10 Best Sources of Potassium Reviewed
Potassium is an important nutrient in every runner’s diet. Potassium is an electrolyte that is essential for proper heart function and muscle contraction. Most Americans eat diets that are too high in sodium and not high enough in potassium. But what are some good sources of potassium? Basically, anything that grows out of the ground and isn’t packaged or processed will have potassium.
Besides the fact that it helps with overall muscle health, did you know that it is also helpful for improved alertness? I is also very helpful in helping the body conserve energy, which is obviously an important point for runners to take notice of.
Were you aware that the recommended daily allowance of potassium is about 4700mg? Want to take a guess at how many people actually hit that mark? Studies have shown that only around 2% of the American population actually hit that intake amount. For some reason, the focus is put on so many other things like sodium, leaving Potassium to be somewhat neglected.
Take a look at some of the best sources that you can easily add to your daily diet.
- Sweet Potato
- 950mg of Potassium Per Cup
- 690mg of Potassium
- 422mg of Potassium
10 Best Sources of Potassium
A great source of vitamin A and B vitamins, the 950 mg of potassium per cup is almost just a nice bonus. Another great energy providing food that may lead you to ditch your granola bars in favor of whole foods.
Taste and Practicality
They are called sweet potatoes for a reason. They can be made into fries, put in a stir fry or just eaten whole. They are easy to prepare and taste great.
A bit pricier then other varieties of potatoes, they also contain many nutrients that make the price difference reasonable. If you are on a tight budget though consider russet potatoes as an alternative.
- Contain many hard to find nutrients
- Many different ways to prepare them
- Require preparation
- not as practical as an on the go option
Avocados are full of monounsaturated fat which help you feel satisfied and provide lasting energy. They also offer an impressive 690mg of potassium.
Avocados are easily eaten by themselves or turned into guacamole. Eat them with eggs in the morning or enjoy them alone with a pinch of salt.
Cost or Value
A bit pricy, avocados are still a great value because of their nutrient density and great flavor.
- Taste great
- Highest source of potassium on this list
- Full of healthy monounsaturated fat
- It takes a bit of experience to know when avocados are ready to eat
Just half of one filet provides 485mg of potassium. Salmon is also one of the best sources of protein and one of the only ways to get essential omega 3 fatty acids in your diet.
Obviously you can’t throw a filet of salmon in your bag as easily as a banana, but including salmon in your diet is a great way to get plenty of hard to find nutrients.
Cost or Value
Salmon isn’t the cheapest food that you will find but it is certainly one of the healthiest.
- Great source of protein and essential fatty acids
- A bit pricy
- Requires a bit of knowledge to cook
With 465mg of potassium and many other vitamins and minerals, spinach is a low calorie food that has a place in everyone’s diet.
Not everyone will like spinach but throw it in a smoothie with some banana and you will forget it is there and still get the benefit of the added minerals and phytochemicals.
Cost or Value
Buying an extra bag of spinach every week isn’t going to send anyone to the poor house and is extremely nutrient dense.
- Many ways to include it in your diet
- Excellent source of just about everything
- Make sure to buy fresh Spinach, it can go south pretty quickly
One cup of beets is 442mg of potassium is nice but the beets real advantage for runners are the presence of nitrates which improve blood flow in the body and can directly improve cardiovascular endurance. Consider adding beets to your pre-race meal.
Taste and Practicality
Personally, beets are one of my favorite foods. They can be a bit of a mess in the kitchen, but you can even microwave beets. Just don’t drop them. My kitchen looked like a crime scene with beet juice splattered on the walls.
Not the cheapest food on this list, but if the nitrate performance enhancing benefits beets offer is worth it to you, then they are worth trying.
- Strong evidence supports idea that nitrates in beets improve cardiovascular endurance
- Unique flavor profile many recipe possibilities
- Can be very messy to prepare
- Will turn your urine red (Consider yourself warned!)
Just one banana has 422mg of potassium. It is an excellent source of quickly digesting carbohydrates that will give you the energy you need to train.
