79 Foods Rich In Potassium

1. Lima Beans

1724 mg / 100g

Also known as butter beans because of their creamy, buttery texture, lima beans provide a rich source of plant-based protein and dietary fibre, which are essential for maintaining a healthy weight. Lima beans make a deliciously creamy bean dip and are also excellent in pasta sauces and stirred through salads.

2. Black Turtle Beans

1500 mg / 100g

Popular in South American cooking, black turtle beans contain the most antioxidants of any bean variety, making them great for your health! They have a delightfully meaty texture that makes them an excellent substitute to meat in bolognaise or burritos. These tiny black beans also contain around 23% of your daily potassium requirements per cup.

3. Kidney Beans

1406 mg / 100g

One cup of kidney beans contains nearly half your daily allowance of dietary fibre, which is good news for your gut and cholesterol levels, and 20% of your daily requirement of potassium. The beans are usually a staple in many frugal households because they also provide a cheap source of protein in recipes like bean burgers, casseroles and chilli.

4. Adzuki Beans

1254 mg / 100g

Adzuki beans are small, red beans that work very well in bean stews and add a delicious flavour to chilli con carne. They provide a huge helping of dietary fibre, which is good for effective weight management and lowering cholesterol levels, and they also contain around 35% of the daily requirement of potassium per one cup serving.

5. Pistachio Nuts

1025 mg / 100g

A one cup serving of pistachio nuts contains more than a third of the daily allowance of potassium, as well as a huge quantity of other vitamins and minerals. Pistachios have quite a delicate flavour that lends itself well to making pistachio ice cream; pistachios are also a tasty addition of stuffing.

6. Flax Seeds

813 mg / 100g

Being incredibly rich in omega fatty acids and dietary fibre, flax seeds are fantastic for heart and brain health, not to mention a healthy digestive system. They can be easily incorporated into the diet by adding them to smoothies, trail mixes and homemade breads because they have an inoffensive taste that allows them to blend with almost any dish you can think of.

7. Pumpkin Seeds

809 mg / 100g

Pumpkin seeds are rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, including potassium where a one cup serving contains around 17% of the daily allowance. They can be enjoyed on their own as a simple snack, but are equally delicious when baked into breads and flapjacks or added to trail mixes.

8. Raisins

749 mg / 100g

Raisins are a delicious snack that provide a natural sugary hit. One cup of raisins has a huge amount of fibre, as well as good quantities of vitamins and minerals including potassium, where one cup contains around 35% of the daily allowance. Raisins are great in muffins, but are also really yummy in rocky road.

9. Almonds

733 mg / 100g

These creamy white nuts are often used to make dairy free almond milk and are the base ingredient for recipes like Bakewell tart and frangipane. Almonds also have a number of benefits to health that include boosting the levels of most nutrients in the body, including potassium, and helping to maintain good blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

10. Prunes

732 mg / 100g

Prunes are essentially plums that have been dried out, a process that seems to greatly improve their nutritional profile and benefits to health, particularly where the digestive system is concerned. Prunes are often used to make juice, but can also be enjoyed chopped and added to cakes and crumbles to help improve overall levels of nutrients.

11. Garbanzo Beans

718 mg / 100g

Also known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans are best known for producing that delicious garlicky bean dip, hummus. However, they are ideal for using to make bean burgers because they hold their shape pretty well and they can add an important dose of plant based protein to many vegan dishes, such as curry, stew and chilli.

12. Peanuts

705 mg / 100g

Often referred to as monkey nuts when they are still in their shell, peanuts are a popular and frugal option for those trying to incorporate more plant based protein in their diets because they are relatively easy to grow; this might be because they are technically legumes. Peanuts can be enjoyed as a snack, added to curry or included in trail mixes.

13. Hazelnuts

680 mg / 100g

Like most nuts, hazelnuts are a rich source of healthy fats and minerals and have been associated with benefits like maintaining health skin and helping to protect against cancer. Thanks to their sweet flavour, hazelnuts work incredibly well in most cakes and cookies, but are equally delicious in a nut loaf or stuffing recipe.

14. Lentils

677 mg / 100g

Lentils are often thought of as "poor man's protein" because they are usually the most affordable non-animal protein available; they are also an abundant source of vitamins and minerals, including 21% of the daily allowance of potassium per cup. Lentils can be used in place of meat in most recipes, but also make delicious vegetarian burgers and lentil loaf.

