Potassium is one of the most important minerals for your body. It’s one of the seven macro minerals, which are minerals we must get from our diets in high amounts to support a range of critical bodily functions.
While many foods contain potassium, most Americans today only get about half of their daily requirement. Research shows that consuming enough of this macromineral can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems like heart disease and stroke.
Potassium is available as a supplement, but you should only take it with a doctor’s prescription because consuming excessive potassium can impair your kidney function. Drugs like blood pressure medications, diuretics, and common painkillers can raise the potassium in your body to dangerously high levels.
Unless advised by your doctor, it’s safer and more effective to get this mineral from dietary sources. Potassium-rich foods are also usually high in other nutrients and low in sodium. This balance can contribute to potassium’s health-boosting effects.
Why You Need Potassium
Potassium is an essential mineral for normal cell function. It was originally believed that we needed 3,500 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day. Now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends an average of 4,700 mg per day.
Getting enough potassium helps maintain your:
Potassium works to keep your blood pressure at healthy levels to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. It also helps your body clear excess sodium. High-sodium diets are common today, and they’re linked with higher blood pressure and more heart problems than low-sodium diets.
Nervous System Function
Kidney stones occur from a build-up of material, most commonly calcium. Although research is still ongoing, studies show that potassium improves calcium absorption in your kidneys, which can prevent stones from forming.
Scientists believe potassium helps protect your bones by reducing the acidity in your body. While this effect is still being studied, adequate dietary potassium levels are linked to improved bone density, which can lower your risk for osteoporosis.
Foods With Potassium
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified potassium as a nutrient of public health concern because people are not consuming enough of it. Low consumption of potassium is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular and other serious diseases.
While potassium is found in many fruits, seafood, and dairy, these eight options offer the highest amounts of potassium per serving:
1. Dried Apricots
Dried apricots are a concentrated source of potassium. A 40-gram serving, which is about five to six apricots, gives you more than 460 mg of potassium. Other dried fruits have similarly high levels, like raisins at 299 mg and prunes at 292 mg for the same 40-gram serving. While they’re great sources of nutrients, dried fruits are also high in sugar, so be sure to moderate your portions.
You can get almost a quarter of your daily potassium requirement from just one baked potato. If you like to whip your potatoes into a mash, include the skin for an even bigger mineral boost. A medium potato contains 1,110 mg of potassium, and the skins add about 400 mg more.
3. Beet Greens
Whether cooked or eaten raw, purple beets are already a good potassium source at 305 mg per 100-gram serving. However, if you include the beet greens in your meal, you add about 1,310 mg of potassium per cup. You can eat beet greens raw or cook them similarly to other greens like spinach, swiss chard, or bok choy.
Most vegetables have potassium content, and a 100-gram serving of spinach or broccoli can add about 5-7% of your daily value. Squash is a particularly rich source of potassium. One cup of cooked acorn squash contains 896 mg, which is almost 20% of your body’s daily requirement.
Most fruits contain potassium, but bananas stand out in terms of this mineral's content. A regular seven- to eight-inch banana has 422 to 487 mg of potassium, which is about 10% of your daily value. Because you can eat bananas on their own, add them to baked goods, or use them as a smoothie base, they’re an easy way to make sure you’re maintaining the FDA-recommended potassium levels.
7. Kidney Beans
These dark red beans are a great way to get more fiber in your diet, and they’re also rich in potassium. A half-cup serving of canned beans contains up to 390 mg, and if you soak and cook dried beans, that value slightly increases. Other bean varieties, like black beans, lima beans, chickpeas, and white beans, are good potassium sources as well.
Dairy products like milk and milk-based yogurts are high in potassium, and the lower the fat content, the higher the potassium level. For example, skim milk contains 381 mg per cup, while 1% milk contains 366 mg. For people sensitive to dairy and those on a plant-based diet, one cup of soy milk can offer 298 mg of potassium.