Taste and Practicality
Nothing is more practical than a banana. Throw one in your gym bag and enjoy the sweet wholesome taste instead of the candy bar you have been taking to work
Sometimes referred to as the "poor man’s fruit", bananas are an unbeatable value
- Great source of potassium
- Extremely practical and inexpensive
- Provides plenty of healthy energy
- Spoil quickly
One cup of skim milk has 382mg of potassium. It also contains calcium and plenty of protein.
Taste and Practicality
There’s a reason milk is a basic grocery staple that disappears when blizzards roll into town. It is an extremely practical and basic food that is extremely practical. Some may complain about the taste of skim milk higher fat milks are also good sources of potassium.
Also available on Amazon, milk is inexpensive and easy to get a hold of.
- Zero preparation or cooking knowledge needed
- Individuals with lactose intolerance can’t drink it
- May cause GI distress if consumed right before exercise
288mg of potassium per cup is nothing to scoff at, but remember broccoli is also a great source of vitamin c, fiber, and many b vitamins that are important for energy metabolism.
Taste and Practicality
When eaten raw, broccoli isn’t very palatable and is very bitter, but when it is properly cooked or included in a stir fry, it can be delicious. It does require more preparation then a banana, but it is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
Brocolli is very inexpensive and like everything on this list, you can even order it on Amazon and have it shipped directly to you.
Very low in calories and high in many important nutrients
Broccoli requires some cooking experience in order to prepare properly
With 240 mg of potassium and 17 grams of protein, Greek Yogurt isn’t the most potassium rich food on this list, but it is the only one that has probiotics which support digestive health.
Taste and Practicality
Greek Yogurt requires no preparation and and is very easily digested by your body. It is a great option for runners who want to include it in their smoothie before their morning run. Some people may not like the taste but to others it can be as enjoyable as eating ice cream!
Although more expensive than regular yogurt, Greek Yogurt is a very nutrient dense and practical way to get more potassium in your diet.
- No preparation is needed
- Tastes great
- Includes probiotics
- Not the highest source of potassium
One cup of kale has 79mg of potassium and a much better source of calcium then spinach. There is a reason kale has become such a trendy health food.
Just like Spinach, kale can be eaten raw cooked or in a smoothie. It is easy to include in your diet and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Cost or Value
Kale is an excellent cost efficient source of many different nutrients including potassium.
- The calcium in kale is more readily absorbed then calcium from other sources
- Easy to find and prepare
- Bitter taste when eaten raw
For runners. These foods are rated based on their potassium content and how practical they are to incorporate into your diet. Keep in mind that high potassium diets are not for everyone and you should consult with a dietitian or a doctor before making any drastic changes in your diet.
No matter what foods you choose to include in your diet, be sure to include a variety of foods. Potassium is important for everyone’s health and not just runners. There are many more sources that are not on this list. Just remember, if it grew out of the ground and is not packaged or processed, then it will have potassium.
Criteria We Used To Find and Rank The Best Sources of Potassium
Potassium is key to a healthy diet as well and absolutely imperative to maintaining a properly functioning body. Without potassium, our muscles become easily fatigued and do not contract efficiently, resulting in an overall slower reaction time. For runners, that means quads and calves and hamstrings that will not fire off how you need them to in order to propel you forward. For other athletes, similar consequences will be experienced depending on your sport. Potassium also serves to maintain proper blood pressure (which is essential for ALL people, not just runners and athletes) because, again, it helps with muscle contraction and the heart is a muscle. It also assists in a faster recovery time post run or workout and is critical in proper nervous system functioning. Potassium is a mineral and is naturally found in the body , particularly in our cells. In fact, 98 percent of the body’s potassium is stored in our cells, making it critical to cellular functioning. The fastest and best way to both replenish potassium stores and maintain a healthy amount of potassium in the body is through a well balanced diet that consists of a variety of the foods included on our list. Below explains the criteria we used to choose which foods actually made the cut.