15. Cashew Nuts

660 mg / 100g

Native to Brazil, cashew nuts make an excellent cashew nut curry, but are also very popular in vegan circles for making cashew nut cream and cheese. Their rather bland flavour means that they lend themselves incredibly well to most recipes. Cashew nuts are also understood to be very good for the heart if consumed in moderation.

16. Brazil Nuts

659 mg / 100g

Brazil nuts make a great snack on their own, but also work very well in cakes, cookies and even chopped up into salads. They are bursting with a huge number of vitamins and minerals, including potassium with a one cup serving containing roughly 25% of the recommended daily intake.

17. Dates

656 mg / 100g

Dates are considered to be nature's candy, especially when dried, and are understood to have a variety of benefits that include relieving anaemia and constipation. A single date can contain as much as 5% of the daily intake of potassium. Include them in the diet as simple snacks, baked into flapjacks, or as a natural sweetener for smoothies.

18. Sunflower Seeds

645 mg / 100g

Sunflower seeds are an abundant source of most minerals and a number of vitamins; they also contain a good amount of dietary fibre, which is good for helping to maintain a healthy digestive system and removing cholesterol from the body. They are perfect to snack on, but are delicious added to trail mixes, bread and flapjacks.

19. Pine Nuts

597 mg / 100g

Pine nuts are seeds from the pine tree, specifically female pine trees; they make a tasty addition to muffins and trail mixes. It is understood that these nuts contain oleic acid that helps to reduce "bad" cholesterol; and a one cup serving also contains around 23% of the daily allowance of potassium.

20. Quinoa

563 mg / 100g

Pronounced "keen-wah", quinoa is considered to be a complete protein, which is good news for anyone following a vegetarian diet. It is often used as an alternative to wheat and works well in most dishes that would call for a carbohydrate element, although it acts a little more like rice than pasta in terms of texture.

21. Dark Chocolate

559 mg / 100g

The best way to enjoy dark chocolate is straight out of the packet! However, it also makes delicious brownies and is the best chocolate to use for fondue. The best dark chocolate to use for health is that which is at least 75% cocoa solids; such chocolate tends to contain around 21% of the daily potassium intake per 100g.

22. Spinach

558 mg / 100g

Spinach is abundant in a whole lot of different vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, magnesium and iron. It is also rich in potassium, with 100 g (around 3 cups) containing 558 mg. No wonder it it considered a superfood. Spinach can be steamed, sauted, sautéd, stir-fried and also makes an excellent ingredient in green smoothies.

23. Purslane

494 mg / 100g

To many, purslane is considered as a weed and grows plentifully in many gardens. It is native to India and is eaten world wide due to the fantastic nutritional profile it has and delicious taste it provides. 100 g of purslane contains 494 mg of potassium, making it the second best vegetable source of this mineral.

 

24. Kale

491 mg / 100g

Who hasn't heard about kale? It is considered to be one of the healthiest foods on planet Earth and like spinach, is an excellent source of various & minerals, potassium included. Kale can be eaten steamed and eaten as a side dish, added to salads or used as an ingredient for soups.

25. Salmon

490 mg / 100g

Salmon is a popular pink fish that is well known for containing omega fatty acids that are essential for maintaining good brain and heart health; it is also rich in potassium, with one fillet containing around 30% of the daily allowance. Salmon is delicious lightly steamed and served with salad, but also works well in fish pie or paella.

26. Avocados

485 mg / 100g

Avocados are an excellent source of potassium, providing nearly a third of the daily requirement per fruit; they are also a very good source of most other nutrients. Avocados work as a brilliant alternative to mayonnaise in sandwiches and wraps, and are the base ingredient for making traditional guacamole to enjoy with nachos.

27. Edamame

482 mg / 100g

Made by preparing immature soybeans in the pod, edamame provide an impressive nutritional punch to any recipe that calls for beans; they also make a delicious edamame bean dip and work well in place of beans like garbanzo beans. One cup of edamame contains around 19% of the daily allowance of potassium.

28. Sesame Seeds

468 mg / 100g

Sesame seeds are often used to make tahini, which is a nutrient rich paste that is enjoyed on its own or used to make hummus. Despite being so small, sesame seeds pack a punch in the nutrition department, including a huge amount of dietary fibre and about 19% of the daily requirement of potassium per one cup serving.

