High Potassium Foods
If you’re like most people in the U.S., you likely don’t get enough potassium in your diet.
Like calcium and sodium, potassium is a mineral that’s found in some foods. Having enough of it in your diet helps you stay healthy. So, it’s crucial to eat plenty of potassium-rich foods.
While many foods contain potassium, most Americans today only get about half of their daily requirement. Research shows that consuming enough of this macro-mineral can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and stroke.
Potassium is available as a supplement, but you should only take it with a doctor’s prescription. Too much can hurt your kidney function. Unless your doctor tells you to, it’s safer and more effective to get this mineral from your diet. Foods high in potassium are also usually high in other nutrients and low in sodium. This balance contributes to potassium’s health-boosting effects.
Food Sources of Potassium
Many of the foods that you already eat have potassium in them. If you need to boost the amount in your diet, you can choose healthy foods including:
- Bananas, oranges, cantaloupes, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit (some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium)
- Cooked spinach
- Cooked broccoli
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy greens
Juice from potassium-rich fruits is also a good choice:
- Orange juice
- Tomato juice
- Prune juice
- Apricot juice
- Grapefruit juice
Certain dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, are good sources of potassium (consider low-fat or fat-free).
Some fish contain potassium:
Beans and legumes that are high in potassium include:
- Lima beans
- Pinto beans
- Kidney beans
Other foods with potassium include:
- Salt substitutes (read labels to check their potassium levels)
- Meat and poultry
- Brown and wild rice
- Bran cereal
- Whole-wheat bread and pasta
How Much You Need
Scientists used to think we needed 3,500 milligrams of potassium a day. Now, the FDA recommends an average of 4,700 milligrams per day. Most Americans don’t meet that goal.
Some people with kidney disease should get less potassium than the amount that guidelines recommend. If your kidneys don’t work well, too much potassium could stay in your body, which can cause nerve and muscle problems. If you have kidney disease and your doctor hasn’t told you what your potassium limit is, ask about it.
What are the signs of low potassium?
If you aren't getting enough potassium, you might have these symptoms:
- Muscle cramps
- Feeling tired
- A heart rhythm that isn't normal
If your case of low potassium is more serious, you might have:
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Serious muscle weakness, including paralysis
- Extreme thirst
What increases potassium quickly?
When the amount of potassium in your blood is too low, it's called hypokalemia. Your doctor may give you potassium supplements if your hypokalemia is mild. If it's more serious, you may get potassium through your vein to raise your level more quickly.
On the Label?
For a long time, potassium wasn’t listed on the Nutrition Facts food labels of packaged food items. But in May 2016, the Nutrition Facts rules were changed, and potassium is now listed. That makes it easier for you to track how much you get.
Why You Need Potassium
Potassium is an essential mineral for normal cell function. Getting enough of it helps maintain your:
Getting enough potassium is good for your heart. It works to keep your blood pressure at healthy levels to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. It does this in two ways:
- With help from your kidneys, potassium helps remove extra sodium from your body through your pee. This is a good thing because too much sodium can cause high blood pressure.
- Potassium helps the walls of your blood vessels to relax or loosen up. When they’re too tense or rigid, it can lead to high blood pressure.
Nervous system function
Potassium plays a major role in helping our cells communicate. It produces nerve signals that ensure good muscle control, heart contractions, as well as hormone regulation.
Kidney stones happen when certain materials, usually calcium, build up. Although research is still ongoing, studies show that potassium improves calcium absorption in your kidneys, which can prevent the formation of stones.
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.
It helps your muscles flex and contract the way they should.
When You Need to Avoid Potassium
Your body needs a delicate balance of potassium to make sure your heart and other muscles are working properly. Hyperkalemia, or high potassium, is a condition in which you have too much potassium in your blood. This can cause health problems such as a heart attack.
