“Do you have any potassium supplements?” The young woman had jet black hair, streaked with magenta, an eyebrow piercing, and a name tag that read: “I’m Abby. How can I improve your health today?” She looked back at me earnestly and informed me that she would show me the potassium supplements but that I really should be able to get sufficient potassium from a balanced diet. There was no mistaking the condescension over what she obviously interpreted as my nutritional laziness. I nodded in agreement, accepted the cherry juice she presented as an alternative, and casually walked away with the potassium supplement – just in case.
I walked home thinking about what Abby had said: that I should be able to find sufficient potassium in my everyday diet. My problem with that is this: I have been tracking my diet carefully for months (and less carefully for years), and I consistently fall short on potassium, in spite of efforts to eat high potassium foods. Based on my observations of other people’s eating habits, I consider my diet to be healthy, balanced. And yet, I’m not getting enough, even when I specifically try. This can’t just be my problem. Right?
Why you should care:
Potassium is in every single cell in your body, and plays and important role in heart health and controlling blood pressure. Without potassium, your heart cannot beat. Potassium helps flush sodium from your body, especially important if you eat packaged foods or if you eat in restaurants a lot.
How much do you need?
Experts suggest 4,700 milligrams of dietary potassium a day for adults as part of a balanced diet.
According to Webmd, these are the top dietary potassium sources:
Winter squash, cubed, 1 cup, cooked: 896 mg
Sweet potato, medium, baked with skin: 694 mg
Potato, medium, baked with skin: 610 mg
White beans, canned, drained, half cup: 595 mg
Yogurt, fat-free, 1 cup: 579 mg
Halibut, 3 ounces, cooked: 490 mg
100% orange juice, 8 ounces: 496 mg
Broccoli, 1 cup, cooked: 457 mg
Cantaloupe, cubed, 1 cup: 431 mg
Banana, 1 medium: 422 mg
Pork tenderloin, 3 ounces, cooked: 382 mg
Lentils, half cup, cooked: 366 mg
Milk, 1% low fat, 8 ounces: 366 mg
Salmon, farmed Atlantic, 3 ounces, cooked: 326 mg
Pistachios, shelled, 1 ounce, dry roasted: 295 mg
Raisins, quarter cup: 250 mg
Chicken breast, 3 ounces, cooked: 218 mg
Tuna, light, canned, drained, 3 ounces: 201 mg
What if you don’t get enough?
Not getting enough potassium impacts all cell processes, heart function, kidneys, and much more. Here are some symptoms to look for:
- Weakness, tiredness, or cramping in arm or leg muscles
- Tingling or numbness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal cramping, bloating
- Palpitations (feeling your heart beat irregularly)
- Passing large amounts of urine or feeling very thirsty most of the time
- Fainting due to low blood pressure