How do I get more potassium in my diet?

by 4888 · October 28, 2013 at 08:02 PM

I am eating a paleo diet and have been since November. However, when I check my daily nutrient intake (which I do sporadically, not daily!) using FitDay, I am routinely way down on calcium, down on magnesium and down on potassium.

Calcium I supplement with a pill. Magnesium I can just about manage using nuts or veg. Potassium I can get over the 100% RDA by eating sweet potatoes or banana - but I try to keep off fruit and sweet potato I would think of as a starchy vegetable. What other sources of potassium are there? I really want to balance potassium and sodium - which I get too much of in bacon!

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13 Replies

18889 · May 12, 2010 at 03:49 PM

A similar question to this has come up before. http://paleohacks.com/questions/3940/good-paleo-sources-of-magnesium-potassium

The US reccomended daily allowance for potassium is quite high and does not seem that easy to get every day from your food. It may be easier to reduce your salt intake than trying to compensate with lots of potassium.

This site also has a good list of some sources. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09355.html

I got curious about this and found this report on dietary reference intakes for elements including potassium. http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10925&page=186

"Humans evolved from ancestors who habitually consumed large amounts of uncultivated plant foods that provided substantial amounts of potassium. In this setting, the human kidney developed a highly efficient capacity to excrete excess potassium. The normal human kidney efficiently excretes potassium when dietary intake is high enough to increase serum concentration even slightly, but inefficiently conserves potassium when dietary intake and thus serum concentration is reduced (Young, 2001). While normal renal function protects against the occurrence of hyperkalemia when dietary potassium is increased, it does not prevent the occurrence of potassium deficiency when dietary intake of potassium is reduced (Squires and Huth, 1959), even marginally, relative to the usual potassium intake in the Western diet."

"Summary. The AI for potassium is set at 4.7 g (120 mmol)/day based on blunting the severe salt sensitivity prevalent in African-American men and decreasing the risk of kidney stones, as demonstrated in a 3-year double-blind controlled study. Blood pressure studies in nonhypertensive individuals (Table 5-3) are supportive of this level of intake as a means to lower blood pressure. Epidemiological studies also suggest that higher levels of potassium intake from foods are associated with decreased bone loss. It is important to note that the beneficial effects of potassium in these studies appears to be mainly from the forms of potassium that are associated with bicarbonate precursors—the forms found naturally in foods such as fruits and vegetables."

It suggests to me that the high recommeded intake of potassium is an effort to counter some of the negative effects of the normal American diet of high cereals and salt, low vegetables and fruit. So cut your salt intake right down, eat your vegetables and fruit and you should be fine. By the way the RDA for potassium in the UK is still 3,500 mg

Working out a recommended intake for a whole population is a difficult process with lots of factors to consider.

1745 · May 12, 2010 at 02:33 PM

Generally vegetables are the highest source of potassium (per calorie). Bananas are not actually that high in potassium- they are just dry, so they appear to have more nutrients like potassium for their size/weight.

According to Food and Western Disease by Stephan Lindeberg: Vegetable > Fruit > Fish > Meat > Nuts, Dairy > Cereals > Sausages

As for Sodium/Potassium imbalance, Lindeberg estimates sodium intake at 2g/day for hunter/gatherers, and western intake at 12g/day. This could be reason to try to keep your salt intake low. On the other hand, Taubes belittles the modern theory that salt intake causes disease.

4888 · May 12, 2010 at 06:13 PM

Is it possible that the present RDA's are set for the average, non-paleo diet, complete with anti-nutrients? And that, eating a diet with many less anti-nutrients, we may actually require less magnesium, potassium and calcium?

Certainly, without incorporating nuts, bananas, sweet potato etc, it is going to be pretty hard to keep these levels up all of the time! I just couldn't eat that quantity of sardines or halibut!

234 · May 12, 2010 at 11:37 AM

Seems dark green vegetables, fish and meat have adequate measures of potassium. Here's a high potassium food list with approximate amounts:


There seems to be a correlation between grass fed meats and nutrition as it relates to potassium. Here's an article at Prevention noting such:


10878 · June 18, 2011 at 02:54 PM

Avocado and coconut water are potassium gold mines.

20 · June 18, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Coconut water is a good source.