1. The Nutritional Content of the Food
Obviously, the primary focus of choosing a food for the list based on nutritional content was whether or not it actually HAS potassium, and then how much was contained in each food. To be considered a “high source,” “rich source,” or “excellent source” of potassium (or any other vitamin, mineral, ingredient, or nutrient) the food in question must contain at least twenty percent of the DV per RACC, (or the Daily Value per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed which basically just means the amount of the nutrient that is recommended for consumption of a standard and normal serving size of the food). So, for instance, a food that contains 21 percent of your daily value of potassium will be an excellent source of potassium, because just one single (standard) serving of it will provide you with 21 percent of your total day’s intake of potassium. In this way, just a few foods that are deemed ‘excellent sources’ of potassium will easily allow you to hit your target consumption for potassium. To be considered a “good source” of nutrients, the food must contain ten to nineteen percent of the daily value per RACC. The foods on our list are all at least a “good source” of potassium, with some being noted as “excellent sources” of potassium. Knowing how to read your food labels is important for helping you to meet your dietary needs and get in adequate amounts of nutrients. Potassium levels in the blood are measured in millimoles per liter, (mmol / Li) and the normal potassium level in a healthy human is between 3.5 and 5.0 mmol/ Li .
However, aside from just being an adequate source of potassium, we have also taken into consideration the overall nutritional content of the foods on our list. We do not want to give you suggestions for foods to incorporate into your diet that are not going to be sustainably healthy options, so we have chosen foods that offer many additional nutrients as well. Athletes, and especially runners, have specific dietary needs they need to be aware of, and we want the foods that we suggest to you to not only provide potassium, but assist you and your training schedule in a myriad of other ways. Some of the foods on our list, including all of the animal products and byproducts (skim milk, salmon, Greek yogurt), are excellent sources of protein. Protein is of great importance to runners particularly because it is central to muscle repair and recovery. Somewhere along the read, you have surely either read or heard about getting in your glass of chocolate milk (skim milk, for potassium!) after a tough workout – this is because it has what is considered the “perfect ratio” of carbohydrates to protein in helping your muscle fibers recover and grow stronger, to help you become faster. (Not to mention, the more muscle you put on, the higher your metabolism is likely to be because the body has to burn more calories to sustain muscle than it does to sustain fat. Furthermore, we all know the seemingly incessant hunger that comes along with training for a big race. Running miles and miles a day makes you HUNGRY! Including adequate sources of protein in your diet will help keep some of that “runger” away. We also all know how runners need their carbohydrates (hello, carbo load!). Fruits are an excellent source of carbohydrates, without the added calories that some starchier carbohydrates have. From our list, sweet potatoes, bananas, and avocados are great options. The remaining macronutrient, fats, are needed to assist in proper hormone functioning, (which is especially important in female runners to protect the body from the female triad, amenorrhea, and possible stress fractures) protect the body’s internal organs, fight fatigue and poor mental functioning, and aesthetically speaking, grow stronger nails and shinier hair.
The other vitamins and minerals the foods on our list provide help runners actually use the above macronutrients of protein, carbs, and fats. Vitamins and minerals all serve different functions specifically, but on the whole, they help the body either use the energy supplied by proteins, carbs, and fats, and assist in muscle contraction and relaxation. These include iron, magnesium, sodium chloride, and Vitamins C, D, B, and E. Leafy greens are excellent sources of Vitamins C and B, as well as magnesium usually. Animal products like salmon will have excellent sources of iron (as will broccoli!) and dairy by products like Greek yogurt and skim milk offer consumers the calcium the body needs to maintain and strengthen bone health. Finally, fiber is essential to a healthy runner’s diet. First off, fiber helps maintain a healthy weight because it helps keep you fuller for longer and will keep mindless snacking at bay. In addition, fiber rich foods tend to be lower in total calories than other less fibrous options. There are two types of fiber: water soluble and insoluble fiber. Water soluble fiber will be found in the fruits and veggies on our list and are beneficial because of thee role they play in keeping cholesterol low (they transport cholesterol molecules to the liver where they are more efficiently broken down) and controlling blood-sugar levels (which is crucial in helping keep you from bonking out early on your run!). Insoluble fiber is most commonly found in whole grains and is what helps keep you “regular”… which might not be ideal while you are out on a 20 miler, but is imperative for keeping your colon and digestive system healthy and free of possible cancers and disorders. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 25 grams of fiber each day for women and up to 38 grams per day for men. So get those veggies in and reap the nutritional benefits not just from added potassium, but healthy amounts of fiber and other micronutrients as well!
