Sometimes referred to as an electrolyte, potassium is a naturally-occurring mineral and key nutrient for good health. Your nerves and muscles need it to function properly. It supports digestive and kidney health, regulates blood pressure and helps build strong bones.  It’s especially important for your heart, too. 
If you’re healthy, your body is generally able to keep potassium levels where they should be. Some conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and alcoholism can disrupt this balance. Illnesses accompanied by conditions like diarrhea and vomiting can also upset potassium balance. Some drugs, like ACE inhibitors and ARBs, can throw off your body’s ability to regulate potassium and lead to high potassium levels.
Low potassium is a condition called hypokalemia. Too much potassium, or hyperkalemia, leads to high potassium levels, which has similar symptoms as hypokalemia – weakness, fatigue, and even heart arrhythmias in extreme cases. Hyperkalemia often starts with gastrointestinal problems.
The USDA recommends adults get 4,700 mg of potassium daily. According to the World Health Organization, most people around the world, including the United States, don’t get enough. So, to help make sure you're on track to adequate potassium in your diet, here’s a list of 10 foods rich in this important nutrient.
Foods High in Potassium
Often referred to as a vegetable, the avocado is actually a single-seeded berry that is jam-packed with nutritional benefits. It delivers some of the highest amounts of potassium you’ll find anywhere at around 708.1 mg per cup, or about one serving. Plus, it’s loaded with the ‘healthy’ fats, the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, B vitamins, and it’s low in sugar.
2. Coconut Water
It’s not just the coconut meat that makes the coconut a healthy food. A cup of coconut water, the liquid inside the coconut, provides 575 mg of potassium, and it contains enzymes that stimulate your metabolism. It also contains magnesium, zinc, and iron that help regulate immune function and energy.
3. Crimini Mushrooms
You can consume 640 mg of potassium in only five ounces of crimini mushrooms. These mushrooms are also an excellent source of vitamin B12, minerals like selenium and antioxidants. When cooking, try lightly sauteing crimini mushrooms to preserve flavor and nutrients.
The banana, also known as Musa acuminate colla, is well known as a top source of potassium. Athletes have a reputation of eating bananas to get an immediate energy boost and to recover from workouts. One medium-sized banana should offer about 360 mg of potassium.
5. Acorn Squash
This versatile winter squash makes excellent soups, pastas, and pies with its sweet and nutty flavor. In addition to 486 mg of potassium for every cup of the cooked squash (about one serving), you also get a dose of vitamins A and C to support healthy skin, eyes, and hair.
6. Sweet Potato
The sweet potato is one of the ultimate health foods. It has 448 mg of potassium per cup and B vitamins that help support a healthy metabolism. It’s also loaded with vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium to support muscle function. Sweet potatoes also contains an enzyme called amylase that encourage normal blood sugar.
The baked potato makes for a simple and easy side with any meal. And, if you eat a medium sized potato with the skin (make sure to clean it well first), you’ll consume 926 mg of potassium. That’s about 20% of the daily recommended value.
These dried, pitted plums have a reputation as a digestive aid and they’re also a great source of potassium with 528 mg per serving. They also contain zeaxanthin, a beneficial carotenoid.
With one-half cup of raisins (roughly a handful), you can consume about 600 mg of potassium or 12% of your recommended daily value. Raisins also contain the potent antioxidant resveratrol that helps to control cholesterol , reduce inflammation , and may have protective properties against cancer. 
In a ½ cup serving of spinach, you can get 420 mg of potassium plus iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. Spinach also contains vitamin K that plays an essential role in bone health and antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. Try it sautéd in olive oil just until the leaves wilt.
Health Benefits of Potassium
You might not immediately notice if your potassium levels are low. The earliest symptoms can be as simple and non-specific as cramping muscles, fatigue, constipation, or bloating. Symptoms like these may seem like only a minor nuisance, but can mask more serious health concerns. If they move on to more advanced symptoms like heart palpitations and feelings of depression or confusion, that should raise a red flag.
Studies report that normal potassium levels have a positive effect on blood pressure.  Researchers also believe that adequate potassium can be a factor in protecting against cardiovascular diseases and stroke. 
Potassium supports bone health.  A study of 266 elderly women found those with stronger bones and better bone density had higher levels of potassium. The researchers suggested increasing potassium intake could play an important role in preventing osteoporosis. 
Eating potassium-rich foods is the best and easiest way to address low potassium levels. If you’ve seen your doctor for symptoms like these or you have a condition that increases your risk of low potassium, you may need to take a supplement.
If you believe you're not be getting enough potassium in your diet, start eating more of these potassium-rich foods and see if you notice any changes. While high potassium is rare, you don’t want to overdo it.
If adding these foods to your diet doesn’t help, speak with your doctor about whether a supplement could be the right course of action. As with any supplement, you’ll want the most bioavailable form you can get. As you restore your potassium levels to where they should be, you’ll find yourself with more energy, fewer aches and muscle soreness, and a clear mind.
What’s your experience with potassium? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
- WHO. Guideline: Potassium intake for adults and children. Geneva, World Health Organization (WHO), 2012.
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- Zhu K1, Devine A, Prince RL. The effects of high potassium consumption on bone mineral density in a prospective cohort study of elderly postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2009 Feb;20(2):335-40. doi: 10.1007/s00198-008-0666-3. Epub 2008 Jun 25.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.