Foods plentiful in potassium

Originally Published: July 21, 2000 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: December 15, 2014
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Dear Alice,

What foods are rich in potassium besides bananas?

Dear Reader,

Don't monkey around and limit yourself to bananas! Although bananas are known to be rich in potassium (one medium banana has about 422 milligrams), there are plenty of fresh, whole foods available that can supply you with an abundance of the essential mineral. Some of the best sources include:

Food

Size

Potassium (in milligrams)

Potato, baked with skin

1 small

738

Prune juice

1 cup

707

Tomato paste

¼ cup

664

 White beans, canned

½ cup

595

Plain yogurt, low- or non-fat

½ cup

531-579

Orange juice

1 cup

496

 Cod, cooked

 3 oz.

439

 Spinach, cooked

½ cup

370-419

Skim milk

1 cup

382

Apricots, dried

¼ cup

378

Lentils

½ cup

365

Table adapted from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Adequate Intake (AI) for adults is currently 4,700 milligrams per day. AI refers to an amount of a nutrient that is suitable for most people, but also means that some people may be fine with getting slightly less than the AI amount.  While this may seem like a lot, eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes will likely satisfy your potassium AI. Potassium plays an integral part in the body, maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes inside your body's cells. It also has a hand in normalizing blood pressure, muscle contraction, and transmission of nerve impulses.

Potassium levels can drop while sweating, dieting, using diuretics or laxatives, vomiting, or during bouts of diarrhea. When your potassium levels drop severely, your body can no longer detect the need for water. Severe losses can result in heart arrhythmias, confusion, nerve damage, and paralysis, while generally low potassium intake can raise blood pressure, worsen glucose intolerance, increase metabolic acidity, accelerate calcium bone loss, and increase the likelihood of developing kidney stones. Muscle weakness, cramping, and/or nausea may indicate a potassium deficiency.

Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fresh, whole foods is your best source of potassium. Though most Americans don’t get enough potassium, some folks, such as those with kidney disease and those who take certain medications may need to health care provider about a lower potassium intake.  Potassium supplements are not recommended unless under the direction of a health care provider because they can be dangerous for a healthy adult.

Alice