Potassium Essentials

Eating foods high in potassium will change your physical and mental energy in just hours. Low potassium leads to general weakness and malaise. Eat high potassium foods, every day. Research repeatedly confirms daily intake of foods containing potassium that provide a total daily intake of 4,000 mg or more protect from hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, metabolic syndrome, and stroke. Potassium counts. Count your potassium. Potassium supplements are not advised.

IMPORTANT NOTE: While potassium is critical to health there are three conditions under which potassium intake must be limited. Do not follow the guidelines on this page if you fit any of these conditions.

  1. Kidney disease- When the kidney is damaged from hypertension or infection the kidney must be protected from excess minerals of all types including potassium.
  2. Hypertension- When potassium sparing diuretics are prescribed, potassium supplements and/or high levels of potassium in the diet must be avoided.
  3. Addison's disease and associated adrenal exhaustion cause excretion of sodium and retention of potassium due to low levels of cortisol and sodium sparing aldosterone. In all of these conditions high intake of potassium in supplements or food may be life threatening.

A diet high in potassium is recommended as the first choice treatment for hypertension. This is only true during the early stages before medication is necessary. In later stages potassium in the diet may be used under the close supervision of a knowledgeable, nutritionally oriented physician. More information about potassium and hypertension can be found in The High Blood Pressure Solution by Richard D. Moore, M.D., Ph.D. and for general potassium information Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Potassium by Betty Kamen, Ph.D.

Potassium is one of the most important elements in our diets. The primitive, or "natural", diet contains 2+ mg. of potassium for each calorie consumed. The modern food consumer is lucky to get 0 .5 mg. of potassium for each calorie consumed. Persons who consume 4,000 mg. of potassium or more per day have a much lower incidence of all degenerative diseases including insulin resistance syndrome, hypertension, stroke, obesity and adult onset diabetes.

All of the healthy dietary programs that lower cholesterol, normalize weight or improve blood pressure contain high amounts of potassium containing foods, fruits and vegetables. Without potassium we suffer from fatigue and poor muscle response. Potassium keeps us energized and relaxed at the same time.

When you count potassium and learn to eat high potassium foods (not supplements) you'll be getting lots of other healthy nutrients (and without having to count them).

Whole foods, vegetables, legumes and fruits all have high amounts of potassium. Grains have little potassium except in the bran. Adding rice bran, corn bran or wheat bran to foods can increase the potassium content. Lean meats trimmed of visible fat and poultry without the skin have about 1:1 calories potassium. Wild game and most lean fish, fruits and vegetables have 1:2 calories:potassium.

Making high potassium broths or drinks helps to get the suggested daily amounts. You may not be used to consuming the quantity of food necessary to get 4,000-6,000mg. of potassium a day. One potassium trick is to use tomato sauce, juice, paste or salsa. Tomatoes are very high in potassium as well as other important nutrients. They can contribute significantly to your daily potassium intake. Tomato based sauce helps balance the lack of potassium in pasta.

All types of legumes are high potassium; kidney, lentil, garbanzo, black or pinto being the highest. Using beans, in chili, soup or salad, increases the potassium, protein and complex carbohydrate content - and beans add color, flavor and texture.

On a high potassium food plan the food is plain, no added high calorie sauces. It is cooked by steaming or broiling or microwave. Boiling causes much of the potassium to be lost in the water. If you are making soup or stew this problem is eliminated because the liquid containing potassium is consumed.

Good snacks include whole grains with the bran and germ and/or fruits and vegetables. While this may sound very restrictive, the good news is - the bowel normalizes, energy increases and cravings disappear. Weight becomes normal whether you were under weight or over weight. This occurs without any sense of dieting.

Fresh foods, prepared from scratch are best. If you must use canned foods use low sodium or sodium free, water-packed. Frozen foods should be purchased with no salt. I understand this way of shopping and food preparation is tough. Some clients may not be great cooks. Some of you may not cook at all. The honest truth is - if you rely on prepared foods or restaurant cooking you will not be able to regain or maintain your health.

