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Are You Getting Enough Potassium?

Muscle cramping, weakness, fatigue, tingling or numb extremities, heart palpitations…are you getting enough potassium?

There can be several different underlying causes for some of the symptoms above. In my nutrition practice however, I analyze a lot of food diaries submitted by my clients and over the years I have noticed that many people are not getting enough potassium.

Potassium is both a mineral and electrolyte. It is the third most abundant mineral in the body and required for the proper functioning of several organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain and muscular tissues.  Potassium also plays an important role in keeping the body hydrated and works with sodium to support cellular function with your body’s sodium-potassium pump. Low levels of potassium can have severe effects on the heart, nerves and muscles.

Signs of Potassium Deficiency

  • Muscle cramping
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling or numb extremities
  • Heart palpitations
  • Passing large amounts of urine or feeling very thirsty most of the time
  • Low blood pressure
  • Depression, confusion, irritability

Factors That Deplete, Destroy or Compromise Potassium Absorption
Dehydration, diarrhea, excessive sweating and laxative abuse are common causes of low potassium levels.

A blood test can check potassium levels, kidney function, glucose, magnesium, calcium and phosphorous if an electrolyte imbalance is suspected. 

Recommended Dietary Allowance
The recommended dietary intake for potassium is between 2,500 – 4,700 mg. Aim for the higher end if you are more active and sweat a lot, or if you experience frequent loose stools. 

The kidneys control the balance of potassium by removing excess potassium into the urine. Those with kidney disease should use caution when it comes to eating potassium-rich foods. In some people with chronic kidney disease, the kidneys may not remove extra potassium from the blood.

Potassium-Rich Foods
The great thing about this wonderful mineral and electrolyte is there are so many foods that contain large amounts of it. For example, just one avocado contains 1,067 mg.

Potassium Foods

Avocado 1 whole

1,067 mg

Acorn Squash 1 cup

896

Spinach 1 cup (cooked)

839

Salmon 1/2 filet

777

Tomato sauce 1 cup

728

Yogurt 1 cup

573

Beets 1 cup (cooked)

518

White beans ½ cup

502

Banana 1 large

487

Sweet Potato 1 large

438

Coconut water 1 cup

395

Black beans ½ cup

369

Lentils ½ cup

365

Kale 1 cup (cooked)

329

Soy milk 1 cup

300

Almond milk 1 cup

190

Oats 1 cup

140

Quinoa ½ cup (cooked)

125

Hemp Seeds 1 Tbsp.

120

To give you an idea of what the ideal amount of potassium for the day might look like, I made two sample meals plans. These meal plans do not take into account other nutritional needs. They are just an example of how to include more potassium-rich foods into your diet if you are deficient. If you still have a difficult time meeting your potassium needs, try adding fresh salads, green smoothies, more fruit and vegetables or coconut water into your meal plans!

Plant-Based
Sample Potassium Meal Plan #1

Food

Potassium in mg

Breakfast
1 cup rolled oats (cooked)

140

1 banana

487

1/2 cup blueberries

57

1 cup soy milk

300

1 Tbsp. hemp seeds

120

Snack

1 medium apple

108

Almond butter – 1 Tbsp.

119

Lunch

1 cup quinoa

250

1/2 cup cooked spinach

419

1 cup broccoli

278

1/2 sweet potato

219

Dinner

1/2 cup black beans

369

1/2  cup lentils

365

1/2 cup cooked spinach

419

1/2 avocado

533.5

Total

4183.5 mg

Sample Potassium Meal Plan #2

Food

Potassium in mg

Breakfast

1 cup rolled oats (cooked)

140

1 banana

487

1/2 cup blueberries

57

1 cup almond milk

190

2 Tbsp. hemp seeds

240

Snack

1 medium apple

108

Almond butter – 1 Tbsp.

119

Lunch

1 salmon fillet

386

1/2 cup quinoa

125

1/2 cup broccoli

139

1/2 sweet potato

219

Dinner

1/2 chicken breast

191

1 cup cooked spinach

839

1 carrot

160

1/2 avocado

533.5

Total

3,933.5 mg

 

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