Get to Know Potassium and Stop Falling Short
Sure, you’ve heard of potassium, but how well do you really know this mineral? Potassium plays a very important role in maintaining good health, but it turns out that it’s a nutrient that many Americans regularly fall short on. In fact, according to a study published in 2012, less than 2 percent of adults get the amount of potassium recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board. Those recommendations call for adults to consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily.
“The best food sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables, and most Americans simply do not eat enough of them to get the potassium they need,” says Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Potassium is an important electrolyte, and it works in partnership with sodium (also an electrolyte) to help regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions and nerve signals. “Most people get too much sodium and not enough potassium, which can throw off this balance,” says Rumsey.
Potassium helps keep blood pressure levels under control, and since it plays a role in muscle contractions, it’s important for normal muscle and digestive function. So how can you increase your potassium intake? Focus on getting several servings of fruit and vegetables every day.
If you need inspiration, here are some of the top sources of this important nutrient:
Swiss chard: 960 mg per cup
Lima beans: 955 mg per cup
Sweet potato: 950 mg per cup
Spinach: 838 mg per cup
Lentils: 730 mg per cup
Avocado: 727 mg per cup
Tuna: 597 mg per 4 ounces
Salmon: 492 mg per 4 ounces
Broccoli: 457 mg per cup
Cantaloupe: 427 mg per cup
Asparagus: 403 mg per cup
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.