29. Walnuts

441 mg / 100g

Walnuts have a deliciously bitter, smoky flavour that works very well with both coffee and maple syrup in cakes and biscuits. They are an incredibly rich source of heart and brain healthy omega fatty acids, not to mention most other vitamins and minerals that we need; one cup of walnuts contains around 15% of the daily requirement of potassium.

30. Oats

429 mg / 100g

The humble oat is one of the most nutritionally rich foods available to us, being high in dietary fibre and protein, as well as nearly every vitamin and mineral we need; including potassium, with one cup providing around 19% of the daily requirement. Use oats to make porridge and flapjacks, and even chuck a handful in mince to bulk out the recipe.

31. Guavas

417 mg / 100g

Guavas are a fragrant tropical fruit that look somewhat like a pear. They make a great addition to fruit salads and provide a deliciously sweet, tropical flavour to smoothies. Guavas are also full of many essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need, including around 20% of the daily requirement of potassium per cup.

32. Fennel

414 mg / 100g

Fennel is a pale green bulbous vegetable that is crunchy and tastes slightly sweet. The entire vegetable including the seeds are edible. Fennel is a great source of vitamin C, dietary fiber & potassium and makes an excellent ingredient for sandwiches or as a side dish for meat and seafood.

33. Potatoes

413 mg / 100g

Potatoes are probably one of the most common vegetables in the world, eaten worldwide in many different ways. They can be baked, roasted, mashed and boiled. Together with potassium, they are also a good source of vitamin B6. Potatoes have been shown to help lower blood pressure and protect the brain from free radical damage. To reap the most benefits, avoid deep frying them.

34. Pecans

410 mg / 100g

Pecans work best when paired with maple syrup in sweet treats and pastries, where they lend a deliciously smoky, nutty flavour to the recipe. Like most nuts, they contain high amounts of most minerals, including 13% of the daily requirement of potassium per cup, as well as plenty of dietary fibre for good digestive health.

35. Chia Seeds

407 mg / 100g

Adding chia seeds to the diet is as simple as sprinkling them into smoothies, baking them into flapjacks or even making them into chia pudding; and the benefits to doing so are impressive thanks to the number of nutrients they contain, including fibre to help remove cholesterol and brain healthy omega fatty acids.

36. Dandelion Greens

397 mg / 100g

Often mistaken as nothing more than an inedible weed, dandelion greens provide us with a surprising number of vitamins and minerals, as well as making salads taste delicious with their bitter taste that offsets the sweeter flavours of peppers and tomatoes. Dandelion greens are also understood to help reduce swelling and support a healthy digestive system.

37. Brussels Sprouts

389 mg / 100g

Many people associate Brussel sprouts with being harbingers of doom at the Christmas dinner table. However, these little leafy balls of goodness pack in a huge number of vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. Besides which, they are delicious chopped into quarters and fried off with bacon and cashew nuts or thrown in bubble and squeak.

38. Mustard Greens

384 mg / 100g

Mustard greens are incredibly low in calories and contain almost no fat, yet are an abundant source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, making them an excellent addition to the diet. They can be enjoyed lightly steamed and served as an accompaniment to other dishes, but they also make a tasty addition to soups and salads.

39. Swiss chard

379 mg / 100g

It is understood that Swiss chard is one of the most nutritious vegetables around, containing good amounts of vitamins and minerals and being very low in calories. It can be used in any recipe that calls for leafy greens and is a tasty alternative to green cabbage. Swiss chard can also be enjoyed raw in salads.

40. Parsnips

375 mg / 100g

Many people only ever eat parsnips at Christmas, which makes sense since they are traditionally a winter vegetable, however, their delicately sweet and sour flavour makes them perfect for using in soups and curries; they also make delicious parsnip crisps. Parsnips are also a pretty rich source of potassium, with one parsnip containing around 17% of the daily allowance.

41. Artichokes

370 mg / 100g

They may look like something that would only be served in a posh restaurant, but artichokes are best suited to being lightly steamed or grilled on a barbeque and served with butter and lemons. They are very low in calories and provide a good source of nearly every vitamin and mineral our bodies need.

42. Arugula

369 mg / 100g

Also known as salad rocket, arugula is a leafy green vegetable that is often used in salads or as a topping for pizza; it can also work very well as a replacement for many other leafy green vegetables, like kale. Like many leafy greens, arugula is understood to be a reliable source of most vitamins and minerals and is very low in calories.