2. The Taste and Practicality of the Food
As runners, we put our bodies and minds through a lot. We trudge through difficult workouts, giving everything we have to give physically to push through barriers, reach new goals, and make new PRs. Running is a mental battle too – in fact, its arguably more mental than physical! There are days we certainly do not want to get out of bed before the sun to get our workout done. In the face of extreme or adverse conditions, we have to remain mentally strong in order to accomplish what we want to accomplish. The bottom line is that this sport ain’t for the faint of heart. So why in the world would you want to add an added layer of discomfort, unpleasantness, and sacrifice to a lifestyle that already pushes you far outside your comfort zones? Training to be a runner is hard, but eating to be one does not have to be! Sure, as an athlete your dietary needs may be very specific, but that does not mean they have to be limited, rigid, boring, or bland! This starts with making sure you are getting in the right amounts of macro and micro nutrients that your body needs to perform well, but choosing options that taste well and conveniently fit into your schedule. Our list of foods packed with potassium exist on a taste spectrum. Some are sweeter options that can work great as either a snack, a sweeter balance to your salty dish, or even as a dessert. Sweeter foods on our list include bananas (especially the more ripe you let them get) and Greek Yogurt. Yet, other foods that make the list can easily be sweetened up, if that is more your style – simply add a little chocolate syrup to your skim milk or a mix of cinnamon sugar to your sweet potatoes (and if you are really in a Thanksgiving mood, throw a couple of marshmallows on top for good measure, as well!). Other foods that made our list are best served salty and savory. Avocados have a deliciously creamy texture that pairs impeccably with a tortilla chip (or carrots for a healthier alternative) when diced up into guacamole. Kale and spinach can be thrown alongside just about anything to make a delicious salad, but also hold up well served on their own. It is also worth noting that some of the foods on this list might trigger an immediate reaction of “ew!” This is especially true for children and kids who have a limited palette. However, before you judge a book by its cover, know that there are several options of cooking methods that will help change the taste of the foods for the better! Roasting broccoli and beets is an absolutely delicious option for the pickier eaters on your list.
Thinking about practicality includes thinking about how easily it can fit into your life and your schedule, and the variety of recipes and meals the food can be used in. Foods need to be convenient. They need to be easy to cook because you just do not have all evening to stand by the stove just to get a nutrient rich meal on the table for your family! Foods that do not even require any cooking time go even further, which makes some of the foods on our list a perfect option for any meal or snack. Most of them are ready to eat foods as soon as you take them home or get them out of the fridge. Some of the foods on our list might need some ripening time (we’re looking at you avocados and bananas) to get them to the perfect level of tastiness, which might hinder your desire to purchase them and not fit well into your needs. The good news in this case is that most grocery stores sell fruits and vegetables in a range of ripeness, and so whether you go to the store needing a banana to eat that afternoon or in a few days, you will likely be able to find one that meets your needs. Another convenience factor to consider is how easy they are to transport. Can you just throw them in your lunch box or gym bag or do they require special packaging or storage, refrigeration, or microwave time? Can you eat them quickly when you are on the go or do they require a little more prep time, utensils, etc.?
3. The Overall Value of the Food
Obviously, the first thing to consider when weighing the overall value of a food is how cheap or expensive it is, relative to other similar foods. Most of the foods on our list are fairly cheap, though some might be a bit pricier depending on where you live and where you grocery shop. Bananas are known as the “poor man’s fruit” because of how economical they are – a whole pound will cost you just cents, so buying them can go a long way (though they do ripen and subsequently spoil rather quickly). Milk is also fairly reasonably priced and can often be found for under two dollars for a whole gallon. Depending on the season, sweet potatoes are also an economical purchase, especially because they have a longer than average shelf life for a vegetable. Avocados might be one of the pricier vegetables on the market, especially when they are not in season or if you live far away from a tropical or warm climate where they are grown, and thus incur the cost it takes to preserve and transport them before they go bad. But one of the plus sides of these fruits and veggies – regardless of price – is that if they DO seem to be nearing their expiration, they can easily be preserved in the freezer for a few months to weeks, and taken out and used in creative ways (blended frozen avocados and bananas make excellent ice cream substitutions and smoothie additions!). Salmon is by far the most expensive food on our list, and the price can get even higher when it is specially caught wild salmon from remote locations (versus farm raised salmon which is salmon that has been raised and cultivated specifically for consumption). However, the value of a food goes beyond just price. Value is added to foods that can be prepared using a variety of cooking methods. Overall, you will end up getting more for your money if you can buy a couple bushels, packages, or servings of a food and have the option to bake them, roast or toast them, stew them, grill them, sauté them, or treat yourself to some pan or deep fried deliciousness for a special occasion! Variety is key to adding value, so the more meals and snack options a food can be used in, the better. Value is also added if a food is raised, caught, or grown in a particular way – think fresh, local, and even organically raised fruits and veggies. In some instances, this might raise the monetary price, but adds to the overall healthful value of the food.
