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What Are The Best Dietary Sources Of Potassium?

Potassium is an important nutrient that you might not be getting enough of.  In fact, most Americans aren’t getting adequate amounts of potassium due to a lack of fruit and vegetables in the diet. Potassium is a mineral which plays a role in fluid regulation in your body and helps your muscles and nerves function properly.  As an electrolyte, potassium conducts electrical impulses throughout the body, and assists in the following body functions: blood pressure, water balance, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, digestion, heart rhythm, and pH balance. 

Our bodies don’t produce potassium naturally, so it’s important to make sure to get optimal levels in your diet each day.  Getting enough potassium is critical for bone and heart health.  It is especially important if you have high blood pressure as it may decrease heart disease and stroke risk.  It is recommended to get 4,700 mg of potassium daily.  

Signs of Potassium Deficiency:

Hypokalemia refers to potassium deficiency.  Mild potassium deficiency may not cause any noticeable symptoms, with symptoms generally worsening the more severe the deficiency.  Some common signs of hypokalemia include: extreme fatigue, muscle spasms or cramping, irregular heartbeat, and constipation, nausea and vomiting.  While potassium deficiency is commonly caused by a lack of dietary intake, it is important to be aware that underlying health conditions can also be the cause.  Depending on your level of deficiency, it may be necessary to supplement with potassium (or receive potassium via IV in extreme cases).  As always, talk with your qualified health practitioner if you think you are deficient so that you can address the root cause. 

Too Much Potassium 

Note that like most things, too much potassium can also cause health issues.  Too much potassium is referred to as hyperkalemia and is rare in people who eat balanced diets.  Healthy kidneys are responsible for maintaining optimal levels in the body, as they filter out excess potassium through urine. The most common symptom in people with hyperkalemia is heart arrhythmia.  

Good Food Sources:

While bananas are likely the first food to come to mind, there are other sources which are lower in carbohydrates (sugar), if you are looking to increase your potassium while being mindful of calories.  There are plenty of vegetable sources, such as tomatoes, asparagus and green leafy greens.  For instance, one cup of cooked spinach contains 839 mg of potassium and one cup of cooked swiss chard contains 961 mg of potassium.  Tomatoes are particularly great if you are looking to focus on heart health, as tomatoes also have lycopene, a beneficial anti-inflammatory plant compound.  One cup of tomato sauce contains 728 mg of potassium. 

Fruits with the highest potassium also happen to be high in carbohydrates, these fruits include bananas, melons and apricots.  One banana contains 451 mg of potassium.  Fruits that are lower in carbohydrates and still offer some potassium include strawberries and nectarines.  

Other great sources of potassium include beans and lentils.  Along with potassium, these are also packed with fiber and other vitamins and minerals.  White beans are one of the best sources as ½ of a cup contains 421 mg. Yogurt is also a good source of potassium, with one cup supplying 380 mg. 

Overall, there are many great food sources of potassium.  As always, it’s important to eat a varied diet.  If you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, and are mindful to include plenty of leafy greens, you should have no problem getting an adequate amount of potassium from your diet.

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