Fruits & Vegetables With High Potassium

Overview

Potassium is a mineral crucial for the proper functioning of the cells, tissues and organs of the body. Most commonly, it is associated with heart function and blood pressure. Potassium is a macromineral, meaning your body needs large amounts of it. Potassium is classified as an electrolyte, which is a mineral in the blood that carries an electrical charge. These electrical charges are crucial for the heart to beat steadily, as well as for other electrical functions in the body. You must acquire potassium from your dietary intake. Many potassium-rich foods are available, but no source is higher than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Too Little Potassium

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), too little potassium — aka hypokalemia — is rare in American diets, but even a moderate shortage in potassium levels can lead to sodium sensitivity, resulting in high blood pressure, an increased risk of stroke, osteoporosis, kidney stones, heart arrhythmias and muscle paralysis. Other than diet, low potassium can also be caused by vomiting, diarrhea, alcoholism, anorexia or bulimia, kidney disorders, depletion of magnesium and congestive heart failure. Medications can decrease levels as well, including diuretics or water pills, laxatives, steroids, epinephrine, the decongestant pseudoephedrine, bronchodilators, mineral corticoids, high-dose antibiotics such as penicillin and, in rare cases, habitual consumption of large amounts of caffeine or black licorice.

Too Much Potassium

Hyperkalemia, or too much potassium, can result from reduced renal-kidney function, an inability to break down proteins or severe infection. Certain medications can cause the body to retain too much potassium, including potassium-sparing diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, blood pressure medications, blood thinners such as heparin, the heart medicine digitalis and very high doses of ibuprofen.

Benefits

Medline Plus reports that Italian researchers have published the results of ten studies, conducted between 1966 and 2009, showing that adults with higher intakes of potassium had a 19 percent lower incidence of stroke and an 8 percent lower rate of heart disease. According to one of the researchers, Dr. Strazzullo from the University of Naples, these studies have led to “global recommendations for people to increase their consumption of potassium-rich foods in order to prevent vascular disease.” Very high potassium intakes are generally defined as more than 262 g per day, while low intakes are considered to be below 92 g per day. The choices you make in the produce department on your next trip to the grocery store can have a significant impact on the quality of your health.

Fruits

Potassium-rich fruits include apricots, bananas, strawberries, papaya, melons, grapes, peaches, oranges and other citrus fruits, pineapple, pears, apples, prunes, raisins, dates, kiwi and nectarines.

Vegetables

Veggies loaded with potassium include baked and sweet potatoes with the skin, French beans, lentils, cooked spinach and lima beans. Other sources are carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, avocados, peas, celery, artichokes and winter squash. Soy products and veggie burgers have an impressive potassium content as well.

Daily Recommendations

The Food and Nutrition Center of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following daily potassium intakes for your entire family: infants 0 to 6 months, 0.4 g per day; 7 to 12 months, 0.7 g per day; 1 to 3 years, 3 g per day; 4 to 8 years, 3.8 g per day; 9 to 13 years, 4.5 g per day; and 14 to adult 4.7 g per day. They also recommend that if you are breast feeding, you should increase your potassium to 5.1 g per day.

Tips

Other potassium-related tips include: Eat fewer processed foods and stick with fresh or frozen; consume more potassium if you are an athlete; and don’t rely on sports drinks, which tend to be poor sources of potassium. Most of the time, fresh foods are best, except in the case of apricots and prunes, which contain more potassium when they are dried. Also, you may lower your blood pressure by increasing your potassium and decreasing your sodium. Finally, it is important to note that if you are on dialysis, you need to avoid potassium-rich foods and adhere to a medically prescribed diet.

About this Author

Jean Jenkins has been writing professionally since 1994. She has written medical research materials for the American Parkinson\’s Association, the Colorado Neurological Institute and the Autism Society of America. Jenkins has specialized in neurology, labor and delivery, high-risk obstetrics and autism spectrum disorders. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Colorado.