Potassium is the third most abundant mineral in your body, and plays an important role in several body processes.
However, very few people consume enough of it. In fact, nearly 98% of all adults in the US are not meeting the daily intake recommendations.
This article will tell you how much potassium you need per day, as well as why it’s important for your health.
What Is Potassium?
Potassium is an incredibly important mineral and electrolyte. It’s found in a variety of whole foods, including leafy vegetables, legumes and fish, such as salmon.
About 98% of the potassium in your body is found inside cells. Of this, 80% is found inside muscle cells, while 20% is in bone, liver and red blood cells.
This mineral plays a necessary role in a variety of processes in the body. It is involved in muscle contractions, heart function and managing water balance.
Despite its importance, very few people worldwide get enough of this mineral.
A diet rich in potassium is associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure, kidney stones and osteoporosis, among other benefits.
Summary: Potassium is an important mineral and electrolyte. It is involved in muscle contractions, heart function and regulating water balance.
Is Deficiency Common?
Unfortunately, most adults don’t consume enough potassium.
In many countries, a Western diet is often to blame, likely because it favors processed foods, which are poor sources of this mineral.
However, just because people aren’t getting enough doesn’t mean they’re deficient.
A potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalemia, is characterized by a blood level of potassium less than 3.5 mmol per liter.
Surprisingly, deficiencies are rarely caused by a lack of potassium in the diet.
They usually occur when the body loses too much potassium, such as with chronic diarrhea or vomiting. You may also lose potassium if you’re taking diuretics, which are medications that cause your body to lose water.
Symptoms of deficiency depend on your blood levels. Here are the symptoms for three different levels of deficiency:
Mild deficiency: When a person has blood levels of 3–3.5 mmol/l. It usually does not have symptoms.
Moderate deficiency: Happens at 2.5–3 mmol/l. Symptoms include cramping, muscle pain, weakness and discomfort.
Severe deficiency: Happens at less than 2.5 mmol/l. Symptoms include irregular heartbeat and paralysis.
Summary: A potassium deficiency is uncommon. However, most adults are not consuming enough of this important mineral.
The Best Dietary Sources of Potassium
Salmon Steak White Background
The best way to increase your potassium intake is through your diet.
Potassium is found in a variety of whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
Due to the insufficient evidence behind the mineral, nutrition experts haven’t determined a Reference Daily Intake.
An RDI is the daily amount of a nutrient likely to meet the needs for 97–98% of healthy people.
Below are some foods that are excellent sources of potassium, as well as how much they contain in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving:
Beet greens, cooked: 909 mg
Yams, baked: 670 mg
White potatoes, baked: 544 mg
Soybeans, cooked: 539 mg
Avocado: 485 mg
Sweet potato, baked: 475 mg
Spinach, cooked: 466 mg
Edamame beans: 436 mg
Salmon, cooked: 414 mg
Bananas: 358 mg
Summary: A variety of whole foods are excellent sources of potassium, including beet greens, yams, potatoes and spinach.
Health Benefits of Potassium
A diet rich in potassium is associated with some impressive health benefits. It may prevent or alleviate a variety of health problems, including:
High blood pressure: Many studies have shown that potassium-rich diets can lower blood pressure, especially for people with high blood pressure.
Salt sensitivity: People with this condition may experience a 10% increase in blood pressure after eating salt. A potassium-rich diet may eliminate salt sensitivity.
Stroke: Several studies have shown that a potassium-rich diet may reduce the risk of stroke by up to 27%.
Osteoporosis: Studies have shown that a potassium-rich diet may help prevent osteoporosis, a condition associated with porous bones.
Kidney stones: Studies have found that potassium-rich diets are associated with a significantly lower risk of kidney stones than diets low in this mineral.
Summary: A diet rich in potassium may alleviate high blood pressure and salt sensitivity and may reduce the risk of stroke. Additionally, it may help prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones.