Our resident Nutritionist and GoodnessMe Box Health Editor Melissa Fine gives us the lowdown on this essential nutrient.
What exactly is Potassium?
Both a mineral and an electrolyte, the majority of potassium in the body is in our ‘intracellular fluid’ - the fluid within our cells. Potassium has many important functions in the body, such as:
- Maintaining the Acid:Alkaline Balance: Along with other nutrients - like calcium, sodium and magnesium – a potassium-rich diet can help decrease the impact of a diet that’s too high in acid-forming foods, such as meat, chicken, dairy and grains.
- Preserving Bone: Potassium citrate - a form of potassium in oranges and grapefruit - can help improve the body’s calcium balance by reducing the amount of calcium excreted via the urine; This in turn can increase the amount of calcium retained in the bone, needed for the maintenance of bone strength and density, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones that break easily).
- Reducing High Blood Pressure: Potassium can help relax the artery walls, enabling blood to flow through the arteries with greater ease. Research also suggests that eating more potassium-rich foods can encourage sodium excretion via the urine*; This is noteworthy because a high-sodium diet has the opposite effect to potassium in the artery walls, causing them to constrict, which in turn increases blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
How much Potassium do I need and WHERE do I get it from?
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends 3,800mg potassium/day for men, and for women, 2,800mg as an Adequate Intake (AI).
A wholefood diet should give you this, as fruit and vegetables (especially dried fruit and green leafy veg), whole grains, dried beans and nuts are all good sources of potassium…And when you eat more real food like this, your sodium intake should decrease too, as packaged, highly processed food is a large reason for our high salt consumption.
Five of Our Favourite Potassium-Rich Foods at GoodnessMe Box HQ:
Bring back the humble potato! Often shunned in the fad diet world, I think the potato can be mistakenly categorised as a refined carbohydrate because it’s white in colour and often associated with fries…A medium baked potato with the skin on however is a whole food, and one of the richest sources of potassium, giving you over 900mg of this essential nutrient.
And although potatoes have a high GI, if you pair your baked spud with a decent serve of protein like baked salmon (another good source of potassium), you’ll decrease the GI of your meal.
2) Lima Beans
Boil up these buttery beans this winter for a nice addition to soups, stews and hearty salads; Just ½ a cup gives you close to 500mg potassium. When you can, it’s worth going for the dried beans that you cook yourself, as the canned ones are often high in added salt; Health food stores however often have no-added-salt varieties.
½ a cup of this cooked leafy green has over 400mg potassium; Sautéed spinach is a nice way to bump up the potassium content of your meal, whether it be with scrambled eggs or stirred through your pesto pasta.
A banana is usually the first food we think of when potassium comes to mind, with one medium banana packing in more than 400mg potassium. My favourite fruit, I don’t think I go a day without a banana, either sliced on top of almond butter toast, or mashed and cooked through my porridge when it’s super ripe for extra creaminess and natural sweetness.
The GoodnessMe Box team are also munching on At One Food’s Banana Pecan Raw Superbar for a healthy afternoon office snack; Reminds me of caramel and banana bread ;) And thanks to the good dose of dried fruits and nuts in this, one bar gives you 284mg potassium.
A portable, potassium-packed snack that’s naturally creamy and slightly sweet; A handful or two (28g) has about 200mg potassium.
At One Foods Banana Pecan Raw Superbar has smooth buttery pecans melded with caramel banana to make a raw, potassium-rich snack bar that tastes like banana bread. Like luscious fudge, yet gorgeously guilt-free. 100% raw, gluten free and vegan. For more information check out the website atonefoods.com.au or instagram
1. *Cutler et al 1997, Graudal et al 1998, Midgley et al 1996, cited in National Health and Medical Research Council. 2014. ‘Sodium’. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/sodium [Accessed 27 April 15].
2. Higdon J, Drake VJ, Lin P-H. 2010. ‘Potassium’. [ONLINE] Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/potassium. [Accessed 27 April 15].
3. Kirk, D 2012, ‘Nutritional Medicine’ in Hechtman, L (ed), Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Elsevier, Sydney, pp. 78-79.
4. National Health and Medical Research Council. 2014. ‘Potassium’. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/sodium. [Accessed 27 April 15].