In this article, we discuss:
- What roles does potassium play in our bodies?
- What are some of the negative effects of low potassium intake?
- How much do I need each day?
- Where can I get it – foods vs supplements? Hint: No, it’s not just bananas.
- The importance of the sodium/potassium balance.
- Can you eat too much potassium? Are there people that need to be careful with how much potassium they get?
This “secret mineral” is the 3rd most abundant in your body, and yet you’re probably ignoring it. What is it?
Ok, so the picture IMMEDIATELY gave it away. Whatever. I’ve never been big on surprises anyway.
Yes, it’s potassium. And it is SUPER important for your overall health and well-being. According to a 2014 study, over 99% of Americans aren’t getting their recommended amount of it every day.
For the love of everything delicious – this does NOT mean you just go and eat a banana. That’s not how this works. Sure, bananas have some potassium, but nowhere near as much as a bunch of other foods. Which ones are better than bananas? Read on to find out, sweet friend.
Look, I’m gonna be honest with you – I'm kinda mad at you right now. You’re over there eating all kinds of things every day, and you’re probably paying no attention whatsoever to this critical nutrient that’s literally keeping you alive and upright. Like... imagine potassium is a little puppy that follows you around and makes sure you have everything you need to have a great day, every single day, all the time. And all the time the puppy is underfed and you just walk past him and ignore him and keep on being a big selfish jerk. FEED YOUR POTASSIUM PUPPY, YOU MONSTER!!!
He just wuvs you and snugs you and helps your muscles contract and your nerves work and makes sure you won’t get heart disease or have a stroke, and you just can’t even be bothered to eat an avocado or drink some coconut water.
Come on, man. Show the lil’ potassium puppy some love. He’s so good to you. He wuvs you so much.
Potassium puppy does so much for you. For example – potassium puppy likes to live inside your cells, because duh. Puppies like being inside, on the couch, with you. Because they love you.
Sodium cat, meanwhile – oh, sorry, did I not introduce sodium cat? Yea, sodium cat is like potassium puppy’s "friend" or something. They’re deeply linked to each other. Actually, it’s kind of like that cartoon, Catdog, from the 90’s. Weird cartoon, but a decent metaphor. Sodium cat (no relation to Smelly Cat from Friends... I checked) lives outside the cells of your body, because cats hate you and would kill you if they were big enough. Don’t get me wrong, cats have their place – just like sodium has its place in your body. It’s important in its own right. Cats can be cool sometimes. But too much sodium (or too many cats) will eventually wreak havoc on your life.
We can agree your cells are pretty important, right? Well imagine this – there's a sort of popularity contest going on inside your body. Some of the water in your body hangs out with sodium cat, outside your cells. And some of it hangs out with potassium puppy INSIDE your cells. The problem is, if there are too many sodium cats and not enough potassium puppies, you have too much water outside the cells and not enough inside the cells. And just like when YOU feel dehydrated (or low on puppies), your cells don’t do so hot when they’re low on H20.
And when you don’t have enough potassium puppies, your heart gets sad, obviously. In all seriousness though – cellular dehydration can cause heart problems, arrhythmias, and kidney problems.
On top of keeping your cells hydrated and your nerve impulses firing normally, potassium puppy and its big beautiful floppy ears also help to keep you alive longer. Getting enough potassium can lower your blood pressure, help to lower your risk of a stroke, and could help prevent kidney stones and osteoporosis.
Roles & Benefits of Potassium:
- Helps regulate fluid balance & decreases water retention
- Critical to propagating nerve signals along your nerve fibers, including your heart and skeletal muscle
- Lowers blood pressure in hypertensive and “normotensive” people
- Reduces your risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality
- Lowers risk of kidney stones and other kidney problems
- Helps prevent bone demineralization
So, ok by now you should feel absolutely AWFUL about yourself for neglecting potassium puppy for so long. But he loves you so much that he doesn’t care. He’s going to forgive you, and you’re going to start feeding him because you love him and his big floppy ears, too.
So where can you get it? And how much do you need?
Gather round, newly-reformed people, as I weave you a tale of fresh vegetables and colorful fruits that will make you, your heart, and potassium puppy happier than you ever thought possible.
According to the wizards that make up the RDA’s for nutrients (recommended daily allowances), your body needs a minimum of 3500mg of potassium per day, and up to 4700mg if you’re pregnant, breast-feeding, or just a jerk that hasn’t fed his puppy in a while.
A quick note: because your body loves puppies, it does a pretty awesome job at regulating your potassium levels when you consume the nutrient. However, if you have kidney problems or adrenal dysfunction such as Addison’s Disease, you may want to be careful about how much potassium you consume. To be safe, always check with your doctor before making changes to your diet.
Now, I mentioned earlier that 99% of the US population doesn’t hit that 3500mg threshold, so while I think it’s a great idea to track how much potassium you’re getting in a day, your first goal (assuming you’re healthy) should just be to “get more.” Again, that doesn’t mean you just eat a banana every day. First of all, anyone that’s ever played Mario Kart understands how UNBELIEVABLY dangerous banana peels are. Second, there are literally dozens of foods with significantly more potassium in them than bananas.
To the chart!!
Credit: Adel Moussa, Suppversity
If you want to know the exact content of potassium in each food, go ahead and google it (and if you do that, you might as well go ahead and start tracking it.) I bolded the items which are especially high in potassium and other important nutrients. But again, if your goal is simply to “get more,” then just make sure you’re including at least one or two of these with every meal.
Side note: You can now order avocado as a side to any Evolv signature meal! (Get it? Side note?) Feed that potassium puppy or let Evolv feed it for you! They also offer sweet potato, mashed white potato, broccoli, zucchini, and peppers – all of which can help you get enough potassium. This is one of the (many) reasons why I love Taylor and the whole Evolv crew, and why I write for them. Because like the floppy-eared potassium puppy that’s keeping your heart and nerves and muscles working properly, they care about keeping you healthy!
Check out some of their AWESOME new A La Carte items. You can also set up a subscription when you order to get your potassium puppy fed every week!
And remember – use your powers for good!
- Ascherio, A., et al. "Intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and risk of stroke among US men." Circulation 98.12 (1998): 1198-1204.
- Bazzano, Lydia A., et al. "Dietary potassium intake and risk of stroke in US men and women National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I Epidemiologic Follow-Up Study." Stroke 32.7 (2001): 1473-1480.
- CDC. Heart Disease Fact Sheet. < www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm > visited on August 15, 2019.
- Cook, Nancy R., et al. "Joint effects of sodium and potassium intake on subsequent cardiovascular disease: the Trials of Hypertension Prevention follow-up study." Archives of internal medicine 169.1 (2009): 32-40.
- Dawson-Hughes, Bess, et al. "Treatment with potassium bicarbonate lowers calcium excretion and bone resorption in older men and women." Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 94.1 (2009): 96-102.
- He, Feng J., and Graham A. MacGregor. "Fortnightly review: beneficial effects of potassium." BMJ: British Medical Journal 323.7311 (2001): 497.
- Wallace, Taylor C., Michael McBurney, and Victor L. Fulgoni III. "Multivitamin/Mineral Supplement Contribution to Micronutrient Intakes in the United States, 2007–2010." Journal of the American College of Nutrition 33.2 (2014): 94-102.