43. Macadamia Nuts

368 mg / 100g

Whilst they are native to Australia, macadamia nuts are now cultivated in a number of tropical and subtropical regions around the world, thanks to the increasing demand for them. They provide a deliciously sweet crunch to cookies and work very well in stuffing recipes. Like most nuts, macadamias are incredibly high in fat and, therefore, should be consumed in moderation.

44. Bananas

358 mg / 100g

Bananas are often referred to as fruit but they are actually also a herb and are perhaps one of the oldest known foods that are still regularly consumed by a large percentage of the modern global population. They are also extremely well known as being an abundant source of potassium. Bananas make an excellent snack on their own, but are also delicious when frozen and added to smoothies.

45. Coconut

356 mg / 100g

One cup of coconut contains around 8% of the daily recommended allowance of potassium, as well as providing a rich source of many other essential vitamins and minerals. Coconut is usually found in a dried form which provides a wonderful texture to cakes and can even be used to make coconut ice that is then smothered in chocolate for a truly decadent treat!

46. Kohlrabi

350 mg / 100g

Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family, although it may not seem obvious to look at it. It has a watery, sweet flavour that is likened to a cross between turnip and waterchestnut. Kohlrabi can be enjoyed both cooked and raw in salad, coleslaw or as an accompaniment to other dishes.

47. Squash

350 mg / 100g

There are a number of different varieties of squash available and they tend to grow well in colder climates, although they are generally available world wide. Squash are best enjoyed cubed and roasted, then added to pasta sauces or blended into soups – they are also delicious mashed into root mash.

48. Passion Fruit

348 mg / 100g

Native to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, passion fruit is a subtropical fruit that provides a delicately tropical flavour to any recipe. Whilst the purple skin and white flesh are not edible, the seeds are and they are often scattered over fruit salads, blended in smoothies or used to top cheesecake.

49. Chilli Peppers

340 mg / 100g

A single chilli pepper can contain as much as 4% of your daily requirement of potassium, as well as a number of other essential vitamins and minerals. It goes without saying that chilli peppers are used in curries and chillies, but they are often used to flavour dark chocolate and give it a delicious kick.

50. Pumpkin

340 mg / 100g

Whilst technically being a fruit because of the seeds it contains, pumpkin is more commonly used as a vegetable; and is often roasted and served in pasta or blended into soups. It is also delicious with other root vegetables like carrot and sweet potato in warming winter curries and stews.

51. Sweet Potato

337 mg / 100g

Unlike regular potatoes, the vitamin C content of sweet potato does count towards the daily allowance of vitamin C; they are also a very good source of potassium, containing around 27% of the daily requirement per one cup serving. Sweet potato makes a delicious curry and is a nice alternative to regular mashed potato on cottage pie.

52. Chicken

334 mg / 100g

Chicken is an incredibly versatile ingredient and can be used in a number of recipes, including curry, pasta bake, risotto and roast dinner. The benefits to consuming chicken are thought to include effective weight management, lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of developing high cholesterol compared to eating red meats.

53. Watercress

330 mg / 100g

Being related to mustard, watercress has a strong peppery taste that lets it work very well in place of mustard or onion in salads. It is also used to make the popular watercress soup and is said to have health benefits that include maintaining strong bones and good eye health.

54. Beetroot

325 mg / 100g

Beetroot is traditionally a salad vegetable, yet can be used to make a deliciously moist chocolate cake and also works incredibly well in smoothies because it doesn't have an especially overpowering flavour. A single beetroot will normally contain around 8% of the daily requirement of potassium, so by adding a few of them to your dish you can really boost those potassium levels.

55. Carrots

320 mg / 100g

Carrots are well known for being good for eye health and they are also a very good source of potassium – one cup contains around 12% of the daily allowance. There are numerous ways to include carrots in the diet including adding them to stews and soups, grating them into coleslaw and even turning them into a delicious, spiced carrot cake.

56. Mussels

320 mg / 100g

Mussels are found in the wild along the coasts, usually attached to rocks in rock pools, and are an incredible source of vitamins and minerals, especially considering their small size. They are often enjoyed lightly steamed with butter and lemon, but also work very well in risotto, paella and curry.

57. Broccoli

316 mg / 100g

Whether you throw it in a pasta bake, stir fry it or serve it simply steamed as a side dish, there's no denying the versatility of broccoli. It is brilliant for overall health because it is bursting with vitamins and minerals to help keep the heart, brain and immune system healthy, and is also very low in calories.

