Did you know that according to the most recent dietary guidelines, Americans under-consume potassium?
This nutrient is important to many body processes. Yet when people are asked to list foods high in potassium, all that comes to mind is bananas.
Keep reading to learn what foods are high in potassium, and why the body needs optimal potassium levels to thrive.
Benefits of Foods with Potassium
Potassium is key for many normal body processes, but perhaps none is more important than making our muscles and heart work properly. This mineral acts as a counterbalance to sodium, which is another important mineral in the body. As you age, potassium also helps to reduce the risk of recurring kidney stones.
Unless instructed to follow a low-potassium diet, women older than 19 years generally need about 2,600 milligrams (mg) daily of potassium while men need about 3,400 mg per day. But as mentioned above, many people do not meet this requirement and many get barely half of the amount recommended.
The American and Western diet is typically high in salt (sodium). Potassium helps to balance sodium levels in the body.
Since Americans are over-consuming sodium and under-consuming potassium, it is easy to guess that the average American experiences a nutrient imbalance. This is so much the case that it has been declared a public health concern, with closely linked issues like high blood pressure affecting one in three adults in America.
When looking on a nutrition facts label, check for potassium! Potassium helps contribute to health in many vital ways, including:
• Normal cell function
• Heartbeat regulation
• Nerve health
• Muscle function
• Protein synthesis
• Carbohydrate metabolism
How Much Potassium Is in a Banana?
The average medium banana contains about 420 mg potassium. While this certainly helps meet your daily count, there are other foods that are actually higher in potassium than that!
Potatoes often get a bad rep, but just one baked potato with the skin contains 930 mg of potassium. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables also have high concentrations, with a cup of cooked spinach containing 840 mg and a cup of cooked broccoli containing 460 milligrams.
Bananas, potatoes, and green things are not the only potassium-rich additions to the diet! Try adding the following foods to your plate to increase your potassium intake.
You already know about bananas, however, just a 1/2 cup of raisins ranks higher in potassium (with 618 mg). Additionally, a cup of chopped cantaloupe or tomatoes provides 430 mg each.
Fresh and dried apricots are also a great source of potassium. In fact, a 1/2 cup of dried apricots can contain more than 1,000 mg of potassium! If consuming dried apricots, or all dried fruits for that matter, reduce the serving size to a quarter or half cup and watch out for added sugars.
Other foods that contain at least 250 mg per 1/2 cup serving include:
• Oranges (and orange juice)
• Prunes (and prune juice)
It is not just fruits that provide potassium, either. Green foods like spinach and broccoli are a great option, but it is not only cooked foods that flourish with this mineral. Raw carrot slices rank almost as high as bananas, giving 390 mg with every cup consumed.
Vegetables with at least 250 mg per 1/2 cup serving include:
• Beets (and beet greens)
• Brussels sprouts
• Swiss chard
• Vegetable juice
• Sweet potatoes
Similar to carrots, a cup of low-fat milk delivers up to 380 mg potassium. Generally, higher potassium levels are linked to lower fat contents.
Whole milk still provides a considerable amount of potassium at 322 mg per one cup. Goat's milk is also another option, giving 498 milligrams (14% of the daily value) per cup.
Grains & Legumes
In addition to the fruits, vegetables, and dairy listed above, whole foods like grains and legumes add to your daily potassium levels. A 1/2 cup of cooked lentils contributes 365 mg to the diet, while foods like quinoa clock in around 320 mg per cup.
One cup of white beans contains 3,600 mg of potassium. In general, beans are a generous source of potassium. To reduce the sodium content of canned beans, be sure to rinse before use.
Other good sources of potassium in this arena include brown and wild rice and whole wheat bread and pasta.
Nuts & Seeds
Pistachios and other nuts and seeds are normally significant potassium sources. Just one cup of pistachios contains almost 1,300 mg while almonds contain 1,100 mg - about a quarter of the general recommendation!
Meat, Fish & Poultry
From meat to fish to poultry, many animal proteins are also good sources of potassium while supplying hefty grams of protein.
Wild-caught salmon, tuna, trout, and halibut are some of the top fish varieties that supply potassium. And not to mention, fatty fish like salmon also contains omega-3 fatty acids that provide countless health benefits.
While not as potassium-rich as seafood, meats like lean beef, chicken, and turkey are also viable sources.
Potassium-Rich Foods Recap
In summary, potassium is a special mineral that helps create a balanced, healthy body. It is needed not only for normal cell functions but to keep muscles and tissues like the heart moving properly.
Beyond bananas, many whole foods can help contribute to your daily count of potassium.
Campbell M. How Much Potassium Is in Milk? SFGATE. Published December 6, 2018. https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/rice-milk-contain-potassium-7292.html.
Klemm S. Kidney Disease: High- and Moderate-Potassium Foods. Eat Right. Published March 5, 2020. https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/kidney-disease/kidney-disease-high-and-moderate-potassium-foods.
Klemm S. What Is Potassium? Eat Right. Published March 2021. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/what-is-potassium.
The importance of potassium. Harvard Health. Published July 18, 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-potassium.