This nutrient is more important than you think. Add these foods to your grocery list to get your daily dose without even trying.
Picture this: You're watching an episode of "Family Feud." The host asks, "What are some foods that are high in potassium?" One competitor buzzes in and breathlessly bursts out, "Bananas!" The audience cheers. And then the room falls silent.
While most of us are aware we should be getting plenty of potassium in our diets, few of us really know why or how to go about doing so. We've been taught that bananas are a high-potassium food, but that's often where our knowledge of the nutrient ends-until now.
Why Potassium Is So Important
“Potassium is an electrolyte that helps with nerve and muscle function in the body,” says Maxine Yeung, R.D., founder of The Wellness Whisk. “Potassium also helps regulate the heart and blood pressure by counterbalancing sodium. Additionally, adequate potassium intake has been shown to help protect bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.”
Those are some pretty important functions. And the good news is that a healthy diet usually supplies all the potassium you need to enjoy these benefits. "A diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and legumes is likely not deficient in potassium," Yeung says.
That said, a less-than-stellar diet or a number of medical conditions may cause a potassium deficiency. Yeung says these conditions include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Malabsorption conditions
- Eating a diet that’s very high in salt
- Periods of excessive diarrhea, vomiting, or sweating
Certain medications, such as some diuretics, may also cause a drop in potassium levels. Talk to your doctor about all the medications you take, including any over-the-counter drugs and supplements, and your diet to make sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients.
For most people, a potassium-rich diet is enough to get your daily dose, Yeung says. That's 4,700 milligrams per day for both men and women, according to the National Academy of Medicine.
The easiest way to meet your needs: Add these nine foods to your grocery list. All deliver more potassium than a medium banana, which comes in at about 422 mg of potassium.
1. Baked Potato
A medium baked potato with the skin left on contains a whopping 926 mg of potassium, Yeung says. It’s also a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese.
2. Beet Greens
Beets contain potassium in their own right, but their greens pack an even bigger potassium punch. A half-cup of the cooked greens contains an impressive 654 mg of potassium, Yeung says. The greens are also rich in vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
3. Plain Nonfat Yogurt
One cup of plain nonfat yogurt contains 570 mg of potassium, Yeung says. It’ll also provide a healthy dose of lean protein and gut-friendly probiotics. Check out our guide to the best foods for a healthy gut to learn why probiotics are so important.
4. Baked Sweet Potato
Yeung says a medium baked sweet potato with the skin left on contains 542 mg of potassium. Sweet potato eaters will also benefit from plenty of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, and manganese.
5. Atlantic Wild Salmon
Go wild with some potassium-rich salmon. Yeung says just three ounces of cooked wild Atlantic salmon boasts 534 mg of potassium. It’s also a great source of protein, vitamins B6 and B12, niacin, and selenium.
6. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard has enjoyed superfood status for several years now, and for good reason. Not only does it contain fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K, but a half-cup of the cooked stuff also boasts 481 mg of potassium.
7. Lima Beans
You may have hated eating lima beans as a kid, but it's worth giving them another try in adulthood. According to Yeung, a half-cup of cooked lima beans offers 478 mg of potassium. The beans are also a good source of fiber, iron, and zinc.
Three ounces of cooked yellowfin tuna provide 448 mg of potassium, Yeung says. Yellowfin tuna is also rich in niacin, protein, selenium, thiamin, and vitamin B6.
9. Acorn Squash
Acorn squash may taste nothing like tuna, but one thing these foods share in common is their potassium content. A half-cup of cooked acorn squash boasts 448 mg of potassium, Yeung says. Acorn squash also contains high levels of fiber, manganese, and vitamin C.
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