Focusing on Nutrition – Potassium

I started tracking my food on My Fitness Pal last week to see if it might help me figure out how to get my weight going down again.  I learned that I’m eating more sugars than I think I am, that 1,500 calories isn’t really very much food and that I don’t eat nearly enough Potassium, even when I think I’m doing a great job with nutrition.

So, the first two aren’t that surprising to me, but the Potassium one was.  I have borderline high blood pressure.  Not high enough to need medication, but high enough to be stressful to me any time I see that dreaded blood pressure machine.  Potassium and Magnesium are two key nutrients to help keep blood pressure at the right level and I thought that I was getting the right amount as long as I was eating five fruits and vegetables a day, especially if I included a banana.  Well, I was wrong!

Quick Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and this isn’t medical advice.  Use common sense and check with your doctor before listening to a blogger please! 🙂

According to WebMD, an average adult needs to get 4,700mg a day of Potassium every day.  Low levels of potassium in the body can cause heart arrhythmias or palpitations, fatigue, constipation, kidney stones, bone loss, muscle spasms and numbness.  In addition to regulating blood pressure, potassium helps the body regulate fluid levels, build muscle and use carbohydrates.  Some conditions can deplete potassium, including certain medical conditions and medicines (some diuretics and laxatives) and intense and/or long duration exercise (half marathon training!).

The best way to get potassium is through your diet, not supplements.  Generally, potassium supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor because levels that are too high can be dangerous, especially if you are on certain medications (other diuretics or ACE inhibitors) or have kidney conditions.  For a healthy adult with fully functioning kidneys, it is very difficult to eat too much potassium (without supplements), so don’t worry about getting too much through food (unless otherwise instructed by your doctor).

So, just eat a couple of bananas a day and you’re good right?  Well, I was surprised to learn that while Potassium is in most foods, the levels are pretty low.  I was eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and protein and still only getting about half the recommended amount once I saw the numbers calculated.  A medium banana has 425mg of Potassium which is great, but if that was your only food source, you’d need to eat 11 bananas to get the recommended levels.

bananasNo one wants to eat 11 bananas, so here are some other great sources of Potassium to include in your diet:

  • Cup Cooked White Beans – 1,000mg
  • 6 Ounces Cooked Salmon – 1,000mg
  • White Baked Potato – 925mg
  • Cup Cooked Spinach – 840mg
  • 6 Ounce Pork Chop – 750mg
  • Cup of Tomato Juice – 550mg
  • Half Cup Avocado – 550mg
  • Sweet Potato w/skin – 450mg
  • Cup of Cantaloupe – 430mg
  • Medium Banana – 425mg
  • Cup of Milk – 350mg
  • One Ounce Almonds – 250mg
  • Small Orange – 240mg
  • Half Cup Broccoli – 230mg
  • Half Cup Cooked Zucchinni – 220mg
  • Cup Raw Spinach – 170mg
  • 1 1/2 Ounces Dark Chocolate – 165mg
  • Tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – 100mg

Raw spinach has less Potassium per cup only because you can fit less into a cup.  Per gram, it’s about the same so don’t feel like you have to cook your spinach if you’re looking for Potassium and you like it raw!

Looking at that list, it seems like it would be pretty easy to get the recommended amount of Potassium, but despite trying to increase my Potassium rich foods, I’m still falling well short of the mark.  This week I’m going to keep a focus on clean eating and try to log all my meals, but my focus is going to be on meeting my Potassium goal only.  I’m curious what the impact will be on both my blood pressure and my weight.

Have you ever tracked a specific mineral or vitamin in your diet?  Do you find it easy to get enough Potassium?


Focusing on Nutrition – Potassium — 4 Comments

  1. I’ve never tracked nutrients, but I really should do potassium. Also, iron – I’ve been borderline anemic for years and I know getting out of that range would help my running.

    • My Fitness Pal is pretty good for the nutrient tracking. I think I’ll meet my goal today (at least the lower goal that My Fitness Pal has of 3,500)! If you’re low on iron, it will impact your running for sure. And I’ve heard that distance runners need more iron too because of microtears or something like that from all the running.

    • Have you checked your MFP Potassium? I swear it’s almost impossible for me to get to the 3,500 they want much less the 4,700 number I found on the web! I’m wondering if some of the MFP #’s are low or missing since Potassium is a nutrient they don’t have to show on products. 150 for protein is a lot! I think it’s recommending 99 for me for protein right now, but we eat a lot of chicken and I love peanut butter, so I’m usually good with protein.