raisins, and dates are potassium-rich.
Potassium is found in a wide range of nutritious foods, so you wouldn't think that getting enough of it would be challenging. It is possible to get all the potassium you need through dietary sources, but it takes considerable effort to know how much potassium each food contains and track the amounts. It can be especially difficult to get the full 4,700 milligrams of potassium while still maintaining a diet that is within the recommended calorie limits (around 2,000 calories per day for most adults).
For instance, a breakfast of 1 cup of lowfat yogurt (579 mg potassium, 127 calories) with 1 cup of cantaloupe (473 mgs potassium, 60 calories), and 1/3 cup almonds (349 mg potassium, 190 calories); a lunch of 1/2 cup cooked Swiss chard (961 mgs potassium, 35 calories) with 1/2 cup cooked white beans (595 mgs potassium, 153 calories); and a dinner of 4 ounces cooked halibut (590 mgs potassium, 160 calories), 1/2 cup cooked spinach (419 mgs potassium, 21 calories), and a baked sweet potato (694 mgs potassium, 131 calories) will get you the potassium you need.
For more information on daily values and nutrition labeling, download our Comprehensive Guide to the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Panels.
1. Harvard Medical School, "Potassium lowers blood pressure," accessed 11/27/2017
2. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "Sodium and Potassium Intakes Among US Adults," accessed 11/20/17
3. Health.gov, "Food Sources of Potassium," accessed 11/20/17