The Power of Potassium

Posted On May 4, 2015 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

The Power of Potassium

When it comes to heart health and blood pressure, it's common to associate reducing sodium as the key component to improving blood pressure, but potassium is the other major player in reducing blood pressure and preventing hypertension.

How It Works

Potassium and sodium help regulate blood pressure, but unfortunately the typical American diet is too high in sodium and too low in potassium. The good news: It's not impossible to reverse this and support potassium's role in lessening the effect of sodium through a potassium-rich diet.

The DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Hypertension) focuses on lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, lots of vegetables, and moderate amounts of fruit. The goal is for adults to get in 3500-4700mg/day, but men average 3200mg and women average just 2400mg per day. To have the most benefit, simultaneously reducing sodium and increasing potassium will help improve blood pressure, and consequently reduce the chances of the harmful effects of having chronic high blood pressure such as kidney issues and heart disease.

What does 3500-4700mg of potassium per day look like in terms of food? Here are some potassium rich foods to eat on a weekly or daily basis:

  • Avocado (1/4 of a medium) = 225mg
  • Winter Squash (Butternut, Acorn) = 900mg/1 cup
  • Medium Sweet potato with skin = 400mg
  • Beans (1/2 cup) = 300mg
  • Green beans (1 cup cooked)= 210 mg
  • Spinach (1 cup raw) = 167 mg
  • Mushrooms (1/2 cup raw) = 110mg
  • Bananas (1 medium) = 422mg
  • Tomatoes (1 medium) = 300mg
  • Tomato Sauce (1/2 cup) = 500mg
  • Oranges (1 small) = 175mg
  • Melons, cantaloupe and honeydew (1 cup) = 415mg
  • Prunes (3, pitted) = 210mg
  • Tuna (3oz) = 275mg
  • Halibut (3oz) = 450mg
  • Yogurt (6oz) = 240mg
  • 1% milk (8oz) = 365mg
  • Apricots (2) = 180mg
  • Molasses (1 tbsn) = 295mg

Eating more foods higher in potassium will also give you a diet richer in fiber and lower in fat, sodium, added sugars, and cholesterol, which are also an integral part of a heart healthy diet. Focus on eating the whole fruits and vegetables. For example, eat an orange or a tomato instead of having orange juice or a vegetable juice drink.

Can you take a potassium supplement and have the same effect?

Not necessarily, but it might help. The foods listed above, and others, that are good sources of potassium contain an entire package of nutrients that can't always be duplicated in pill form. Focus on having a low-fat potassium rich diet and ask your doctor before taking a potassium supplement.

Sample 1-day Meal Plan

(providing approximately 3500mg potassium)

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack
1 cup cantaloupe
½ cup milk in coffee
Mushroom Omelet w/sliced avocado
½ cup whole wheat pasta with
½ cup pasta sauce and
½ cup cannellini beans
4oz halibut
Medium baked sweet potato
1 cup green beans
1 medium banana
6oz yogurt
705mg potassium 830mg potassium 1060mg potassium 662mg potassium