Will changing your life style to eat high potassium be tough? At first, YES. We are used to looking at foods differently. Some people see everything as food. Others eat no fat or no dairy or low cholesterol. Still others avoid any food that is not in a container (can, box or tray). The idea that you can eat as much as you like as long as the food is real and is balanced by potassium to calories 2:1 is somewhat disconcerting at first. Very soon after you begin this program you will see that it works.

SAMPLE MENUS

Breakfast: Anytime Smoothie or - a bran cereal without sugar, use Sucanat for sweetening, and 1/4 cup milk and one egg and 1 cup orange juice or other fresh or canned unsweetened juice, high potassium, or fresh fruit or- cooked oatmeal and raisins or blueberries or other fruit with milk or rice milk or no milk with added protein powder or added cottage cheese, Sucanat sweetener or maple syrup or honey.

Lunch: Large salad with turkey or tuna 1-3 oz. and carrots, cucumber, sprouts, kidney or garbanzo beans, sweet red pepper, red cabbage, lettuce or mixed greens, onions and S&W non-fat dressing or equivalent; or- 2 cups brown rice and 1-3 oz. fish or poultry or lean red meat and 2 cups vegetable such as asparagus or green beans and 2 fruits or 2 cups mixed fruit for dessert. To add carbohydrates add 1-2 slices of whole grain fat free bread or add rice noodles to the salad or- soup or stew with lots of veggies and a small amount of protein such as beans or chicken or beef or tofu and fruit for desert.

Dinner: Soup or stew or casserole with some protein from poultry or fish or legumes; or tofu and lots of vegetables, served with whole grain fat free bread (optional); or- 1-3 oz. of protein as above (more if beans are your source) and rice or pasta (use tomato based sauce to replace the missing potassium in pasta); or a large baked potato with the skin and 2-3 oz. protein and 2 cups of vegetables or salad with lots of veggies in it plus 2 more servings of fruit.

Condiments: Salsa adds C, bioflavonoids and potassium. Low salt, low sugar (or home-made) ketchup. Tomato sauces. Parmesan cheese. All spices and herbs. Wysong mixed salt or VegeSalt. Soy sauce without preservatives. Butter. Cream cheese. Sour cream. Most non-fat dressings but look for the most natural without artificial flavorings and preservatives. Our favorite is S&W. Small amounts of olive oil or peanut oil. Lots of garlic and onion. Yeast flakes to flavor popcorn.

BASIC FOOD PLAN

Protein: Meat, fish, poultry, eggs or legumes/grains/nuts/seeds. See protein page but the rule is one palmful of protein three times a day. Use your own palm for your measure. If the protein is vegetarian, beans, seeds or grains, it's your palm piled with protein about 4-6" high; if meat or poultry about 1-2" high.

Breads/Grains: Servings per day 0-6 Size serving is bread 1 slice or 1/2 bagel or muffin. Grain is 1/2 cup. Pasta is 1/2 cup. All grains should be eaten as whole grain with bran and germ. Limited by potassium content. Limit grains if you are wheat or lectin intolerant.

Vegetables: 4-6 servings each 1 cup. More is OK. No limit. Cooked or raw. Soups are an easy way to eat vegetables.

Fruit: 4-8 Serving is 1 cup or 1 fruit or 1/4 cup juice. If you are or have been extremely hypoglycemic in the past make sure you add fruit slowly and that all fruit consumed is without added sugar or other sweetener. Anyone with hyper or hypo glycemia should avoid fruit juices. Look for the highest potassium fruits.

Total plan should have a minimum of 2 mg. potassium per calorie consumed. No matter what your caloric intake is you should not get less than 4,000 mg per day.

To easily check values use the Bowes and Church, Food Values of Portions Commonly Used.

Whether your goal is energy, weight loss, improved mental or physical performance or general good health the potassium plan will work.

