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How do I get more potassium in my diet?

by (4991)
Updated about 13 hours ago
Created May 12, 2010 at 8:04 AM

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!

Medium avatar
598 · October 28, 2013 at 5:20 PM

Doesn't coconut water have a lot of sodium? Same with V8 unless you get the low-sodium stuff.

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2954 · April 19, 2013 at 3:01 AM

I mean, my family are immigrants, we always said 'apples in america don't taste anything like apples at all', 'carrots don't taste like carrots', 'chicken doesn't taste like chicken', 'beef doesn't taste like beef'... everything is like that. Flavorless. Even flour and oatmeal. And BUTTER? Ugh, don't even get me started! It tastes like paper, not butter! But when we bought from a good farmer we were really happy to have real flavor back. I found that diversified farms have better veggies, specially those with horses and cattle. Maybe because have a lot of manure to feed the soil with?

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2954 · April 19, 2013 at 2:58 AM

Not to mention eating vegetables and meats from farmers that take good care to feed the soil (compost) and use heirloom seeds, I imagine those foods will be more nutritious. For example pastured eggs with a rich diet, 3x the vitamin E, 2x omega 3, 7x vitamin A, IIRC. A lot of vegetables and fruits from the store are tasteless and pale compared to those I get from a good farm.

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3280 · June 02, 2012 at 11:31 AM

That gov link is awesome! Thank you!

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15976 · June 18, 2011 at 12:39 PM

absolutely true. And as a PWO drink its terrific. Bit of sugar, tasty, portable, potassium. Amazing i think. Pricey though

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736 · June 18, 2011 at 7:01 AM

Eat the fruit. It's food. I tried to get it from veggies to help with massive cramping problems. Never worked. Don't believe me, try it.

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155 · May 04, 2011 at 7:50 AM

I think thats only if the product has added salt. Tomato puree without salt added is very low in sodium.

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767 · April 22, 2011 at 8:55 PM

but tomato puree is also very high in sodium as well. looking for a good potassium source would also imply that it doesnt have a higher sodium content, so that the sodium:potassium ratio would be balanced

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19220 · May 13, 2010 at 12:53 PM

If you get that much potassium you have nothing to worry about :)

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4991 · May 13, 2010 at 7:22 AM

If the UK RDA for potassium is 3,500 mg I yesterday, according to FitDay, ate 4149.9 mg - which they rated at 88% !! So that I reckon is just fine.

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4991 · May 12, 2010 at 8:52 PM

Thanks - I feel much reassured!!!

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19220 · May 12, 2010 at 7:31 PM

From the additions in my edit it seems in fact that there is at leats some evolutionary thinking behind the reccomendations :)

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2633 · May 12, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Knowing a little bit of the history of Banana Republics, I would NOT be surprised if the FDA's high potassium RDA was the result of bribery, er, lobbying.

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13 Answers

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19220 · May 12, 2010 at 3:49 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.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921
4991 · May 12, 2010 at 8:52 PM

Thanks - I feel much reassured!!!

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · May 12, 2010 at 7:31 PM

From the additions in my edit it seems in fact that there is at leats some evolutionary thinking behind the reccomendations :)

5740abb0fa033403978dd988b0609dfd
2633 · May 12, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Knowing a little bit of the history of Banana Republics, I would NOT be surprised if the FDA's high potassium RDA was the result of bribery, er, lobbying.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · May 13, 2010 at 12:53 PM

If you get that much potassium you have nothing to worry about :)

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921
4991 · May 13, 2010 at 7:22 AM

If the UK RDA for potassium is 3,500 mg I yesterday, according to FitDay, ate 4149.9 mg - which they rated at 88% !! So that I reckon is just fine.

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1972 · May 12, 2010 at 2:33 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.

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4991 · May 12, 2010 at 6:13 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!

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233 · 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:

http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/appendixb.htm

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:

http://www.prevention.com/7foodsthatshouldnever/list/2.shtml

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3280 · June 02, 2012 at 11:31 AM

That gov link is awesome! Thank you!

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10919 · June 18, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Avocado and coconut water are potassium gold mines.

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20 · June 18, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Coconut water is a good source.

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15976 · June 18, 2011 at 12:39 PM

absolutely true. And as a PWO drink its terrific. Bit of sugar, tasty, portable, potassium. Amazing i think. Pricey though

Medium avatar
598 · October 28, 2013 at 5:20 PM

Doesn't coconut water have a lot of sodium? Same with V8 unless you get the low-sodium stuff.

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50 · June 18, 2011 at 6:09 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.

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155 · January 16, 2011 at 4:56 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.

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767 · April 22, 2011 at 8:55 PM

but tomato puree is also very high in sodium as well. looking for a good potassium source would also imply that it doesnt have a higher sodium content, so that the sodium:potassium ratio would be balanced

Eb2d0a3a9b3d909d62b479a0af24d431
155 · May 04, 2011 at 7:50 AM

I think thats only if the product has added salt. Tomato puree without salt added is very low in sodium.

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821 · May 13, 2010 at 2:07 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.

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2954 · April 19, 2013 at 2:58 AM

Not to mention eating vegetables and meats from farmers that take good care to feed the soil (compost) and use heirloom seeds, I imagine those foods will be more nutritious. For example pastured eggs with a rich diet, 3x the vitamin E, 2x omega 3, 7x vitamin A, IIRC. A lot of vegetables and fruits from the store are tasteless and pale compared to those I get from a good farm.

19acef0aed67ef8dc1118d8e74edb349
2954 · April 19, 2013 at 3:01 AM

I mean, my family are immigrants, we always said 'apples in america don't taste anything like apples at all', 'carrots don't taste like carrots', 'chicken doesn't taste like chicken', 'beef doesn't taste like beef'... everything is like that. Flavorless. Even flour and oatmeal. And BUTTER? Ugh, don't even get me started! It tastes like paper, not butter! But when we bought from a good farmer we were really happy to have real flavor back. I found that diversified farms have better veggies, specially those with horses and cattle. Maybe because have a lot of manure to feed the soil with?

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851 · May 12, 2010 at 2:18 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?

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43 · October 28, 2013 at 8:02 PM

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

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0 · October 28, 2013 at 5:33 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.

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5132 · June 18, 2011 at 3:24 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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