Chow line: Many options for potassium

Vegetables rich in potassium. Photo: Getty Images

My doctor told me that I need to increase my potassium intake, but I’m not the biggest fan of bananas. How much potassium should I have daily, and what are some other foods that are good sources of it?

Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that people need as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Potassium is vital because it regulate your body’s fluid balance and controls the electrical activity of your heart and other muscles. It also serves several other functions in the human body. It lowers blood pressure, decreases the risk of stroke, supports bone-mineral density, protects against loss of muscle mass, and reduces the formation of kidney stones.

Consuming a high-potassium diet has been linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, said Pat Brinkman, educator, Ohio State University Extension.

“Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure by reducing the effect of sodium, but about 90% of the population in the United States consumes more sodium than recommended with only about 3% meeting the recommendations for potassium,” Brinkman wrote in Potassium, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

According to guidelines from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, people ages 14 and over should consume at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily, she wrote. Children ages 9 to 13 should consume 4,500 milligrams of potassium daily, with children ages 4 to 8 requiring 3,800 milligrams daily. Recommendations for toddlers ages 1 to 3 years old are 3,000 milligrams daily.

The best way to get the potassium your body needs is by eating a variety of potassium-rich foods daily, Brinkman wrote. There are, however, precautions you need to consider, she said.

“If too much potassium is consumed, it is normally excreted from the body without any problems,” Brinkman wrote. “Some medical conditions such as kidney disorders or heart arrhythmias may require limiting potassium consumption.”

Here are some foods that are high in potassium:

  • Baked potatoes (with the skin)
  • Beet greens
  • Beans (including white, soy, and kidney)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Orange juice
  • Swiss chard
  • Mackerel, halibut, and tuna
  • Non-fat or low-fat milk (chocolate or white)
  • Spinach
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots

Brinkman also suggests these methods for increasing your potassium intake:

  • Consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, including some high-potassium fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables for snacks.
  • Drink non-fat or low-fat milk, or consume non-fat or low-fat yogurt, as each of these items contain 300–400 milligrams of potassium.
  • Include beans and legumes in your meals. If buying canned beans, buy no-salt-added canned beans, or drain the liquid from the can and rinse the beans to reduce the sodium. You can also choose to cook dry beans or legumes.
  • Prepare sweet potatoes and potatoes with the skin on them, to get the most potassium.
  • Include lean meats such as fish, chicken, and turkey in your diet.
Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Pat Brinkman
Educator, Ohio State University Extension.