Because of our diet, our society is now at the point where we consume too much sodium and too little potassium. During the food processing process, foods lose potassium and gain sodium. In fact, the majority of salt in your diet comes from processed foods, not from the salt shaker. Potassium is the third most abundant and most needed mineral in our body, making foods rich in potassium essential for our health.
Some studies have shown that improving your potassium intake and cutting down your sodium intake can reduce the risk of stroke by 20%. In addition, the more potassium you consume, and the less sodium, you improve the health of your heart. The main function of potassium is to protect the blood vessels from oxidative damage, as well as to keep the walls from thickening. The best way to get your potassium is from foods rich in potassium. Supplements can provide too much potassium, which is not good either.
Last, but not least, potassium keeps your body hydrated.
Signs of potassium deficiency
When your body has too much sodium and too little potassium, you put yourself at risk of heart disease. But how can you know? Well, your body sends you little signals that you should pay attention to.
Here are the main signs of potassium deficiency:
- Muscle cramps
- Weight gain
- Increased blood pressure
- Swelling of glands
- Severe headaches
Those who follow intense endurance and cardiovascular exercises should be wary of their potassium content. Your body loses potassium due to sweating, and you need to replenish those reserves. Keep yourself hydrated, or you risk vomiting and diarrhea.
How much potassium do you need?
All this talk about foods rich in potassium and potassium deficiency brings us to the next section. The obvious question is: how much potassium do you need?
Unless you are suffering from certain conditions, the general rule of thumb is that adults need at least 4,700mg of potassium per day. And you should also limit yourself to 1,500mg of sodium. Fair warning: even if you consume high potassium foods, sodium can negate that. So be careful of both limits.
That’s the general rule of thumb. However, people suffering from kidney disease, or taking blood pressure and heart medications, should limit potassium in their diets. Overdosing from potassium from natural sources is rare. As for the foods rich in potassium, many people put the banana at the top of the list. The truth is that almost any fruit can provide around 10% of your daily needs, which is what the banana brings to the table.
Nevertheless, let’s check out other foods that are rich in potassium.
It’s only logical that one of the healthiest fruits is on the list.
Avocado is a great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and lots of minerals. In terms of potassium, one avocado gives you around 1,065mg of potassium, which is almost one-third of your daily needs.
Leafy greens are generally thought of as the healthiest foods. And spinach is at the top of that list.
One cup of cooked spinach gives you 839mg of potassium, or one-quarter of your daily needs. Other greens that are high in potassium include Swiss chard, kale, and collard greens.
A few years ago, I fell in love with sweet potatoes. The taste is vastly different from regular potatoes. Now, some people love them, some don’t. But there is no arguing the fact that the sweet potato is one of the healthiest vegetables.
Known as one of the best sources of vitamin A, sweet potato is also rich in potassium. To be precise, 952mg in one medium-sized potato, or 27% of your daily value.
When we talk about beets, we’re talking about the greens. Most people toss away the greens, but it’s there that the nutritional fountain lies.
Cooked greens can be bitter, but they deliver a whopping 644mg of potassium per just ½ cup. In addition, they provide folate and other healthy nutrients.
Anything with the word “coconut” is healthy. Be it raw coconut, coconut oil, and now coconut water. Since potassium is an electrolyte, you get most of it in coconut water.
Just one cup of coconut water provides you with 600mg of potassium, which is close to 15% of your daily needs.
Kefir / Yogurt
Speaking of beverages, don’t underestimate probiotics like yogurt and kefir. Now, for most people, kefir is unpleasant; the taste and flavor are unique, and not many people can stomach it.
However, whether you drink yogurt or kefir, one cup gives close to 600mg of potassium, or 15% of the daily value.
And if milk is what you fancy, don’t worry. You can still get a good amount of potassium—just not as much as from kefir. One cup of non-fat milk provides you with close to 400mg of potassium.
If you don’t like to drink milk on its own, just add it to smoothies and milkshakes. There is no better way to boost your potassium intake as well as your calcium intake.
Probiotic foods and beverages are great, but sometimes, you want something fresh. And in that case, you can grab a glass of orange juice. One of the best additions to your breakfast, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice delivers 355mg of potassium.
In addition, orange juice is a great source of folate, vitamin B, vitamin C, and calcium.
We are now at the beans segment, and we are starting off with white beans.
Although not very popular among bean lovers, white beans provide you with 500mg of potassium per ½ cup. And that’s great when you combine them in a salad or stew with some other vegetables.
Soybeans are a staple in the vegetarian diet. They are famed for the protein they provide, but you can also source potassium from soybeans. Same as with white beans, ½ cup of cooked soybeans provides you with 500mg of potassium.
The biggest benefit is that soybeans help fight inflammation in the body.
Finally, we have what many people believe is the best potassium food. But the truth is, there are lots of foods rich in potassium that are better than a banana. As with many other fruits, one banana provides you with between 400mg and 450mg of potassium.
Call it winter squash or acorn squash, it’s almost the same thing. The best thing about squash is that the fruit is extremely low in calories and high in vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
For example, one cup of squash contains just 100 calories and close to 900mg of potassium, which is 26% of your daily value.
Some people like fresh fruit, some like dried fruit. Dried fruit is not only an excellent boost to your energy levels, but it also contains lots of minerals and vitamins.
Dried apricots, for example, contain 755mg of potassium in just ½ cup, which is one-fifth of your daily value.
Most people consume prunes fresh. But some want to juice them as well. In both cases, you get a healthy dose of potassium: almost 400mg per ½ cup.
Dried prunes also help with bone density, as they are a great source of calcium.
Fish in general is a great source of potassium. But we put salmon on top as one of the best fish for potassium (in addition to being a great source of iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein).
One fillet of salmon contains almost 550mg of potassium, or 15% of your daily value. Other fish that are good sources of potassium include pompano, tuna, lingcod, herring, and mackerel.
We finish off the list with one of the most popular vegetarian choices: mushrooms. A cup of fresh mushrooms provides close to 450mg of potassium.
The good thing about mushrooms is that you can add them to any meal, be it dinner, lunch, or breakfast.