Formula for daily potassium goal:

Your Ideal Body Weight in pounds times 40 mg. =_________ mg. per day.

Your Ideal Body Weight in kilos times 88 mg. =__________ mg. per day.

Examples: 130 lbs. equals 5,200 mg. a day. Example: 70 kilos equals 6,160 mg. a day.

POTASSIUM IN SELECTED FOODS

Values are averages and may depend on type and cooking method.

Potassium Content of Common Foods

FOOD GROUP500+ MILLIGRAMS 300-499 MILLIGRAMSLESS THAN 300 MILLIGRAMS
DAIRY Buttermilk, 1 cup 370
Nonfat fortified milk, 1 cup 450
Whole milk, 1 cup 350
Yogurt, plain, 1 cup 380
Cottage cheese, 2%, ½ cup 110
Whey, sweet, dry 1 tbsp 155
MEAT, FISH, POULTRY Roasted, braised or broiled Cod, 4 oz, 580
Flounder or sole, fillet, 6 oz 750
Salmon, 6 oz, farmed 650, wild, 735-855
Sardines, canned, 6 oz 675
Beef liver, 4 oz 430
Haddock, 4 oz 450
Ham, lean, 4 oz 325
Lamb, lean, 4 oz 365
Perch, 4 oz 390
Pork chop, lean, 4 oz 370
Tuna, albacore, water pack, 1 can 410
Turkey, meat only, 4 oz 340
Chicken, meat only, 4 oz 275
Round steak, lean, 4 oz 250
LEGUMES & NUTSAdzuki beans, cooked, 1 cup 1225
Baked beans, canned, 1 cup 550
Baked beans, homemade, 1 cup 900
Black beans, canned, 1 cup 610
Garbanzo beans, cooked, 1 cup 480
Kidney beans, canned, 1 cup 610
Lima beans, cooked, 1 cup 730
Pinto beans, cooked, 1 cup 740
Tofu, firm, ½ cup 300

