Why We Need Potassium

Patient Expert
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They’re always telling us just to eat more fresh veggies and fruit. But now, those of us who have type 2 diabetes have a good reason why.

A study that the American Society of Nephrology published online November 12 in advance of print in its Clinical Journal, discovered that when we get more potassium in our diet, we have fewer kidney and heart problems. While only the abstract is free online, the lead author, Shin-ichi Araki, M.D., Ph.D., from the Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan, kindly sent me the full-text of the study.

It found that among more than 600 people with type 2 diabetes that they followed for an average of 11 years the more potassium they pee (technically “urinary potassium excretion”) the fewer of these problems they had. What goes in must come out.

Now, the Dr. Araki and his colleagues recommend interventional trials to see if increasing our the amount of potassium we get in our diet will help us. We don’t need to wait years for these studies to be set up, analyzed, and reported. We can increase the amount of potassium we get from our food now.

Diet, Not Supplement

But taking a potassium supplement as a shortcut is likely to be quite a bad idea. Taking any supplement is questionable, but for good reasons U.S. law limits how much over-the-counter potassium supplement can have. They must have less than 100 mg per capsule because taking more can increase the risk of toxicity and can drive our fluid balance out of whack.

Look to these foods instead to take in more potassium:

Common Foods highest in Potassium (based on levels per 100-gram serving) in Vegetables and Vegetable Products

The top 10 are:

Beet greens

Potatoes

Pinto beans

Green soybeans

Cress

Lima beans

Spinach

Parsley

Swiss chard

Portabella mushrooms

Common Foods highest in Potassium (based on levels per 100-gram serving)

in Fruits and Fruit Juices

The top 10 are:

Raisins

Japanese persimmons (aka Fuyu persimmons)

Seedless raisins

Golden seedless raisins

Prunes

Medjool dates

Orange juice

Deglet noor dates

Avocados

Grapefruit juice

These High-Potassium Foods Are Low-Carb

Foods highest in Potassium, and lowest in Total Carbohydrate (based on levels per 100-gram serving) in Vegetables and Vegetable Products

Of the commonly available fresh vegetables the top 10 are:

Watercress

Pak-choi (aka bok choi)

Mustard greens

Sprouted alfalfa seeds

Cucumber

Butterhead lettuce (including Boston and Bibb)

Napa cabbage

Red leaf lettuce

Spirulina

Foods highest in Potassium, and lowest in Total Carbohydrate (based on levels per 100-gram serving) in Fruits and Fruit Juices

Of the fresh fruit, none match the potassium benefits of these vegetables.

Since I follow a very low-carb diet, the key foods that I will eat more of will be those salad greens listed above. For example, I really like watercress, but was put off by its high price. I also really like cucumber, but had assumed that it wouldn’t help. I am determined to increase the amount of potassium in my food.

See more of my articles about how to manage diabetes:

Low Carbohydrate Living
Calcium Supplements Could Be Hazardous to Your Health
Snake Oil Supplements