Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte and the third most abundant mineral in the human body.
Despite its importance, it was flagged as a ‘nutrient of public health concern’ in the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, with less than 2% of Americans meeting their recommended daily potassium intake.
I’m this article, we’ll show you which foods and recipes contain the most potassium using the tools and charts we used by Optimisers in our Micros Masterclass.
- Potassium Food Chart
- Potassium Foods (Per Serving)
- Potassium Foods (Per Calorie)
- Potassium-Rich Recipes
- Why Potassium is Important
- Role Potassium in the Body
- Potassium Helps You Do It with Feeling
- Factors Influencing Potassium Requirements
- Satiety Response to Foods that Contain More Potassium
- Sodium vs Potassium
- Optimal Potassium Intake
- Can You Get Too Much Potassium?
- Availability of Potassium and Correlation with Obesity
- Synergistic Nutrients with Potassium
- How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Potassium?
- Nutrient Density Starter Pack
- Nutrient Series
Potassium Food Chart
The chart below shows a range of popular foods in terms of potassium (per calorie) vs potassium (per serve). Foods towards the right will provide more potassium per calorie, while the foods towards the top will provide more potassium in the serving sizes we typically eat them.
For more detail, you can dive into the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer), check out the food lists of popular foods below or download longer lists in our Optimising Nutrition Community here.
Potassium Foods (Per Serving)
The popular foods listed below will give you more potassium in the typical serving sizes we consume them in.
- beef steak
- brussels sprouts
- chicken breast
- sweet potato
- bok choy
- pork chops
- ground beef
- butternut squash
Potassium Foods (Per Calorie)
Potassium is relatively abundant in plant foods. As a result, it can be tough to get on a diet that neglects them or limits them (e.g., high-fat keto and carnivore). Foods highest in potassium per calorie tend to be green veggies like the ones listed below.
- hemp seeds
- bok choy
- chicken liver
- Greek yogurt (non-fat)
- mustard greens
- coriander leaf
The chart below shows our 1400+ NutriBooster recipes that we use in the Micros Masterclass plotted in terms of potassium protein %. Recipes towards the right will help you boost your potassium with fewer calories. Note that the highest potassium recipes don’t necessarily have the highest protein %.
To dive into the detail, you can open the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer). Then, click on each recipe to learn more about it and view a picture of the recipe. Some examples of our NutriBooster recipes that contain the most potassium are shown below.
Why Potassium is Important
Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte crucial for the human body’s proper functioning.
- Blood pressure: Potassium helps counteract the negative effects of sodium in the diet, which can cause high blood pressure. It helps relax the walls of blood vessels, promoting healthy blood flow and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Muscle function: Potassium plays a role in muscle contraction and relaxation. It helps maintain proper nerve function, supporting healthy muscle function.
- Fluid balance: Potassium helps regulate the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body, which is important for proper hydration, cell function, and waste elimination.
- Bone health: Potassium helps maintain strong bones by preventing calcium loss from the body.
- Kidney function: Adequate potassium intake may help prevent kidney stones and reduce the risk of kidney disease.
- Stroke: Potassium-rich foods are associated with a lower risk of stroke, according to some studies.
Role Potassium in the Body
- Potassium is an intracellular mineral, meaning it is highly concentrated inside the cell. Therefore, normal body function depends on tightly regulated potassium concentrations inside and outside cells.
- Potassium and sodium are perhaps one of the most critical mineral relationships, as they work together to create membrane potential. This is critical for sending nerve signals, contracting muscles, cardiovascular function, and nutrient transport into and out of cells.
- Potassium is critical to insulin sensitivity and synthesis. Studies have shown that low levels of potassium intake have been linked to high blood sugar and insufficient insulin levels to control blood glucose.
- Because of potassium’s role as an electrolyte and a mineral critical to cell signalling, it is crucial for regulating the immune system. It is also known to activate parts of the immune system.
- Potassium helps you regulate your fluid balance.
- Potassium regulates muscle concentration and heartbeat. Low blood concentrations (hypokalaemia) can result in muscular paralysis or abnormal heart rhythms that can be fatal.
- Potassium is essential for balancing sodium and maintaining adequate blood pressure. For this reason, it can help to manage the damaging effects that chronic hypertension has on the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys and prevent stroke.
- Because of potassium’s importance in bone and kidney health, low levels have been associated with kidney stones and osteoporosis.
Potassium Helps You Do It with Feeling
Nerve impulses are generated when sodium ions move into cells and potassium ions move out of them. This is known as the Na/K+ pump, which is responsible for many bodily functions. For example, your nervous system relays messages between your brain and body that help to regulate your muscle contractions, heartbeat, reflexes and many other functions using the Na/K+ pump.
