Top Heart-Healthy Potassium-Rich Foodsby Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Professional
Potassium is an electrolyte that is essential for the functioning of our muscles, organs, nerves, and the fluid balance in our body.
Potassium and sodium are at odds in our body. The more potassium we eat in our diets, the more sodium we will lose in our urine and the less sodium will affect our blood pressure. Adequate potassium also decreases the pressure on the walls of our blood vessels, again leading to a decrease in blood pressure.
An abnormal potassium level, either high or low, often leads to abnormal cardiac rhythms. So it’s important to keep your potassium in the appropriate range.
How Much Potassium?
The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) develops Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), which are broken down into Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), Adequate Intake (AI), and Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL).
We use these established DRIs to know how much of a nutrient to include in our diet daily for optimal health.
No Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is set for potassium as it is easily excreted in the urine in most cases. However, it is not uncommon for those with chronic kidney disease or those using certain medications to have difficulty excreting excess potassium. Those with decreased ability to rid the body of extra potassium may benefit from a potassium-restricted diet not exceeding the AI level set of 4,700mg/day.
Too Little Potassium?
Having too little potassium in your body is known as hypokalemia. Hypokalemia has been shown to affect blood sugar levels, cause muscle weakness, and lead to cardiac arrhythmias. Low potassium may also lead to psychological symptoms including depression, hallucinations, and/or delirium.
Low potassium is usually caused by medications that trigger increased potassium excretion through the urine. Other causes may be low potassium intake from the diet, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, and excessive sweating.
Too Much Potassium?
Having too much potassium in your body is known as hyperkalemia. If you have an impaired ability to excrete potassium in the urine, you are at risk of developing hyperkalemia. High potassium levels are common in those with chronic kidney disease, type 1 diabetes, chronic heart failure, and certain medications. Abnormal heart rhythms, nausea, and fainting are the most common side effects of hyperkalemia.
How to Include Potassium Every Day
Obtaining needed nutrients in your diet is always preferable to supplements. Luckily, potassium-rich foods are abundant.
The most abundant sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables. Potassium is also found in meats, dairy, grains, nuts and seeds, and fish.
Add these foods to your cart to make sure you are getting enough potassium in your diet each day.
Ground lean beef
Plain low-fat yogurt
Part-skim mozzarella cheese
Low-sodium tomato soup
No salt added tomato sauce
Unsalted trail mix
Shredded wheat cereal
Because of the harmful effects of both low and high potassium in your body, be sure to talk to your doctor first before beginning any type of potassium supplementation. Potassium is just one of many natural tools you can use to lower blood pressure.