What you should know about Potassium

Potassium maintains your heartbeat. That’s right, it keeps you ticking. Potassium is a very important nutrient many of us take for granted, and dangerously ignore.

Of course, there’s bananas, but exactly how much potassium do you need, and how can you get it without turning into a monkey? Here’s some tips to get you started.

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Potassium maintains heartbeat and is important in many metabolic reactions. It balances fluid inside and outside the cells to maintain normal cell function. Potassium blunts the rise of blood pressure in response to excess dietary sodium. A high potassium diet might help prevent bone loss and kidney stones. (http://caloriecount.about.com/potassium-facts-nf306#highfoods)

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4700 mg, apparently.

How much potassium you need is 4700 mg according to every medical site I can find except Mayo Clinic. All of the sites say there is no recommended daily amount (RDA) for potassium, but according to the Mayo Clinic, the reason for no RDA on potassium is because “because lack of potassium is rare.” To me, that seems like an utterly silly reason not to go ahead and determine what the recommended value would be. For a person concerned about their health, that’s frustrating.

Here’s what I was able to find out for you, though. The Mayo Clinic recommends 1200-2000mg as “adequate” for an adult (whatever that means) Caloriecount.about.com estimates 4700 mg as the adequate amount. Quite a big discrepancy, don’t you think?

According to Livestrong.com, the “The adequate intake of potassium as established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is 4,700 mg per day for males and females over the age of 14. Children between the ages of 9 and 13 need 4,500 mg per day of potassium.” I imagine the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is where Caloriecount gets their estimate as well. I cannot account for why the Mayo Clinic’s listed number is drastically lower. As someone whose grandmother died of heart failure attributed to low potassium, this is one nutrient very important in my diet,  as it should be in yours. Protect the ticker! Livestrong.com goes on to suggest that in people with kidney problems, high levels of potassium can lead to serious health conditions. The reality is, though, that most individuals do not even come close to “too much”, instead consuming way too little of this vital nutrient. Read more about why there are no upper limits for potassium consumption assigned to healthy individuals, as well as hypokalemia (too much potassium ovewhelming your kidneys, here.

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According to the University of Maryland Medical Centerthere is some evidence that potassium supplements might cause a slight drop in blood pressure. Other studies show that increasing potassium intake reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Researchers suspect this is largely due to potassium’s blood pressure lowering effects.” They go on to suggest that for those wanting to avoid a stroke, “People who get a lot of potassium in their diet have a lower risk of stroke. However, potassium supplements don’t seem to produce the same benefit.

The disdain for potassium supplements seems to be widespread. The best option for seeing the best benefits from potassium will be gained from eating the foods that contain potassium.

Source: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/potassium-000320.htm#ixzz2H2K6Sc7s

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Healthaliciousness.com (ridiculous name, but great article). outlines the top 10 best sources of potassium, along with the serving size of each item, and how much potassium by mg are in each serving. It’s a helpful little outline. Some of my favorite sources of non-banana potassium include white beans, pistachios, dark chocolate, and avocados.



meal plan to get enough potassium


Just in case you’re curious. To get 4700 mg of potassium in your diet, you would need to eat a plan something like this one from a guest blogger from the show, “The Doctors

Here’s a sample meal plan of my daily postassium intake (my numbers are approximate).  It gives you an idea of what foods you need to look out for and how much you need with each meal:

Almond milk/blueberries/whey protein smoothie: 400mg

Coconut water:  500mg

1/2 avocado: 500mg

Raw kale: 300mg

1/2 banana and apple: 400mg

1/2 cup baked beans (white beans and molasses have tons of potassium): 700mg

Baked sweet potato with skin, medium: 700mg

5 oz salmon: 500mg

1/2 cup cooked spinach: 400mg

1 cup carrot: 300mg

My sample plan daily intake = 4,700mg

Of course, each day I have different high-potassium foods, like tomatoes, tomato soup, lentils, potatoes, nuts, etc.  I calculate each food, as I go through my day, the amount of potassium and magnesium I am getting, so that by the end of the day, I am never below 3,500mg for potassium (I’ll write a magnesium blog next, when I have the time!).

Below you’ll find links to a bunch of sites that show the milligrams of potassium-rich foods.  Aim for 3,500 to 4,500 through foods.  Also read the website regarding side effects, because certain medical conditions can create problems if you eat too many potassium-rich foods.  That is why a visit to the doctor would be beneficial.  They can test for potassium levels, especially during yearly physical exams.

I do not recommend taking potassium supplements.  A supplement usually just has 99mg–very little.  A doctor may suggest/presribe high-dose potassium supplements if they have prescribed you a diuretic.  The gynocologist that gave me the diuretic prescription did not ask about my history, nor recommend potassium supplements.  I learned the hard way by experiencing my scary tachycardia episodes!  And they are scary!

That’s what I have on Potassium. It is a vital nutrient you should pay attention to in your diet. As Healthy Mommas, what are you doing to make sure your kids get enough potassium in their diets? Share some sample recipes or meal ideas in the comments below.

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