Factors Influencing Potassium Requirements
Certain factors and conditions may increase your demand for potassium, like if you:
- experience adrenal stress,
- sweat a lot,
- are very active,
- have diabetes,
- are on a low-carb diet,
- are at risk of diabetic ketoacidosis,
- consume a lot of salt,
- consume a lot of dairy or calcium supplements,
- have deficient magnesium levels,
- are recovering from prolonged undernutrition,
- suffer from bulimia or anorexia nervosa,
- have excessive vomiting or diarrhea,
- use or abuse laxatives,
- use potassium-focused diuretics (thiazide or furosemide),
- drink a lot of coffee, tea, alcohol or sugar, or
- have kidney disease.
Satiety Response to Foods that Contain More Potassium
Potassium is possibly the most neglected nutrient in our food system. Although most of us are not getting enough, we have a powerful satiety response when consuming more potassium foods.
Not only do we need potassium, but potassium is also a marker for intact cells, and thus minimally processed whole foods that tend to have a lower energy density.
Our analysis suggests that we consume far fewer calories when prioritising foods containing more potassium. Optimisers who consume more potassium per calorie tend to consume about who consume the most potassium in their diet tend to consume around 31% fewer calories.
The average potassium intake of Optimisers is 4.0 g/2000 calories, with an 85th percentile intake of 6.0 g/2000 calories. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for potassium is 4.7 g per day for an adult male, while the Adequate Intake is 2.3 g per day for adult females.
Sodium vs Potassium
Without the right balance of electrolytes, your body can’t effectively utilise the energy from the food you eat. This is particularly true for sodium and potassium. When potassium dissolves in water, it produces positively charged ions (electrolytes), allowing electric charges to move through your body.
The sodium-potassium pump and the balance of potassium ions inside the cell with sodium ions outside the cell are integral to your energy production and the movement of energy throughout your body.
Potassium and sodium are synergists as well as antagonists of one another. As a result, potassium depletion induces sodium retention, which is associated with hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.
While we crave salt, sodium could be a stop-gap measure when our body craves more potassium. But conversely, you tend to need less sodium when you get enough potassium.
Optimal Potassium Intake
Based on the robust satiety response data, we have set a stretch target of 6.0 g/2000 calories. Once you start to get the hang of nutrient density, you could ‘level up’ by working to achieve these stretch targets to optimise your nutrition. For more details, see:
Can You Get Too Much Potassium?
While there is a limit to how much sodium you should consume, it seems almost impossible to overdo potassium from food because of the complete mineral profile found in nutrient-dense, potassium-rich foods. In addition, many of the issues associated with excess sodium consumption can be mitigated by increasing the amount of potassium in your diet.
The chart below from the PURE study indicates that higher potassium levels are beneficial. While there is an inflection point at around 2 g per day, there is no apparent downside to higher potassium intake at the levels achievable from food.
Please remember that this comes from food forms of potassium and not supplements. Taking large amounts of potassium as a supplement can lead to heart palpitations, arrhythmia, and even death. If you take potassium-sparing medications for blood pressure, you should be especially careful when supplementing potassium.
Availability of Potassium and Correlation with Obesity
Potassium in our food system has decreased significantly since chemical fertilisers were implemented for widespread use in the 1940s, and industrial agriculture subsequently increased in the 1960s. We now need to consume 33% more food to get the same amount of potassium that we did in the 1940s!
While fossil fuel-based fertilisers have enabled us to double food production and support an increased population, food that grows faster tends to have a lower nutrient content, especially when the soil has become depleted of nutrients.
Synergistic Nutrients with Potassium
Potassium works synergistically with vitamins B6 and D, bicarbonate (HCO3), calcium, insulin, magnesium, phosphate, and sodium.
Because potassium requires ALL of these nutrients to do its job, we recommend getting as much potassium as possible from food sources to ensure you get a profile of nutrients and not just an isolate from supplements.
How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Potassium?
If you’re interested in determining if you’re getting the right amount of potassium in your diet, you can check your nutrient profile using our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge.
After a week of tracking your current diet in Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will give you a prioritised list of foods and NutriBooster recipes that will help you plug your current nutritional gaps, including selenium.
Nutrient Density Starter Pack
We’re eager to make the process of Nutritional Optimisation as simple as possible. To help you increase your intake of all the essential nutrients, including potassium, when you join our free Optimising Nutrition Community, you’ll get a starter pack that includes:
When you join our free Optimising Nutrition Community, you’ll get a starter pack that includes:
- Food Lists – optimised for each essential nutrient, goals, preferences and conditions.
- The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World – see what a week of nutrient-dense eating looks like.
- Recipes – check out samples of each of our NutriBosoter recipe books.
- 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge – identify your priority nutrients and the foods and meals that contain them.
- Biotin (B7)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (B9)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K1
- Vitamin K2