Other Important Factors to Consider In Regards to Food Sources of Potassium
1. Where You Live
Finding foods you and your family like that taste great and are affordable and convenient for your lifestyle is all fine and good until you realize you do not actually live in an area where you can easily purchase them, or that they are sold at all. When thinking about fruits and vegetables, you must consider how far away from the warmer and tropical climates that these foods are typically grown in. It certainly is not totally impossible (well, in most cases anyway) to get these foods but it will cost you – literally. You will end up paying much higher prices to cover the charge of shipping and transporting them so far away from their source while still ensuring they get to you in peak condition. This is especially true if it is not even their typical growing season, in which cause many fruits and vegetables really just aren’t sold or found in stores. Likewise, be careful about the quality of products you’re purchasing if you live far away from their source. For instance, if you are thousands of miles away from a coast, then you are probably safe and better off purchasing frozen salmon as opposed to “fresh”.
2. Do You Have Potassium Deficiency?
Potassium deficiency is a serious issue, especially for runners and athletes. More formally known as “hypokalemia,” potassium deficiency is often characterized by a lack of energy and general fatigue or weakness, muscle cramps, constipation, and an irregular heart beat. These symptoms are generally seen in those hypokalemia patients who have potassium levels around 3 – 3.5 mmol/L. However, when levels drop down to 2.5 or lower, symptoms such as paralysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue, and respiratory failure, are seen and can cause serious problems, and in extreme cases left untreated, even lead to death. If you are at a risk of low blood potassium levels, then hurry to a store and pick up some of the foods on our list!
3. Do You Have Food Allergies Specific To The Foods on Our List?
If you have a food allergy to any of the foods that are on our list, then its obvious you should avoid them. Specifically, you might be allergic to bananas or have what is known as pollen food syndrome, which has been known to be caused by bananas. Signs of pollen food syndrome include immediate swelling of the lips, throat, and mouth upon consuming some kinds of raw fruits and vegetables. This usually not life threatening, but should still be treated like an allergy. If you are unaware of any food allergies you might have, we encourage you to go get tested.
5. Are You On A Special Diet?
The foods on our list can all be classified as being apart of a healthy diet – all provide multiple nutritional benefits and can easily fit into most specialty diets, including Whole 30, the Paleo diet, ketogenic diets, etc. Most are fruits and vegetables, or animal sources, and fit well into a holistically health lifestyle. If you’re worried about getting adequate potassium in on one of these diets, don’t be!
6. Do You Have A History of Kidney Stones, Or Are You Currently At Risk For Them?
The kidneys are the body’s main organ when it comes to controlling potassium levels in the blood, and serve to remove excess potassium through urinary excretion when levels get too high. However, potassium (specifically potassium citrate) plays a key role in helping break down deposits of calcium that build up in the kidneys, often leading to painful kidney stones. If you have a personal or family history of developing kidney stones, upping your potassium intake might help circulate out some of that excess calcium.
Q: What exactly is potassium?
A: Technically, potassium falls under two categories: it is both a mineral consumed through foods and an electrolyte produced within the body. Electrolytes are positively charged ions that help regulate several bodily functions including blood pressure, digestion, heart rate and normal heart functioning, muscle contractions, and functions of the nervous system. Other common electrolytes include sodium, chloride, magnesium, bicarbonate, and calcium. For athletes, electrolytes play a critical role in supplying oxygen to the blood, and thus to the muscles (which ultimately provides energy for the body to run, jump, lift weights, etc. off of).
