Potassium rich foods should be a staple in our everyday diet. When eaten in just the right amount, potassium can have major benefits for our bodies. On average, we are not eating enough potassium, and most people do not know how this deficit is impacting them. Here is a look at what potassium is, why it is so important, and how you can add it to your diet.
What Is Potassium And Why Do We Need It?
Potassium is a mineral found naturally in our food that our body needs. Potassium influences us from head to toe, playing key roles in processes like muscle growth and contraction, electrolyte balance, and nervous system function. We need at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day but the average person only consumes about half of that amount. Changing this is easy to do without supplements or medication. Many popular foods like bananas and potatoes are packed full of potassium- we just need to eat smarter. If you are worried about your potassium levels, keep these signs and symptoms in mind:
Signs of Low Potassium Levels
Low potassium has a variety of causes but most often it is triggered by dehydration or not eating enough potassium rich foods. While symptoms of low levels of potassium are usually nonexistent or mild, they can range from nausea and weakness, to constipation and palpitations.
More severe signs of low potassium include muscle cramps, low blood pressure, and psychological changes including depression and psychosis. Unless you have been exposed to a recent illness that caused dehydration through vomiting and/or diarrhea, you may not know you have low potassium until your next routine blood test.
Symptoms of High Potassium Levels
Although not as common as low potassium, elevated potassium could cause a problem as well. Side effects of an excess of potassium include abnormal heart rhythms, weakness, and slow heart rate. High potassium usually results from side effects caused by common medications ,such as blood pressure drugs and diuretics.
Elevated potassium can also be caused by ingesting too many potassium supplements, or consuming an amount of potassium rich foods that vastly exceeds the recommended daily value. Consuming excess potassium from food alone is not common, but as always, discuss any concerns you may have with your physician.
Benefits of Potassium
Eating the right balance of high potassium foods is the best way to protect your body from levels that are too low or too high. When eaten right, potassium can benefit the entire body. One of potassium’s most important benefits is its ability to control blood pressure.
Potassium is sodium’s biggest enemy, and high sodium diets are one of the leading causes of high blood pressure today. A diet filled with foods high in potassium can help undo the negative effects of sodium and return our blood pressure to safe levels.
Our heart also benefits from healthy levels of potassium. Research has shown that individuals who consume adequate amounts of potassium in their diet are at lower risk for stroke and cardiac disease. In 2011, the Journal of American College of Cardiology published findings which indicated that an increase of 1.6 grams of potassium per day resulted in a 21% decrease in stroke risk overall.
Research has also shown that potassium benefits bone health and muscle mass as well. It also plays a key role in the prevention of kidney stones. When eaten responsibly, this mineral has the ability to keep us healthy well into old age.
Finding potassium rich foods is easy to do. You probably have many foods that are good sources of potassium already in your home. Here is what to eat when you are looking for potassium rich foods:
The avocado has been a culinary favorite for the past few years and that is a great thing for our bodies. Avocados are also known for being a food that contains high amounts of magnesium and other minerals. One medium avocado contains approximately 485 milligrams of potassium. This equals about 14% of the daily recommended value. Get a boost of potassium first thing in the morning by spreading avocado on your toast for breakfast.
Many types of fish are high in potassium including halibut, tuna, and swordfish, but salmon takes the top spot. One serving of salmon will get you roughly 600 milligrams of potassium. Serving it with asparagus or fresh greens will boost your intake levels even more.
While dairy has been viewed as a food with negative health effects in recent years, healthy diary options like Greek yogurt have proven to be good sources of potassium. As little as 100 grams of yogurt will provide you with about 5% of your recommended daily value. Eating yogurt often, and pairing it with other potassium rich foods like fresh peaches or apricots will help you reach your nutrition goals.
Mushrooms are a versatile food that can be added to many dishes, and what is even better, is that most mushrooms are considered high potassium foods. Shiitake mushrooms will help you get about 9% of your recommended value, and portabella will get you roughly 15%. For the highest potassium levels, grab white button mushrooms for your next meal.
Bananas are one of the most well-known sources of potassium. One medium sized banana provides approximately 470 milligrams of potassium to your body. Adding bananas into your diet is extremely easy. They can be blended into smoothies, eaten with yogurt or cereal, or even frozen and dipped in chocolate for a cool, delicious treat.
Both white and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of potassium in your diet. The key to cooking these culinary classics is keeping the skin on and baking them without salt. One medium sized potato will give you an impressive 925 milligrams of potassium, which equals almost a third of your daily recommended intake.
Beans and their closely related cousins are good sources of potassium and they are easy to add to any meal. All varieties of beans including black, pinto, red, white, and even refried, will benefit your bodies potassium levels significantly. If beans are not something you enjoy, look to their closely related cousins. Lentils alone will provide you with 21% of your daily value, and chickpeas will offer 14%.
Peanut butter is a great indulgent snack that helps your reach your daily potassium goals. A serving size of 2 tablespoons will provide you with 210 milligrams. Adding peanut butter to other potassium rich foods is a great way to build a well-rounded diet.
For a boost of potassium, add peanut butter to milkshakes, yogurt, or bananas, and enjoy a sweet and healthy treat. Classics like peanut butter and celery will even provide you with an additional 350 milligrams.
Dairy and soy milk are both great sources of dietary potassium. One cup of nonfat dairy milk will deliver about 375 milligrams of potassium, while the same amount of soy milk provides roughly 300 milligrams. Potassium from dairy sources should come from milk and yogurt only. Processed forms of dairy like cheese loose a significant amount of potassium and only have 50 milligrams or less per serving.
Healthy varieties of juice can easily help you add potassium into your diet. Prune juice is especially rich in potassium, and one-half cup will quickly provide you with 370 milligrams. Vegetable juices are also ideal choices for your diet averaging about 275 milligrams per serving.
Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to increase your daily potassium intake, especially if you struggle with healthy eating. Using a vegetable base like spinach, which provides an impressive 705 milligrams per serving, will quickly get you on your way to your potassium goals. Adding in other potassium rich foods like kiwis, mangos, and bananas will ensure you reach your daily recommended value in no time!
As you can see, potassium plays a very important role in our health. You might also want to check out our list of fat burning foods to burn calories and increase your metabolism. While many supplements exist on the market they are only acting as quick fixes for reaching dietary goals. Eating lots of potassium rich foods is the best thing you can do for your body and your health.
Remember, potassium can be dangerous when you do not eat enough, and when you eat too much. To see the best results, only consume the recommended daily amount of potassium, and try to add a variety of high potassium foods into your diet.