Get Your Potassium

I've had a couple of questions regarding potassium recently which sparked me to post a reminder to make sure you're getting enough from your daily diet. I am speaking to those of you generally in good health and conscious of your nutrient needs. (I am not speaking to those who have been diagnosed with any kind of condition that would affect their blood potassium levels abnormally. In that case ask your physician if you need to be referred to a registered dietitian).

Why is potassium so important? We need potassium for proper muscle contraction, balancing body fluids & electrolytes (thus helping to regulate blood pressure-mui importante), sending nerve impulses and to release energy from our food. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends healthy adults consume 4700 milligrams a day. It sounds like a lot but if we are eating a balanced and varied diet we'll get there.

Fresh fruits, vegetables are the best sources, but we also get potassium from fish, beans and some dairy. Whole grains offer up some too. A diet high in refined and heavily processed foods may lead to a potassium deficiency as processing reduces the potassium content of fresh foods. All the more reason to avoid.

When we think potassium, bananas usually come to mind. Bananas are a certainly a good source, but were you aware that potatoes are much higher in potassium? I'm talking a baked potato here, not French fries or other heavily processed potatoes. Those foods lose a lot of the potassium in the deep fat fryer. Again, lots of fresh foods with emphasis on fruits and vegetables should take care of your needs. Here is a short list of some notable sources of potassium:

Orange juice
Honeydew melon
Lima beans
Acorn Squash
Sweet potatoes

Have a potassium filled day!

Photos courtesy of Yashima, Chadmill, and krymorg
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.