Foods Containing Potassium

Foods containing potassium are important parts of everyone's diet because without potassium, your body will not be able to produce glycogen. This substance controls how much sugar is in the bloodstream. Potassium also helps to regulate the balance of fluids in the body as well as in individual cells besides its role in the nervous system, muscles, heart, kidneys and adrenal gland.

Potassium, number 19 on the Periodic Table of the Elements is symbolized by the letter, K, by chemists. It is a metal which is naturally found in the crust of the earth. Since it is needed by plants, a lot of fertilizers contain potassium. It also has medical and industrial uses. But, without ingesting dietary potassium, people get sick.

Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes used by the body for healthy functioning of the heart, kidney, nerves and muscles. Potassium also helps balance the fluids, minerals and pH level in the body. Under certain conditions, it can help lower blood pressure. The recommended daily intake of potassium is about 4,700 mg for an average adult. As potassium works in conjunction with sodium in the body, sodium intake is also important, and the recommended ratio of potassium to sodium intake is about 5 to 1.


Foods that are high in potassium include bananas, avocados, meats, poultry, fish, apricots and cantaloupe. In fact, half of a medium cantaloupe contains 680 milligrams of potassium but only 60 calories. A medium banana contains 451 milligrams of potassium and 105 calories. Other good sources of potassium are soy flour, molasses, wheat bran, wheat germ, baked potatoes, seeds, tomatoes and milk products.


Fruits that are high in potassium include bananas, avocados, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwis, oranges, mangoes, nectarines, papaya, pomegranate, tangelo, watermelon, fig, guava and apples. Dried fruit such as raisins, apricots, peaches and prunes are also high in potassium. So are juices such as prune or orange.

Bananas have the most potassium at 357 mg per 100 grams of fruit, followed by cantaloupe with 350 mg, kiwi with 330 mg, then apricot and blackberry with 300 mg each. Fresh fruit is a better choice than dried fruit when trying to add potassium to your diet because dried fruit has a very high sugar content. This makes the nutritional value of dried fruit lower, unless calories are not a concern.


Vegetables high in potassium include potatoes (with the skin), tomatoes, sweet potatoes (with skin), beet greens, spinach, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, beans -- green, wax or yellow -- parsnips, parsnips, corn on the cob, okra, plantains, Swiss chard and artichokes. Carrot and tomato juices are also high in potassium.

Boiling vegetables usually reduces the amount of nutrition available. For example, raw beets have 325 mg potassium per 100 g serving, but boiled they have about 305 mg. A better alternative is roasting, grilling, or sauteing. Beet greens are very rich in potassium--a 100 g serving of raw beet greens has 725 mg potassium, but boiled with no salt they have 909 mg of potassium--an exception to the no boiling rule. Potatoes and sweet potatoes also have high levels of potassium, 573 mg and 475 mg per 100 g serving, but the skin contains most of the nutrients. Raw spinach is also high in potassium with 558 mg per 100 g serving. Uncooked carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower have 320 mg, 316 mg and 303 mg respectively.


Milk, buttermilk, and yogurt contain the most potassium of all dairy foods, followed by cottage cheese, ricotta cheese and ice cream.


The best sources of high-potassium protein are beans such as kidney, pinto, lima, garbanzo and soybeans. Meats are also a good source of potassium, but their high sodium and fat content can negate the benefit of potassium. Leaner cuts of meat are the best choice for potassium.

Meat and fish with high potassium levels include tuna, halibut, salmon, cod, trout, pork, turkey (the dark meat), chicken and beef. Nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds are good sources but should be eaten unsalted.

Fish are a good source of potassium that also have fairly low sodium, calories and cholesterol in addition to the beneficial omega-3 fats. These measurements are taken for fresh fish cooked over dry heat, in 100 g servings. Potassium levels vary quite a bit depending on the specific type of fish. For example, farmed Atlantic salmon have only 384 mg/100 g serving, while wild Atlantic salmon have 628 mg, sockeye has 375 mg, Chinook has 505 mg, farmed coho has 460 mg, wild coho has 434 mg and pink salmon has 414 mg. Fish should be eaten with consideration and in moderation as it can also have high levels of mercury, with certain types at higher risk.

Steamed clams are very high in potassium, with 628 mg potassium per 100 g serving. This is followed by halibut, 576 mg; yellowfin tuna, 569 mg; king mackerel, 558 mg; Pacific mackerel, 521 mg; rockfish, 520 mg; Pacific cod, 517 mg and steamed scallops, 476 mg.

For a healthy diet, red meats should be eaten sparingly, and low fat cuts are best. Fruits, vegetables and fish are better sources of potassium. Pork has the highest amounts of potassium, ranging between 350 to 400 mg per 100 g serving of most pork chop and loins, broiled. Lamb has between 300 to 350 mg per 100 g serving, roasted or braised. Chicken is usually between 200 to 300 mg of potassium per 100 g serving, depending on how it is cooked. Beef varies from about 230 to about 250 mg per 100 g serving.


Other excellent sources of potassium are beans. This does not include canned beans, as the canning process leaches nutrients. The nutrient values are for 100 g servings of beans boiled without salt. White beans have the most potassium with 561 mg, then lima and pink beans with 508 mg, followed by pinto beans with 436 mg and kidney beans with 403 mg potassium.

Nuts are also a good source of potassium but can be high in fat. These nutrient values are for dry roasted without salt, 100 g servings. Pistachios are highest with 1042 mg, followed by almonds with 746 mg, then hazel nuts which have 680 mg, Brazil nuts, 659 mg, peanuts, 658 mg, pine nuts, 597 mg, cashews, 565 mg, walnuts, 441 mg and pecans, 424 mg.

Chocolate also has a high potassium content, but should be eaten sparingly because of the fat and sugar. The darker the chocolate, the higher the potassium content. 100 grams of 45-59 percent dark chocolate has 559 mg of potassium, 60 percent dark chocolate has 567 mg, and 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate has 715 mg and around 43 g of fat.


The Colorado State University Extension office website recommends that Americans eat 4.7 grams of potassium every day and foods that contain high amounts of dietary potassium have at least 300 milligrams per serving. Research has associated high blood pressure with diets that include higher amounts of sodium than potassium so a second recommendation is to eat equal amounts of potassium and sodium.


Potassium is critical to healthy metabolism because it maintains a balance of fluids in the body. It is also important for healthy heart, kidney, and adrenal gland function. The nervous system and the muscles also rely on potassium which works as an electrolyte in the body. However, it is only since 2001 that American food manufacturers have been required to report the dietary content of potassium on the food package label.


Boiling can reduce the amount of potassium available in a food. Nutrition information from the USDA National Nutrient Database shows that 100 g of boiled broccoli contains less potassium (293mg) than raw broccoli (316mg). Steaming, roasting, sauteing or grilling are good alternatives. Processed foods are also lower in potassium than raw ones.

Foods such as potatoes or apples should be eaten with the skin on to obtain more nutritional benefit. According to the USDA, for example, a baked potato with skin contains 535 mg of potassium; baked potato eaten without skin has 391 mg.

The amount of potassium in a food may be offset by the amount of sodium or fats, as is the case with certain meats. The benefits from the potassium should be weighed against negative nutritional factors.


Athletes who sweat profusely deplete their potassium so they may need to eat more foods containing potassium than other people. The first symptom of a potassium deficiency is often weakness, fatigue and a sense of confusion. More serious symptoms include heart problems and difficulty with coordination.

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