Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte in the body. It is essential, meaning it must be supplied by the diet daily.
Potassium is needed to regulate blood pressure and heart beat rhythms, maintain fluid balance, transport nutrients and help muscles contract and nerves function.
Most people are significantly low in potassium and eating less than the recommended daily amounts set forth by dietary guidelines.
This creates a problem for health.
Below is a list of paleo-approved foods that are rich in potassium along with accompanying potassium-boosting recipes. Give them a try!
What is potassium?
Potassium is an essential mineral meaning it must be supplied by the diet in amounts greater than 100 mg per day (“macro”= big quantities).
Potassium is a mineral located inside the cells.
It is found in all living cells, in both plants and animals, which is why it is most abundant in fresh foods.
About 85% of potassium is absorbed from the diet.
Potassium and sodium regulate fluid balance.
Unlike sodium, which Americans tend to get enough of (or too much of) in the SAD (standard American diet) diet, potassium is found in foods that many people are failing to consume in adequate amounts.
Processed foods like canned soups or frozen meals tend to be low in potassium and high in sodium.
A heart-healthy goal is to eat more naturally fresh foods (to increase potassium) and less processed foods in diet (to decrease sodium).
Potassium is important and the kidneys tightly control its levels.
It is recommended that adults get more than 4,700 mg of potassium per day. On average, we get way less than is recommended.
Diets high in potassium and low in sodium increase chances of high blood pressure and increase risk of death from heart disease. Higher levels of potassium can reduce risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and death.
This is why it is important for people to monitor their mineral levels with advanced testing.
What are the benefits of potassium?
- Lower chance for getting kidney stones
- Lower risk for muscle cramps
- Helps muscles function properly
- Promotes quality sleep and relaxation
- Enhances bone health
Why is it potassium good for the heart?
- Helps to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessel walls
- Normalizes heart rhythms by controlling electrical activity of the cardiac muscle
- Decreases chances of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and death
How much potassium do we need?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends adults get at least 4,700 mg per day of potassium.
Who is most at risk for low potassium levels?
- People taking diuretic medication
- People who have kidney or adrenal disorders
- People who take laxatives
- People who don’t eat enough calories
- People who exercise greater than 2 hours per day
- People who have been sick (vomiting or diarrhea)
- Sauna users
Should I supplement?
Due to most Americans existing on a Standard American Diet (or SAD), they continue to take in excessive amounts of sodium and low amounts of potassium.
Additionally, there are many at-risk groups for potassium deficiency based on life status, disease risk or medications. There are many reasons why nutritional supplementation is often needed.
Check out scientifically formulated Potassium Boost that we use in our office. It contains 1,200 mg of elemental potassium and 120 mg of elemental magnesium per serving. It helps to maintain healthy blood pressure and heart rhythms. It also supports muscle function, alleviates muscle cramping and enhances bone health.
We get excellent results with our patients using the powder. Most products are small dose capsules.
Note: People with kidney problems, or issues with handling potassium should be cautious about increasing potassium intake. Be sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet or supplement routine.
What are the 10 best foods that contain potassium?
Whole, fresh foods are rich in potassium. Check out this top 10 list of paleo foods that are high in potassium. These foods contain as much or more potassium than your typical banana.
- Avocados– 1 avocado serving has 690 mg potassiumAvocados are a good source of potassium. They are also rich in other heart-healthy nutrients like monounsaturated fats, magnesium, folate and vitamin K. We consider avocados a heart superfood. They are anti-inflammatory, and are associated with lowering blood lipids, regulating blood pressure, and can reduce chances of obesity.Try it: Guacamole Deviled Eggs
- Pomegranates- 1 pomegranate serving has 666 mg potassiumOne pomegranate contains a high amount of potassium. It is also rich in vital antioxidants that protect the cells of the heart and body and lower inflammation. Pomegranate juice has also been shown to increase blood flow and slow the buildup of plaque.Try it: Pomegranate Vinaigrette
- Salmon– 1- 6 oz. filet serving has 618 mg potassiumWild- caught salmon is one of the healthiest foods for the heart due to its high content of omega 3 fats. Yet it is also good for your ticker because it is high in potassium, which further supports healthy blood pressure and heart rhythms. Salmon is also loaded with selenium, B vitamins, protein and key antioxidants for health.Try it: Wild Salmon with Roasted Veggies
- Butternut squash– 1 cup serving has 582 mg potassiumThis fall favorite is rich in potassium with a high amount per cup. It is also high in vitamins A and C and E along with several B vitamins and magnesium. Try making it for a side dish or throwing in your morning egg scramble for a delicious, potassium- boosting addition.Try it: Baked Butternut Squash Fries
- Sweet potatoes– 1 medium sweet potato serving has 542 mg potassiumSweet potatoes have more potassium than bananas. They are highly nutritious, low in calories and even contain some protein. Sweet potatoes also are rich in vitamin A, which supports immunity and can aid in reducing inflammation.Try it: Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Beets- 1 cup serving has 518 mg potassium. Beets (and beetroot greens) are considered a heart superfood. They are loaded with natural nitrates and heart-healthy minerals like potassium and magnesium, which support blood flow and blood pressure. A one-cup serving yields 12% of your daily value of potassium. Beets also contain adequate amounts of magnesium, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, manganese and iron. Our Heart Beet organic powder is the biggest seller in our supplement line. Click here for more information.Try it: Apple, Beet and Arugula Salad
- Broccoli- 1 cup serving has 458 mg potassiumBroccoli is one of the most healthy, cruciferous vegetables. It provides a good source of potassium. It also provides vitamins K and C and A along with folate, and fiber. Broccoli is also rich in antioxidants, which help to protect the body from disease.Try it: Paleo Broccoli Salad
- Sardines– 1 can serving has 365 mg potassiumThese small fish are jam packed with nutrients. They are high in potassium per serving, making them a very heart-healthy food. They are also rich in vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium, niacin and vitamin D. On top of that, they have high levels of essential omega 3 fatty acids for cardioprotection. They have even been linked to reducing chances of heart disease and cancers.Try it: Paleo Sardine Dip
- Spinach– 1 cup raw spinach serving has 167 mg potassiumSpinach is one of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens. Leafy greens contain many nutrients needed for heart function. Spinach contains high levels of potassium along with magnesium, folate, vitamin K, vitamin A and natural nitrates. Making a green juice? 3 cups of spinach yields roughly 558 mg potassium!Try it: Paleo Creamed Spinach
- Swiss Chard– 1 cup raw Swiss chard serving has 136 mg potassiumSwiss chard is another nutritional powerhouse leafy green. It is rich in potassium. It also is high in magnesium, iron and fiber along with vitamins A, C and K to support the immune system and heart. Swiss chard is very heart-healthy. Seek out the colored chard varieties for even more health benefits!Try it: Braised Rainbow Chard
Summary of information:
- Potassium is an essential mineral that is vital to bodily functioning, heart health and fluid balance.
- High levels of potassium have been linked to a lower risk of hypertension, stroke, heart disease and death.
- There are many potassium-rich Paleo foods. Seek out fresh vegetables and fruits and avoid processed foods. A Paleo-diet is one of the best diets for boosting your potassium intake.