Hyperkalemia is particularly dangerous because many people don’t notice its symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Feeling tired or weak
- Feeling nauseous
- Pain in your muscles/cramps
- Trouble breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pains
The most common cause of too much potassium in your blood is kidney disease. When your kidneys don't work well enough to remove extra potassium from your blood, the extra potassium travels through your kidneys and back into your bloodstream. Eventually, dangerous amounts of potassium can build up in your blood.
The following may also cause high potassium:
- A high-potassium diet
- Potassium supplements
- Certain medications
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Injuries that cause you to bleed a lot
- Serious burns
- Addison’s disease (your body doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones)
- Some rare diseases
If you need to cut your potassium levels, think about avoiding these foods:
Many fruits are rich in potassium, but drying them concentrates mineral content. A half-cup of dried apricots has about 755 milligrams of potassium. The drying process also increases the amount of calories and sugars per serving.
A medium-baked potato has about 940 milligrams of potassium. About 25% of this content comes from its skin, so consider removing the skin to lower the potassium levels somewhat.
One cup of cooked soybeans adds nearly 890 milligrams of potassium to your meal, about 18% of your daily value. Other legumes, such as lentils and kidney beans, are also high in potassium, with about 730 milligrams and 600 milligrams for the same serving, respectively.
Tomato paste contains 670 milligrams of potassium per quarter-cup. Other tomato products may also contain high levels of potassium. A half-cup of tomato puree has 560 milligrams. A medium fresh tomato has about 290 milligrams.
One cup of cooked squash has 640 milligrams of potassium, which is about 15% of your daily requirement.
As a medium banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium, this fruit should be avoided in a low-potassium diet. Fruits such as oranges, apples, and cantaloupes each contain about 5% of the daily potassium requirement per serving.
Dairy is one of the most common sources of potassium in our diets. One cup of reduced-fat milk contains 366 milligrams, while yogurt has slightly more for the same serving with 440 milligrams. For those on a dairy-free diet, soy milk contains 287 milligrams of potassium per cup.
Most meats add some potassium to your meals. Chicken breast has the highest amount at 332 milligrams of potassium per 3-ounce serving. Beef and turkey breast contain 315 and 212 milligrams, respectively.
If you don’t eat meat, you can include fish in your diet. Salmon has 326 milligrams of potassium and canned tuna contains 153 milligrams for the same 3-ounce serving.
The following foods contain low levels of potassium:
- Apples, apple juice, applesauce
- Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
- Pineapple, pineapple juice
- Grapes, grape juice
- White mushrooms
- Yellow squash, zucchini squash
- Noodles, pasta
- Bread and bread products (excluding whole grains)
Keep in mind that these foods do contain some potassium. So if you're watching your potassium levels, it’s recommended that you keep your serving to half a cup.
Potassium is a mineral that's essential for normal cell function. Most healthy people should aim for 4,700 milligrams a day, but few Americans get this much. Rather than taking supplements, it's best to get it from foods such as bananas, apricots, spinach, and potatoes.
High Potassium Food FAQs
What are the 10 foods highest in potassium?
Many fruits and vegetables are especially rich in potassium. Some high-potassium foods include:
- Winter squash
- Tomato juice
- Lima beans
- Blackstrap molasses
What increases potassium quickly?
While potassium supplements can increase your levels of the mineral quickly, it's best to get potassium from foods. One fast way to boost your potassium intake is to start eating at least five servings of fruits and veggies every day.
What are the 10 signs of low potassium?
Low potassium, or hypokalemia, may not cause any symptoms if you have a mild case. But you could notice:
Tingling and numbness
A pounding heartbeat
In more serious cases, you could have:
- Low blood pressure
- A feeling like you're going to faint
- Twitching muscles
- Muscle cramps
- Intense thirst and frequent peeing
What drinks are high in potassium?
Each of these beverages provides more than 200 milligrams of potassium:
- One cup of milk (whole, skim or low-fat)
- 1 cup of soy milk
- 1/2 cup of orange juice