50 · June 18, 2011 at 06:09 AM

I have been on a low carb diet for over a year and lost 60 lbs. I did not realize how important K is to proper mental and physical functioning until late in the game. Stress, high sodium intake, alcohol and caffeine use all contribute to major loss that is hard to replace. So the choice is either do not use additional salt on food, (al la Paleo ancestors), or for that matter avoid coffee and alcohol.

Or, supplementation: One can of LowSodium V8 juice contains 1180 mg K+, add to this a half teaspoon of potassium chloride 'NoSalt' 1300 mg, for a total of 2480 mg. Do this twice a day and you will notice how much better the human nervous system functions when you get adequate potassium.

N.B. Make sure to take a Magnesium supplement (200mg) with or just before, as a gram or two of K will cause upset stomach. Also a good idea to drink a glass of water per hour till sated. I know many will balk at the idea of supplementation, but our ancestors did not drink coffee or wine until after the 'agricultural revolution', less lead such stressful lives.

155 · January 16, 2011 at 04:56 AM

Tomato puree is very high in potassium. Vegetable juices would be too if you are into that.

I also have about a teaspoon of Potassium Gluconate if my diet is lacking.

820 · May 13, 2010 at 02:07 AM

I also supplement for calcium and magnesium, as FitDay routinely said I was low on these, despite my varied diet with lots of veggies (if you believe the RDA--I don't know if I do, but I figure it's a decent guidepost). I also seem to have a diet low in potassium, which I don't worry about too much. I eat avocados quite a bit, which seems to help.

As was mentioned on the previous post, FitDay default nutrient counts may be low for some things. For example I use a lot of homemade bone broth, which I bet has more nutrients than FitDay's "Broth, homemade, chicken, without tomato". Again, as mentioned in the other post, I would also suspect that if you're "eating clean", the food you eat may have more nutrients than the average kind listed on FitDay, which are based on the USDA figures, aka Standard American Agribusiness Crap Food.

I don't know if you eat any packaged foods. I eat a bit if it's not too junky: pre-made 95% avo guacamole, frozen salmon entree w/o breading or starch side dish, canned fish, chocolate! If I try to make a custom food entry using the nutrition panel, I find that many products don't list potassium, even though the food certainly contains it (just like most only list A, C, iron and calcium and not the other nutrients).

So if you're making custom foods on FitDay, you may actually be getting more potassium than it says. You can improve things by modifying a food that is already in the database--I just change the amounts of what is actually listed on the label and leave the unlisted ones the same. I figure I'll be in the ballpark. Mostly I'm keeping track to make sure I'm not wildly deficient in anything. Once I'm confident that I'm generally making the correct choices, I'm not going to obsess over it too much.

851 · May 12, 2010 at 02:18 PM

this may sound crazy.. but try rinsing ur bacon in the sink, then patting it dry with paper towels... most of the salt is used to cure, and doesnt really make it taste better. i find most bacon to be too salty for me anyways

in terms of potassium, cocoa powder is pretty high, and also mushrooms?

43 · October 28, 2013 at 08:02 PM

going to make this super simple: avocados. 4x the amount of potassium as bananas, and huge amounts of monunsats.

0 · October 28, 2013 at 05:33 PM

The World's Healthiest Foods (whfoods.com) is an awesome website that lets you find great sources for a lot of micronutrients.

Here is a listing for top sources of potassium: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=90

TLDR: Swiss chard, spinach, and papaya are all pretty great sources of potassium.

5100 · June 18, 2011 at 03:24 PM

I would get my levels checked first. I believe Spectrum Testing may be available but am not certain most insurance will cover it. If you keep supplementing but you don't know your level, it may not be helpful. But then Serum Magnesium is not known to be reliable, from what I hear. What's this on Buccal Smear Test being more reliable for magnesium? Anyone know?

For Potassium:

I believe the best source of potassium is Morton's Salt Substitute. It's basically potassium. Has anyone tried this?

If you'd rather eat whole foods, avocado has 3 times the potassium that banana has per gram. Do not eat bananas unless you want to skyrocket your BG. That's the standard line among RDs: Oh, your potassium is low, so go have some bananas and eat 2 or 3 oranges a day. Just a sprinkle of Mortan's salt will do it and a whole avocado.

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