While you tend to think of bananas when it comes to potassium, many other foods – like avocados and sweet potatoes – naturally pack more potassium.
When it comes to filling up your plate with potassium-rich foods, knowing which sources to reach for and having a range of healthy options are essential.
Discover why this nutrient is key to your health, and the top eleven foods that are chock-full of potassium.
What is Potassium?
Potassium functions as an electrolyte in the body, controlling fluid balances and muscle contractions.
This essential mineral lives mostly in muscle cells but is also found in red blood cells, the liver, and the bones. (1)
Potassium intake today is well below what it would have been for people who lived in the pre-agricultural time. (2) This is because the soil is no longer as rich in minerals as it was before the age of agriculture.
Symptoms of low potassium can range from fatigue and muscle cramping to insomnia, depression, and even irregular heartbeat. (3, 4)
To ensure proper electrolyte and fluid levels, you should eat plenty of potassium-rich foods every single day.
6 Benefits of Potassium
Potassium is crucial for healthy bones, kidneys, and blood pressure. While we don’t often think of potassium as being involved with our health issues, it can play a bigger role than we may realize. Here are six of the biggest health benefits that potassium can provide.
1. Reduces High Blood Pressure
Potassium helps to regulate fluid levels in the body, supporting a healthy blood pressure. This helps reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. (5)
2. Supports the Nervous System
The nervous system is the great communicator of the body and requires healthy muscles to function. Potassium supports proper muscular contraction, which influences how the nervous system sends messages throughout the entire body.
3. Aids in Muscular Function
As we touched on above, potassium can alter how muscles work by changing the way nerve cells are able to communicate. (6) The heart – a particularly important muscle – can be dramatically impacted by too little or too much potassium, leading to an irregular heartbeat. (7)
4. Balances Fluids
Without electrolytes, the body’s fluid balances would be out of sorts. More than 60 percent of the body is water, and this balance of fluids in and out of the cells is carefully regulated by electrolytes and potassium. When potassium is out of balance, muscle contractions, heart problems, and kidney stones or disorders can occur.
5. Provides Healthy Bone Mass
Got potassium? While many studies focus on calcium for strong bones, some research shows that potassium also directly strengthens bones. (8) Osteoporosis and bone density problems are mostly genetic, but as much as 40 percent can be influenced by diet. (9)
6. Promotes Kidney Health
Kidney stones often form when excess calcium isn’t buffered by the right fluid balance. Potassium can help lower the amount of calcium in urine, preventing kidney stones and keeping the bladder and kidneys free from calcifications. (10)
11 Potassium-Rich Foods
Here are the top nine Paleo-friendly foods with the highest amounts of potassium.
1. Winter Squash
1 cup cubed / 896 mg / 26% daily value
Winter squash, including varieties like acorn, butternut, and pumpkin, is rich in potassium, B vitamins and vitamin C. Roast them for savory or sweet side dishes, soups, and chilis.
2. Cooked Spinach
1 cup cooked / 839 mg / 24% daily value
Raw spinach has less than five percent daily value of potassium, but lightly cooking spinach until soft increases its potassium levels significantly. Try stuffing cooked spinach into Portobello mushrooms, top it on a burger, or jazz up your next pot of soup.
3. Sun-dried Tomatoes
½ cup / 925 mg / 26% daily value
While raw tomatoes contain some potassium, sundried tomatoes are an epic source of this mineral for such a small serving. Get your fill with this recipe for chicken smothered in a creamy sun-dried tomato sauce.
4. Bok Choy
1 cup cooked / 631 mg / 18% daily value
Bok choy is a nutrient-dense leafy green vegetable perfect for stir-fries, sautéed veggies, and Asian-inspired dishes. Just one cup cooked – which shrinks down fairly small – contains 18 percent of your daily value.
1 cup mashed / 807 mg / 22% daily value
This beloved fruit is rich in fiber and B vitamins and packs a wallop of potassium with nearly a quarter of the day’s needs in just one cup of mashed avocado. Mix it into a hearty guacamole and pile it onto burgers and sandwiches.
1 medium raw / 422 mg / 12% daily value
While most people associate bananas with potassium, it’s definitely not the food highest in this nutrient. Still, a single banana contains more than 10 percent of your daily value, making it a great choice for a snack.
7. Wild-caught Salmon
½ fillet / 705 mg / 20% daily value
Salmon is rich in potassium and other minerals like phosphorous, selenium, and magnesium. Bake it any night of the week for a hearty meal rich in healthy omega-3 fats.
1 cup cooked / 458 mg / 14% daily value
When steamed or boiled, broccoli contains well over 10% of the day’s potassium needs. It also contains lots of healthy B vitamins and fiber. Add them to stir-fries, toss them into broccoli salads, or blend them up into a soup.
9. Sweet Potato
1 medium cooked / 541 mg / 15% daily value
These yam-like vegetables carry a nice amount of potassium, but also manganese, vitamin A, and vitamin B6. Roast them, spiral them up into savory “noodle” dishes, or even whip them up into sweet potato pancake batter.
1/8 of a melon / 640mg / 14% daily value
This juicy fruit is considered by many to be mostly water, but it’s actually packed with plenty of nutrients like vitamins A and C as well as 14 percent daily value of potassium. Slice it up and enjoy as a delicious snack.
11. Coconut water
1 cup / 600mg / 13% daily value
Coconut water is better than any sports drink for fighting off muscle cramps and dehydration – it contains natural electrolytes like magnesium, calcium, sodium, and manganese alongside a healthy dose of potassium to help you bounce back quickly. Plus, it has no artificial coloring or refined sugars.
If you want to add more potassium to your diet, try these delicious homestyle recipes.
1. Salmon Bites with Sweet Potato Buns
This recipe packs the double whammy of potassium from both the salmon and sweet potatoes.
2. Roasted Acorn Squash
This squash makes the perfect anti-inflammatory side dish for holidays or just everyday eating.
3. Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies
Potassium-rich sweet potatoes are the not-so-secret ingredients in these moist, decadent brownies.
4. Keto Avocado Brownies
Speaking of brownies: this batch of goodness relies on the creamy perfection of avocado for a superb texture.
5. Cream of Broccoli Soup
Cooked broccoli contains plenty of potassium and what better way to enjoy it than blended up in a dairy-free soup.
Potassium is required for healthy functioning muscles and nerves. There are plenty of foods rich in potassium, so be sure to eat a lot of them to get enough electrolytes in your system.