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Potassium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in facilitating various everyday physiological processes inside the body. Its main function is to maintain the cell structure to keep normal fluid levels inside each cell and is thus needed by every tissue in the body. (1)(2)
Plus, potassium is an electrolyte, which means it is electrically charged and therefore helps activate the cells and nerves. It helps the nerves conduct messages throughout the body, facilitates muscle contraction, and maintains normal blood pressure. (3)
The human body needs 4,700 mg/dL of potassium per day to function properly. (4) The kidneys filter out the excess, which is then excreted via urine.
However, certain conditions, medications, and beverages can make you lose a lot of potassium, resulting in a deficiency. These include vomiting, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diuretic or laxative medications, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol.
In such cases, you will need to up your daily potassium intake to make up for the deficiency, but only after consulting your doctor.
Some of the Most Potassium-Rich Foods
Potassium is naturally present in a wide range of plant and animal foods. Here are some of them: (5)
Bananas are an easy snack to pick up and eat. Plus, they can also be added to a variety of baked goods. One banana has 375 mg of potassium.
Spinach leaves can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Two cups of spinach contains 334 mg of potassium. (7)
4. Sweet potatoes
Baked sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in different ways: eaten by themselves, made into fries, or used in desserts. One medium sweet potato has 542 mg of potassium.
5. White beans
White beans can be enjoyed as a side dish, smashed, or pureed in a dish. You can get 454 mg of potassium from a can of white beans.
6. Baked potatoes
Baked potatoes are another vegetable that can be enjoyed in many different ways. A medium potato contains 926 mg of potassium
7. Dried apricots
Dried apricots are a great snack that can be enjoyed on the run or used in granola. A half cup of dried apricots contain 755 mg of potassium.
8. Acorn squash
Acorn squash is a nice fall vegetable that can be used in soups or eaten as is after it has been cooked. About 895 mg of potassium is present in 1 cup of acorn squash.
9. White mushrooms
Mushrooms can be enjoyed as a meat substitute in dishes or mixed with other vegetables. A cup of mushrooms has 428 mg of potassium.
10. Sun-dried tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes can add a nice flavor to many different dishes. A quarter cup of sundried tomatoes contains 430 mg of potassium.
Other foods rich in potassium include broccoli, carrots, orange, watermelon, pinto beans, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, soybeans, and artichoke.
What Diseases Can Cause Potassium Deficiency?
Diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract or require a diuretic can cause potassium deficiency. (8)
Chronic vomiting or diarrhea depletes the minerals in your body and can cause a potassium deficiency. People who are either pregnant or have IBS, Crohn’s disease, or food poisoning have a higher chance of vomiting or having diarrhea due to their medical condition.
Infrequent bouts of vomiting or diarrhea won’t lead to a potassium deficiency. When you vomit or have diarrhea, you lose some of the vitamins and minerals in your body.
Diuretics draw water and electrolytes out of cells to be disposed of. This causes people to pee more when taking them. People with heart disease, liver disease, or kidney issues are more likely to be on diuretics and therefore are at a higher risk of having a potassium deficiency.
What Are the Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency?
Potassium deficiency has many symptoms such as high blood pressure, sensitivity to salt, kidney stones, and loss of bone mass.
If left untreated, this condition can cause irregular heartbeats, muscle weakness, and glucose intolerance in the long run. Chronic potassium deficiency may even result in death. (9)
What Are the Symptoms of High Potassium?
High potassium levels in the body can be dangerous as well. Excessive intake of this mineral can overburden your kidneys, resulting in renal disease. It can result in muscle weakness, vomiting, and even a heart attack.
Potassium is very important for the body to function properly, but so are the other vitamins and minerals. You can get your required fill of this necessary mineral by adding the above-mentioned foods to an overall healthy and well-balanced diet. (5)
Shift your mindset from focusing on a single mineral such as potassium to consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Be mindful of fruits and vegetables high in potassium but don’t obsess over the list. The idea is to maintain normal levels of potassium in the blood rather than getting too much of it.