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Potassium is a mineral and an essential nutrient needed for a wide range of vital functions. These functions include pumping your heart, fluid and electrolyte balance, and the sodium-potassium pump that all cells in the body depend on to function. Your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles need potassium for several vital functions.
That is why a potassium deficiency or being on a medication that negatively impacts potassium levels can cause terrible consequences in the body. These consequences include severe headaches, dehydration, heart palpitations and swelling of body tissues- especially glands- because of water imbalance.
Biologically, potassium is a soft silvery-white metal. 0.2% of your body is made up of potassium, that means most adults have a rough total of 120 g of potassium in their body. That’s roughly a quarter pound of your body weight being potassium. Interestingly, our bodies have the same amounts of sulfur and chlorine as potassium. The only minerals that are more abundant in our body are calcium and phosphorus, which makes sense because they are the primary components of our skeletons.
You need 4,700 mg (4.7 g) of potassium per day. Unfortunately, only about 10% of men and less than 1% of women get this amount of potassium. Most people consume roughly 60% of the amount of potassium that is recommended. The best fix for this is to add potassium-rich foods to every meal and snack. Only supplement with potassium under the direct care of your healthcare provider.
As you can see, there is a bevy of benefits to regularly consuming foods rich in potassium. The great news is there are loads of fruits and vegetables rich in potassium to help you meet that 4,700 mg daily recommendation. In fact, nature provides a wide variety of potassium-rich foods that will keep you from getting stuck in a food rut and can easily be taken on the go, or stashed in your desk drawer at work.
The following are 11 potassium-rich foods to consider, along with their percentage daily value (DV) of potassium:
Did you know there are over 100 different edible varieties of potatoes? Each variety has many health benefits, so don’t let the no-carb rhetoric deter you from potatoes. Potatoes, namely their peel, are rich in vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and vitamin C. The key is to keep the peel and choose a preparation method other than frying.
Researchers have agreed that the high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados actually have heart-protecting benefits. An astonishing 15 out of 22 grams of fat in an avocado comes from monounsaturated fat – that’s 68% of the daily recommendation.
Now that you know the fats in avocados are good for you, you can see all the other benefits they have to offer, such as, but not limited to, the fact that one avocado has over 20% DV of potassium. What’s more, they’re loaded with fiber, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and even a dollop of iron. With all those healthy fats and fiber to help keep you full, and the nutrients to help meet your nutritional needs, avocados now look more like a fruit that can help with weight loss than a fattening food.
Lima beans, also known as “butter beans” because of their starchy, yet buttery flavor, can be found canned year-round at your local grocery store. In the Southern U.S., butter beans are plentiful from the beginning of summer harvest clear to the end of fall harvest. This potassium-rich food is also high in protein, magnesium, iron, vitamin B6 and even a bit of calcium.
Winter squash, like the name suggests, is mostly available in the winter. It’s also affordable, delicious and versatile. There are plenty of varieties like butternut, acorn, pumpkin, spaghetti squash and more. Winter squash is known for having a very long shelf life and thus helps a food budget stretch. In addition to the flesh portion of squash, the seeds provide loads of nutrition as well, including potassium!
Sweet potatoes are a naturally sweet treat that feels like an indulgence. Brimming with nutrition and endless culinary opportunities, sweet potatoes offer up nutrition both in their peel and in their flesh. Get maximum nutrition by keeping the peel. In addition to one sweet potato offering nearly 20% of a day’s worth of potassium, the deep orange colored flesh contains a bevy of carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A. Sweet potatoes also offer up 5 B-vitamins – thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, niacin, and riboflavin. Grilled, sauteed or even baked, sweet potatoes can add a lot to any meal of the day.
Don’t let the reputation of prunes keep you from enjoying these sweet, nutrient-rich, dried plums. While most commonly touted for their fiber-rich capability to ease constipation, prunes have a lot more to offer nutritionally. Half a cup of prunes provides 637 mg of potassium, and even better, prunes have proven to be a wonderful food choice for bone health, as they have the ability to prevent bone resorption.
Chewy and sweet, dried plums are a healthy alternative to sugary snacks that happen to provide a lot of nutrition and may even stave off osteoporosis. Talk about a sweet treat with benefits! Just like dried apricots below, dried plums have a higher concentration of nutrients (and antioxidants) after the drying process.
Note: if you still don’t care for prunes- and you’re concerned with your bone density- opt for a natural, plant-based source of potassium that won’t offend your tastebuds. It’s the only food source on earth guaranteed to increase bone density too.
Many health and fitness websites mention coconut water and even tout it as the ultimate natural post-workout beverage. Well, there’s something to all that. 1 cup of coconut water provides 600 mg of potassium. It also contains a decent amount of magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and even iron.
Commonly known as a side staple during the holidays, brussels sprouts can be a delicious side all year round. These savory cruciferous vegetables are loaded with both flavor and nutrition. 1 cup of cooked brussels sprouts boasts only 56 calories and 504 mg of potassium in addition to bone-nourishing vitamin K, vitamin B6, omega 3 fatty acids, and magnesium.
Most commonly known as a calcium-rich food, milk is also a potassium-rich food. When choosing milk, buy organic whenever possible. If you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative, read the label to make sure you’re getting the same nutrients offered in milk, but without toxic food additives. Regardless of whether you choose dairy milk or a dairy substitute, to ensure you get enough calcium, magnesium and trace amount of potassium.
Cantaloupe is high in vitamin C, vitamin A precursors called carotenoids, and potassium. This sweet, flavorful melon makes a great natural flavor enhancer for water. Cut 4-5 cubes of cantaloupe and place them in your water bottle to sip on during the day. Keep refrigerated unless drinking it and consume within 24 hours to prevent bacterial growth. Sweeten up any green smoothie or vegetable juice naturally by adding cantaloupe. To get the most potassium from cantaloupe, it’s best to eat the fruit in its natural form. This particular melon is a realistic swap for a calorie-laden dessert.
Beets offer up a lot of nutrition and flavor with very few calories. 1 cup of beets is only 59 calories and yet that same serving offers up loads of potassium, fiber, protein, magnesium, iron and vitamin B6. If consumed raw, beets offer up a healthy dose of vitamin C as well.
Beets are deep in color and can be a golden yellow, red or even striped. Golden and striped beets tend to be less sweet than red beets and less earthy in flavor all around. In addition to the beetroot itself, you can also eat the stems and leaves.