Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte – a mineral that dissolves in water and carries an electrical charge – that helps control fluid balance in the body. It is required for nerve impulse transmissions and muscle contraction, among other vital functions. Potassium helps maintain nerve and muscle growth, heart function, and balanced pH, and assists in the cellular metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins. Intake of potassium can significantly affect your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. In addition, a recent study showed that if your potassium level is chronically in the low-normal range, you are more likely to develop diabetes within the next decade of life.
Potassium is found especially in fruits and vegetables. There are many factors, including illness and diet, that may cause your levels to become too high or too low. Low potassium is a condition called hypokalemia. Too much potassium, or hyperkalemia, leads to high potassium levels, which has similar symptoms as hypokalemia — weakness, fatigue, and even heart arrhythmias in extreme cases. Hyperkalemia often starts with gastrointestinal problems.
The National Council on Potassium in Clinical Practice supports the recommendation of a minimum blood serum level of 4.0 mmol/L (4.0 mEq/L), but further suggests that an optimal level for healthy patients would be 4.5 – 5.0 mmol/L.
A serum potassium test can help detect adrenal, digestive, heart, kidney, and muscle disorders, as both high and low levels are potentially detrimental.
The USDA recommends adults get 4,700 mg of potassium daily. To help make sure you’re on track to adequate potassium in your diet, here’s a list of 10 foods rich in potassium:
- Avocado –> 708.1 mg per cup, or about one serving
- Coconut Water (1 cup) –> 575 mg of potassium
- Crimini Mushrooms –> 5 ounces = 640 mg of potassium
- Banana –> One medium-sized banana = 360 mg of potassium
- Acorn Squash (1 cup/cooked) –> 486 mg of potassium
- Sweet Potato (1 cup) –> 448 mg of potassium
- 7. Potato -> medium sized potato with the skin = 926 mg of potassium.
- 8. Prunes –> 528 mg per serving
- 9. Raisins –> One-half cup of raisins (roughly a handful) = 600 mg of potassium
- 10. Spinach –> ½ cup serving of spinach = 420 mg of potassium