Almonds, dry roasted, ¼ cup 255

Cashews, dry roasted, ¼ cup 195

Coconut milk, ½ cup 250

Macadamia nut, 1 oz 100

Peanut butter, chunky, 1 tblspn.120

Pecans or pecans, 1 oz 125
VEGETABLES

Broccoli, 1 med stalk whole, cooked, 520

Lettuce, red, 1 head 580

Lettuce, iceberg, 1 head 6" dia 760

Lettuce, romaine, ½ head, 775

Potato, mashed, w/ milk, 1 cup 600

Potato w/skin, baked, 1 med. 925

Spinach, raw, 1 bunch 1900

Spinach,, cooked, 1 cup 840

Sweet Potato, baked, 2"X5" 525

Squash, winter, baked, 1 cup 890

Yam, baked, cubed, 1 cup 910

Beans, green, cooked, 1 cup 375

Beets, each, 2" dia 300

Cauliflower, raw, small, 4" dia, ½ head 400

Lettuce, butter, 1 head 390

Potato, mashed, instant prepared w/milk, 1 cup 300

Peas, raw, 1 cup 350

Squash, summer, boiled, sliced, 1 cup 340

Carrot, raw, 1 med. 195

Celery, 1 stalk 8" 100

Mushrooms, raw, sliced, 1 cup 120

Mustard Greens, boiled, 1 cup 280

Peas, frozen, boiled, drained, 1 cup 260

Spinach, New Zealand, cooked, 1 cup 195

Tomato, cherry, each 40

Tomato, 1 med, 2.5" dia. 290

Zucchini, cooked, sliced, 1 cup 230

FRUITS

Apricots, dried, ½ cup 850

Avocado, 1 each, California 880, Florida 1070

Cantaloupe, ½, med (5" dia) 725

Currants, dried, ½ cup 650

Dates, dried, ½ cup 600

Honeydew (7" dia), ¼, 725

Peaches, dried, ½ cup 800

Prunes, pitted, ½ cup 750

Raisins, ½ cup 575

Apricots, 4 fresh 360

Banana, 1 med (7-8") 420

Orange juice, fresh, 1 cup 490

Peach, 1 med (2 ½ per lb). 300

Watermelon, diced, 2 cups, 340

Prune juice, ½ cup 350

Apple, 1 med (3 per lb) 150

Apple juice, 1 cup 295

Cherries, sweet, raw, 10 150

Grapefruit, 1 (3 ¾" dia) 175

Orange, 1 large (3 ½" dia). 330

Pear, 1 large (2 per lb). 250

Pineapple, raw, 1 cup 180

Plum, 1 each, 110

Strawberries, med., 6 whole 120

Tangerine, med. 1 each, 140

OTHER FOODS

Tomato juice, 1 cup 560

Low Sodium V8, 6 oz. 560

Coconut water 11

Blackstrap molasses, 1 tbsp 350-585 (check label, batches vary)

Nutritional Yeast, heaping tablespoon 157

Panela, chancaca, muscovado dark, jaggery sugars, 3 tablespoons packed level (1 oz) 295 (calories 87)

Maple syrup, 3 tablespoons, 122 (calories 157)

Brown sugar, 3 tablespoons packed, 143 (calories 156)

Cooked values on this chart are 'drained' which I suggest you not do. Consume the cooking water to get the highest potassium value. You may save the 'drip' or cooking water and make soup or use in broth or gravy.

Foods also vary in nutrient content by soil, season, species and cooking method. Potassium is an intracellular element which leaks out when food is cooked so if the food 'drips' or otherwise loses internal components potassium values will be lower. Consuming the item raw or consuming 'drip' or cooking water or juicing will give the highest amount of potassium from any given food item.

To find the potassium count for your favorite foods visit the USDA database. You can download a free program listing all USDA food values here. Food values vary by sources and often 1 bunch or 1 cup are measured differently (and averaged) by different sources and won't adequately define your intake. Look for 'weight' to more clearly define how much is a given serving.

For a ready reference book with a complete list of serving sized food values get Food Values of Portions Commonly Used by Bowes & Church.

EASY RECIPES TO INCREASE POTASSIUM:

YEAST DRINK 1 cup fresh orange juice or Very Veggie or apple juice or V8 2-6 heaped tbls. Red Star nutritional yeast flakes (start with smaller amount) Potassium- 800-1,800 mg. Protein- 8-24 grams

ANYTIME SMOOTHIE 1 banana or other fruit 1 cup fresh orange juice or other whole juice 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries or other berry One serving favorite brand protein powder (Jarrow Function All Vanilla protein powder, one of my favorites but is dairy based, has 1,000 mg. of potassium, add to total) Potassium- 1300-1500 mg. Protein 15-25 grams

MOLASSES HOT COCKTAIL 6-8 oz hot water 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses, unsulphured (organic has higher potassium, don't know why) Optional--1 tablespoon natural apple cider vinegar Potassium- 585-720 mg.

POTATO PEELING BROTH 10-12 cups water 2 bunches parsley Skins of 6 medium potatoes cut 1/4 inch thick 6 carrots 8 stalks celery. Simmer up to 24 hours reducing to 6 cups. Veggies must release their potassium into the water and this takes time. Strain - throw out veggies which should be very soft/cooked. One cup of broth without the vegetables will contain 1200-1400 mg. potassium IF MADE CORRECTLY.

BANANA SMOOTHIE 1 c milk 1 banana 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses, unsulphured Drink hot or cold. Potassium- 1300 mg. Protein- 9 grams.

Be creative. Eating enough potassium takes getting used to. The goal is to get a minimum of 2 mg. of potassium for each calorie consumed. More is OK but less is not. If you eat a lot of sodium many of the expected benefits of potassium will be lost. Also see the Magnesium link as low magnesium will prevent retention of potassium.

This page is maintained by Krispin Sullivan, CN Last modified on: 02 August, 2014 .