Q: What is electrolyte imbalance?
A: An electrolyte imbalance is when one of the types of electrolytes present in the body’s blood cells are either too high or too low. When this happens, the individual may experience a number of symptoms, including an irregular heart beat, muscle weakness or general fatigue, notable changes in blood pressure, and problems within the nervous system
Q: What are some of the benefits of consuming potassium?
A: Potassium offers many health benefits. Some of these include stimulate cognitive and neural activity and increasing overall brain functioning and awareness, stabilizing blood sugar (which is especially important for those with diabetes), reducing muscle disorders and helping muscle contractions and reactions to quicken and become more efficient, enhancing bone health by helping the body’s absorption of calcium, aiding in protein synthesis which may ultimately build muscle and boost the metabolism, regulate water and fluid levels, and regulating hormones which ultimately may lead to decreased stress and anxiety.
Q: What are the runner ups? What other foods might be good sources of potassium?
A: Following a similar trend that already exists within our list, dark and leafy greens tend to be high in potassium so some other options not listed here are Swiss chard and Bok choy. Legumes are also excellent sources of potassium: Lima beans, soy beans, and pinto beans just to name a few. Regular potatoes are also known for their potassium levels.
Q: What are the standard serving sizes of these foods?
A: The standard serving sizes for the foods on our list can be found below:
Sweet Potatoes: 1 cup (180 calories)
Avocados: 1 cup (240 calories)
Salmon: 4 oz (160 calories)
Spinach: 1 cup (50 calories)
Beets: 1 cup (75 calories)
Banana: 1 medium (100 calories)
Skim Milk: 1 cup (80 calories)
Greek Yogurt: 6 ounces (130 calories)
Kale: 1 cup (36 calories)
Q: Can you have too MUCH potassium in your blood?
A: Yes. Having too much potassium in your blood is a condition known as hyperkalemia. This typically occurs when they kidneys, the main organ for regulating potassium levels, are not properly removing excess potassium out of the body. This is mostly caused by medications that have this effect on the kidneys, and include drugs like diuretics, some blood pressure medications, and antibiotics (in particular, penicillin). When potassium remains in the kidneys, the symptoms can be serious. The symptom of highest concern is a dangerous change in heart rhythm. If you experience symptoms of possible hyperkalemia due to complications with your medicine, stop use of the drug immediately and talk to your doctor.
Here are a bunch of sources that we used while we conducted our research:
- Low Potassium (Hypokalemia), Online Health Article, Sep 18, 2016 ,
- Low Potassium (Hypokalemia), The Mayo Clinic Health Article, Jul 04, 2017 ,
- Low potassium (hypokalaemia), WebMD Health Article, Mar 16, 2016 ,
- Food and Label Cheat Sheet (Part 2), Health and Wellness Informational Blog Artical, Aug 16, 2012 ,
- Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (10. Appendix B: Additional Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims), FDA Dietary Guidelines, Jan 01, 2013 ,
- The Athlete's Nutrition Needs, Nestle Nutrition Article, Sep 05, 2017 ,
- How Athletes Can Choose the Best Dietary Fats, Active.com Nutrition Article, ,
- Rough Stuff: How to get the benefits of fiber-rich foods without letting them , Runner's World Nutrition Article, Feb 01, 2005 ,
- Wild vs Farmed Salmon - Can Some Fish be Bad For You?, Online Nutrition Article, Sep 06, 2017 ,
- Hypokalemia, Healthline Online Health Article, Sep 05, 2017 ,
- Banana Allergy, Anaphylaxis Campaign Informational Article, Mar 01, 2015 ,
- Potassium Citrate for Kidney Stones, University of Michigan Health Article, Apr 28, 2011 ,
- What are Electrolytes? What Causes Electrolyte Imbalance?, Medical News Today Health Article, May 24, 2016 ,
- Potassium, Healthline Nutrition Article, Sep 08, 2017 ,
- 13 Incredible Potassium Benefits, Organic Facts Nutrition Blog Post, Jun 01, 2011 ,
- The World's Healthiest Foods: Potassium, Informational Webpage Article, ,
- Hyperkalemia: Symptoms and Treatments, WebMD Article, Sep 09, 2017 ,