58. Endive

314 mg / 100g

A member of the chicory family, endive is perhaps one of the best sources of potassium and contains nearly half of the daily requirement in one head of endive! It is often used in place of crackers to scoop up dips, so would also work well in place of wraps.

59. Mackerel

314 mg / 100g

Mackerel is an oily fish that is much cheaper and less heavily fished than its counterparts like salmon. It contains an impressive amount of most vitamins and minerals and can be easily incorporated into the diet in place of other oily fish in recipes like fish pie and paella, although it does have a slightly stronger flavour.

60. Kiwifruit

312 mg / 100g

Also known as Chinese gooseberries, kiwifruit have a delicious sweet and sour taste, as well as benefits to eating them which include healthier skin, a better night's sleep and lower blood pressure. Include more kiwifruit in your diet by adding them to fruit salads, blending them in smoothies, or simply enjoying them as a snack.

61. Persimmons

310 mg / 100g

More commonly referred to as a Sharon fruit, persimmon is native to China where it is often dried and used in cakes, cookies or as a simple snack. There are a number of different varieties available and they vary in how astringent or sweet they taste, making them ideal for adding to fruit salads.

62. Rutabaga

305 mg / 100g

Rutabaga is perhaps better known as swede or turnip. It is a hardy root vegetable, traditionally available in the winter, although it is generally grown all year round. One of the tastiest ways to use rutabaga is in root mash with other root vegetables, however it also works very well chopped, roasted and blended into soup.

63. Mushrooms

304 mg / 100g

There are a number of edible mushroom species available to us; each having its own quantities of vitamins and minerals. A cup of mushrooms can contain anywhere from 5% to 18% of our daily allowance of potassium per cup, depending on species. Mushrooms are incredibly versatile and taste great in carbonara, risotto, curry and casseroles.

64. Tilapia

302 mg / 100g

Tilapia are a freshwater fish that are generally found in lakes and streams; the term tilapia actually refers to a huge number of fish within a group called cichlid fish. They are usually mild in taste and contain a white flesh that is brilliant for us in fish cakes, fish pie and curries.

65. Radicchio

302 mg / 100g

Sometimes referred to as Italian chicory, radicchio is a vegetable that has a striking red and white colouring, making it a beautiful and nutritious addition to salads. It has a bitter taste that complements sweeter ingredients. It is also possible to grill the heads whole or halved and serve with garlic and butter at barbeques.

66. Cauliflower

299 mg / 100g

These popular brassicas work well in a huge number of recipes including curry, macaroni cheese and roast dinners. They are also delicious eaten raw in salads. Cauliflowers contain good amounts of most vitamins and minerals, and a one cup serving has around 9% of the daily requirement of potassium.

67. Okra

299 mg / 100g

Often referred to as lady's fingers or bhindi, okra is a long, green, finger-shaped vegetable that is regularly used to thicken soups and stews like gumbo thanks to the seeds that release a viscous fluid when cooked. It is also served as an accompaniment to other dishes.

68. Grass Fed Beef

289 mg / 100g

It is understood that grass fed beef is superior nutrition-wise to regular beef due to a number of factors, including the fact that the cows are allowed to grow at a normal rate, in a more natural environment. Grass fed beef can be enjoyed in a variety of ways including slow-cooked casseroles, traditional chilli and even marinated and barbequed.

69. Corn

287 mg / 100g

The most commonly used corn is the sweet yellow variety, which works very well in fish pie, risotto and chicken noodle soup. One cup of corn will provide you with a good amount of dietary fibre, which is good for lowering cholesterol levels, and will also contain around 12% of the daily allowance of potassium.

70. Haddock

286 mg / 100g

Haddock is a popular fish that is best enjoyed in the winter months because the flesh is firmer. It is incredibly versatile and can be used in a number of ways including baked in its skin and eaten as is, or used to make a yummy fish pie. Haddock is a goldmine of nutrients and contains around 17% of the daily allowance of potassium per fillet.

71. Scallions

276 mg / 100g

Scallion onions are also known as spring onions and green onions and have a more delicate onion flavour compared to their cousins the brown onion. This variety tends to be very popular in salads and also works extremely well in stir fry and scrambled egg recipes like egg foo young.

72. Brown Rice

268 mg / 100g

Brown rice is a much better alternative to white rice because it has four times the dietary fibre, which is important for removing cholesterol from the body. It has a delicious nutty, chewy texture that means it works incredibly well in egg fried rice and as a side dish to curries and chilli.

