It’s been my experience as a practicing dietitian that most healthy people do not readily meet their dietary potassium requirements. Being able to eat a lot of food (calories) can help, since potassium is actually found in a wide range of foods. Obviously, the more food eaten, the greater likelihood of eating enough potassium. But, what about the individual that is always restricting calories for weight management? Or, what about the person who eats a lot of calories, but they are junk food calories? Theses scenarios will hinder meeting overall current potassium recommendations. While potassium plays a huge role in maintaining overall health, there is some emerging discussion that potassium plays a role in COVID-19 recovery (preliminary report, not yet peer reviewed). Therefore, knowing potassium food sources should be considered a basic nutrition education strategy for self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Current potassium recommendations
In 2019, potassium recommendations were adjusted. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reset the recommendations for the population. Previously, the potassium requirements were 4700 mg for all adults, regardless of gender. Previous pediatric recommendations ranged from 3000 to 3800 mg. The updated requirements are more refined and are based on both gender and age.
Updated potassium requirements in mg are as follows:
- 1-3 years old 2000 mg for both genders
- 4-8 years old 2300 for both genders
- 9-13 years old 2500 for males and 2300 for females
- 14-18 years old 3000 for males and 2300 for females
- 19-50 years old 3400 for males and 2600 for females
- 51+ 3400 for males and 2600 for females
Some potassium food sources
- A large can low sodium V-8 juice has 1180 mg
- 1 small can low sodium V-8 juice has 700 mg
- 6-oz. baked potato has about 850 mg
- 11.2 fluid ounce box Naked brand coconut water, about 530 mg
- 1 cup orange juice has about 500 mg
- 1/2 cup lima beans have 476 mg
- 1/2 cup soybeans have 476 mg
- 1 cup cooked spinach has 466 mg
- A medium banana has 420 mg
- 1 cup cantaloupe has about 417 mg
- 1 cup of honeydew melon has about 400 mg
- 8 fluid ounces of skim milk has about 400 mg
- 1/2 cup sweet potato has about 400 mg
- 3 oz. salmon has about 380 mg
- 1/2 cup navy beans have 376 mg
- 1/3 avocado has about 360 mg
- 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal has about 335 mg
- 6 prunes have about 290 mg
- 3 oz. chicken or beef has about 290 mg
- 1/2 cup baked beans have 285 mg
- 1/2 cup sliced strawberries have about 250 mg
- 1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice has about 200 mg
- 1/2 cup cooked carrots has about 185 mg
For an understanding of how your favorite food stacks up regarding potassium, visit FoodData Central.
As you can see in the list above, there should be plenty of appealing foods to meet your potassium requirements. With that said, many individuals will wonder or think they can just pop a supplement. However, this is not the case! Most multi-vitamin and mineral supplements typically have less than 100 mg of potassium. And, potassium supplements sold as single entity supplements provide the same. Your best bet is really to focus on nutrient dense foods that you enjoy eating in order to both improve your diet and meet your potassium requirements. Most potassium rich foods are high in nutrients and fiber, both of which you need to stay well, boost immunity, and feed your gut bacteria.
Final thoughts on potassium food sources and COVID-19
While there is no guarantee that ramping up potassium food sources will protect you from COVID-19, there are plenty of solid science backed reasons to pay attention to this nutrient! Low intakes of potassium can put one at risk for various conditions such as high blood pressure. Research also suggests that diets low in potassium promote blood sugar problems, kidney stones, and increase calcium loss from bones. Calcium lost from bones can lead to osteoporosis. When needing to improve your self-care through diet, healthy individuals cannot go wrong by adding more good quality potassium rich foods to their diet. In such unsettling times, even some positive self-care can feel empowering. Be well.