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  • IMAGE Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte in your body. Electrolytes are compounds that are able to conduct an electrical current.
  • Functions

    Potassium's functions include helping to:
    • Regulate fluids and mineral balance in and out of body cells
    • Maintain your normal blood pressure
    • Transmit nerve impulses
    • Make your muscles contract
  • Recommended Intake

    Most people should aim to get close to 5,000 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day.
    Age Estimated Minimum Requirement of Potassium
    9-13 years 4,500
    > 13 years 4,700
  • Potassium Deficiency

    Severe potassium deficiency leads to a low potassium level in the blood, called hypokalemia. But a potassium deficiency is rare in healthy people. However, certain conditions can cause the body to lose significant amounts of potassium. Examples of these conditions include:
    Signs of a severe potassium deficiency include the following:
    If hypokalemia persists, it can lead to irregular heartbeat. This can dangerously decrease the heart's ability to pump blood.
    In addition, people who are on high blood pressure medication should ask their doctor about the need for a potassium supplement.
  • Potassium Toxicity

    Potassium is rarely toxic because excess amounts are usually excreted in the urine. However, people with kidney problems may be unable to properly excrete potassium, allowing it to build up in the bloodstream (called hyperkalemia). Therefore, people with kidney problems need to closely monitor their potassium intake.
    Hyperkalemia can also lead to an irregular, sometimes fatal heartbeat.
  • Major Food Sources

    Potassium is found in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Less processed foods tend to have more potassium.
    Here are some examples of foods that are high in potassium from the United States Department of Agriculture:
    Food (amount) Serving Size Potassium Content
    White beans, canned 1/2 cup 595
    Potato, baked with skin 1 medium 610
    Lentils, cooked 1/2 cup 365
    Clams, canned and drained 3 ounces 534
    Yogurt, low fat, plain 1 cup 531
    Lima beans, cooked 1/2 cup 484
    Banana 1 medium 422
    Dried apricots 1/4 cup 378
    Cantaloupe 1/4 medium 368
    Tuna, yellowfin, cooked 3 ounces 484
    Honeydew melon 1/8 medium 365
    Winter squash ½ cup 448
    Cod, Pacific, cooked 3 ounces 439
    Spinach, cooked ½ cup 419
    Milk, fat-free 1 cup 382
    Kidney Beans, cooked ½ cup 358
  • Tips for Increasing Your Potassium Intake

    You can make small changes to your diet that will help increase your intake of potassium. These include:
    • Eat legumes, such as black beans, lentils, and chickpeas, three times per week.
    • Make garden salads with half green lettuce and half fresh spinach.
    • Eat fish as your entrée a few times per week.
    • Snack on dried fruits for a sweet fix instead of a candy bar.
    • Use avocado on sandwiches or bagels in place of mayonnaise or cream cheese.
    • Eat two brightly colored fruits and vegetables each day, like sweet potato, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, spinach, among others.

    Eat Right—American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    Office of Dietary Supplements


    Dietitians of Canada

    Health Canada


    Chapter 8 sodium and potassium. Health website. Available at: Accessed November 4, 2015.

    Food sources of potassium. Health website. Available at: Accessed November 4, 2015.

    Hyperkalemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 26, 2015. Accessed November 4, 2015.

    Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 24, 2015. Accessed November 11, 2015.

    Hypokalemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 17, 2015. Accessed November 4, 2015.

    Potassium. Linus Pauling Institute Oregon State University website. Available at: Accessed November 4, 2015.

    Whelton PK, He J, Cutler JA, et al. Effects of oral potassium on blood pressure. Meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. JAMA. 1997;277(20):1624–1632.

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