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Getting Enough Potassium
Why is potassium important?
Your body needs potassium to help your muscles contract, maintain fluid balance, and maintain a normal blood pressure. Normal potassium levels in the body help to keep the heart beating regularly. Potassium may help reduce your risk of kidney stones and also bone loss as you age.
Healthy kidneys keep the right amount of potassium in the blood to keep the heart beating at a steady pace. If you have kidney disease, potassium levels can rise and affect your heartbeat. Be sure to talk with your health professional to determine if you should restrict your intake of foods that contain large amounts of potassium.
What is the recommended daily amount of potassium?
Most people do not get enough potassium.
Recommended potassium intake (milligrams a day)
14 and older
Women who are breastfeeding
Women who are pregnant need the same amount of potassium as other women their age.
How can you get more potassium?
Potassium is in many foods, including vegetables, fruits, and milk products. You can figure out how much potassium is in a food by looking at the percent daily value section on the nutrition facts label. The food label assumes the daily value of potassium is 3,500 mg. So if one serving of a food has a daily value of 20% of potassium, that food has 700 mg of potassium in one serving. Potassium is not required to be listed on a food label, but it can be listed.
Potassium amount (milligrams)
Plain nonfat yogurt
Milk (fat-free, low-fat, whole, buttermilk)
Tips for adding potassium foods to your healthy diet:
- Add spinach or other leafy greens to your sandwiches.
- Toss fresh or dried apricots into plain nonfat yogurt for a snack.
- Enjoy a cup of low-sodium bean soup for lunch.
- Eat a small baked potato or sweet potato instead of bread at dinner.
Are there any risks from potassium?
A potassium level that is too high or too low can be serious. Abnormal potassium levels may cause symptoms such as muscle cramps or weakness, nausea, diarrhea, frequent urination, dehydration, low blood pressure, confusion, irritability, paralysis, and changes in heart rhythm. Potassium supplements are prescribed by a doctor, usually after testing for potassium in the blood or potassium in urine. Do not start taking potassium supplements on your own.
People who have kidney disease and/or take blood pressure medicines such as ACE inhibitors should find out from a doctor if they should avoid foods high in potassium.
Low-potassium foods include:
- White or brown rice.
- Spaghetti and macaroni.
- Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011). Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements. Available online: http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/New%20Material/2_%20RDA%20and%20AI%20Values_Vitamin%20and%20Elements.pdf.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (2012). Nutrient data laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Available online: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov.
- American Dietetic Association (2015). Potassium content of foods. Nutrition Care Manual. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=153&actionxm=ViewAll. Accessed September 10, 2015.
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Tushar J. Vachharajani MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
Current as of: September 8, 2021
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