73. Cantaloupe

267 mg / 100g

Whilst they are mostly composed of water, cantaloupe melons have a lot more to offer than hydration and amazing flavour; they contain beta carotene that is understood to help prevent development of conditions like asthma and age related macular degeneration. Cantaloupe tastes great in fruit salads and in smoothies, especially if frozen first.

74. Shrimp

264 mg / 100g

Also known as prawns, shrimp are small, pink shellfish consumed in many parts of the world and used in recipes such as paella, carbonara and fish pie. A typical serving of shrimp may have high levels of cholesterol, but when consumed as part of a healthy diet, they help provide important nutrients such as vitamin B12 and good amounts of most minerals.

75. Zucchini

261 mg / 100g

The zucchini is a member of the marrow family and has a wonderfully chewy crunch that works very well in bolognaise sauce and chilli; and when thinly sliced it is delicious as a pizza topping with other vegetables. Zucchinis provide a good amount of most vitamins and minerals, including about 9% of the daily requirement of potassium per cup.

76. Celery

260 mg / 100g

Being a member of the fennel family, celery can often be used in recipes that might call for vegetables like fennel; it is also delicious in coleslaw and salads. As well as being low in calories, celery can help you feel fuller for longer and helps to maintain a healthy digestive system, which is good for effective weight management.

77. Apricots

259 mg / 100g

It is believed that apricots originated in Armenia, although this is hard to verify since they have grown wild and been cultivated since prehistoric times. One thing is certain though, they pack a punch in the nutrient department; and drying them out seems to significantly increase the amount of nutrients available. Apricots are delicious in fruit salad and make an excellent alternative to apples in crumble.

78. Bok Choy

252 mg / 100g

This leafy green vegetable is one of the few cruciferous vegetables that contains omega 3 fatty acids, which are good for heart and brain health. It is also very low in calories and is best served lightly fried with other vegetables in stir fries or chopped up and thrown in chicken broth for a wholesome cold remedy.

79. Tuna

252 mg / 100g

When mixed with mayonnaise, tuna makes a popular and delicious filling for sandwiches and jacket potatoes; however, as a steak it can be barbequed or grilled and served with greens and potatoes, or flaked into paella and fish pie. Depending on the species, one fillet of tuna can provide nearly half of the daily requirement of potassium.

About Potassium

Potassium is a mineral that is classed as an electrolyte rather than a nutrient; this means that it plays an important role in regulating the electrical activity in the body, particularly the heartbeat. It is also very important in ensuring that muscles contract properly and at the correct times.

Because potassium is an electrolyte and, therefore, water soluble it is usually excreted by the kidneys in urine, but is also lost through sweating, diarrhoea and vomiting.

The human body tends to have about 120g of potassium locked away, with around 98% of it stored in our cells; indeed, potassium is the main positively charged ion that is found within our cells, with the remainder being in our blood serum, red blood cells and other parts of the body.

When doctors want to assess the levels of potassium in a person’s diet, they usually test the levels found in the red blood cells since these are often the best indicators of potassium levels.

A deficiency of potassium is referred to as hypokalaemia and having too much potassium in the bloodstream is referred to as hyperkalaemia. Both of these conditions can have serious side effects, therefore it is sensible to ensure that a balance is maintained by eating a rich and varied diet.

Why Is Potassium Important?

Potassium is one of the most commonly prescribed supplements by medical professionals because low potassium levels, or hypokalaemia, can cause a number of health problems and is far more common than high potassium levels, or hyperkalaemia.

The importance of potassium in the diet is highlighted by such problems and with that in mind we will examine some of the most common conditions associated with not having enough potassium in the diet.

Understandably, the most important function of potassium is to prevent hypokalaemia occurring at all. Despite the fact that this condition is caused by low potassium levels, it is not usually caused by a lack of potassium in the diet but is actually the result of too much potassium being excreted in the first place.

Common causes include taking diuretic medications or consuming too much salt and alcohol, all of which encourage more frequent urination and sweating; this in turn increases potassium excretion. Hypokalaemia is also a risk after a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Research in to how the diet affects bone health is plentiful and studies in to how potassium specifically affects bone quality are also beginning to gain momentum as researchers begin to understand the importance of this mineral.

Notably, in 2008, a study reviewed all of the research that was available at the time and concluded that a diet rich in potassium  may well help reduce bone turnover, which is the rate at which bone is lost; however, they appreciated that more research in this area needed to be conducted.

In 2012, another study showed that supplementation with potassium citrate helped to repair the damage caused by treatment received by kidney transplant patients, particularly the increased acidity levels which resulted in damage to muscle and bone quality.

People who have high levels of potassium in their diet are far less likely to suffer a stroke than those who don’t. Indeed, a 2014 study by the American Heart Association found that women who had diets with high levels of dietary potassium had a much lower risk of experiencing a stroke than those who had low levels of dietary potassium, even if they had high blood pressure. That said, those who had high levels of dietary potassium, but low blood pressure were far less likely to experience a stroke than their counterparts who had high levels of dietary potassium, but high blood pressure.

Continuing with the topic of high blood pressure, it is understood, thanks to a recent study, that a diet that is high in sodium, or salt, but deficient in potassium increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. Therefore, it seems prudent that lowering salt intakes and ensuring that adequate potassium is being consumed is the best method for helping to prevent the development of high blood pressure, alongside other sensible lifestyle choices.

Recommended Intakes

At present, the recommended daily allowance is based upon what nutritionists believe to be an adequate intake of potassium each day to ensure that the body can work efficiently and correctly. So the following recommended allowances are established to enable us to ensure that we get enough potassium in the diet without consuming dangerously high levels. Always speak to a doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.

Babies under a year old have significantly lower potassium requirements than older children, with those under six months requiring around 400mg/0.4g a day and those aged seven to twelve months requiring roughly 700mg/0.7g a day.

Under the age of nine years old, the recommended daily allowance of potassium for boys and girls is the same, with children aged between one and three years needing around 2,000mg/2g a day and children between the ages of four and eight years old needing around 2,300mg/2.3g a day.

Boys aged nine to thirteen years of age should be getting 3,000mg/3g of potassium a day, whilst girls should be getting 2,500mg/2.5g a day; boys aged fourteen to eighteen years of age need roughly 3,600mg/3.6g a day and girls need about 2,600mg/2.6g.

As adults, men generally need about 3,800mg/3.8g of potassium a day and women need 2,800mg/2.8g; however, during lactation women’s needs increase to 3,200mg/3.2g a day, but remain the same during pregnancy.

Deficiency

Thankfully, ensuring that you have enough potassium in your diet is relatively easy since most foods contain potassium, although some are obviously richer in potassium than others. That said, there are groups of people who are at risk of developing deficiencies in potassium and they include:

  • The Elderly– older adults are more likely to develop health conditions that mean they to need to take medications that can affect the body’s ability to properly absorb potassium. They are also more likely to suffer from illnesses that cause diarrhoea and vomiting which results in more potassium being lost than is normal.
  • Alcohol Dependent People – consuming too much alcohol greatly affects the body’s ability to absorb potassium effectively because it encourages us to urinate more frequently, as well as making us more likely to make poor diet choices and choose foods that are high in salt, sugar and caffeine, all of which affect potassium absorption and excretion.
  • People On Diuretic Medication – people on diuretic medications are more likely to urinate or sweat, which, as explained above, increases the amounts of potassium lost from the body.
  • People Consuming Poor Diets – the average diet tends to contain far more sodium, or salt, than is good for us, this in turn can have an adverse effect on potassium levels because sodium encourages urination which increases potassium loss. A healthy, balanced diet that is low in salt, caffeine and sugar, whilst being high in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and fish is the most ideal solution to preventing low potassium through poor diet.

Early signs of a potassium deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, dry skin and slow reflexes. If not corrected, these symptoms can develop into a more serious problem. Signs of a more serious deficiency including insomnia, irregular heartbeat and nervous disorders. In the most extreme cases, potassium deficiency can lead to bone fragility, a decreased heart rhythm, problems with the central nervous system and even death.

Risks And Warnings

Toxicity can occur from consuming too much potassium, usually in the form of supplements, therefore taking potassium supplements should only ever be done under the direction of a medical professional and, generally speaking, should never be given to infants under the age of twelve months.

Anyone suffering with kidney disease should not take potassium supplements because their kidneys are not in a position to effectively eliminate excess potassium from the body, which in turn can lead to a dangerous build-up of potassium.

It is important to recognise that the symptoms of hyperkalaemia include fatigue, muscle weakness, breathing problems, nausea and an irregular heartbeat and if you experience any of these, consult your doctor right away.