WellSpan Home

Getting Enough Potassium

Topic Overview

Why is potassium important?

Your body needs potassium to help your muscles contract, maintain fluid balance, and maintain a normal blood pressure. Normal potassium levels in the body help to keep the heart beating regularly. Potassium may help reduce your risk of kidney stones and also bone loss as you age.

Healthy kidneys keep the right amount of potassium in the blood to keep the heart beating at a steady pace. If you have kidney disease, potassium levels can rise and affect your heartbeat. Be sure to talk with your health professional to determine if you should restrict your intake of foods that contain large amounts of potassium.

What is the recommended daily amount of potassium?

Most people do not get enough potassium.

Recommended potassium by age footnote 1

Age (years)

Recommended potassium intake (milligrams a day)

1-3

3,000

4-8

3,800

9-13

4,500

14 and older

4,700

Women who are breastfeeding

5,100

Women who are pregnant need the same amount of potassium as other women their age.

How can you get more potassium?

Potassium is in many foods, including vegetables, fruits, and milk products. You can figure out how much potassium is in a food by looking at the percent daily value section on the nutrition facts label. The food label assumes the daily value of potassium is 3,500 mg. So if one serving of a food has a daily value of 20% of potassium, that food has 700 mg of potassium in one serving. Potassium is not required to be listed on a food label, but it can be listed.

Estimates of potassium in certain foods footnote 2 footnote 3

Food

Serving size

Potassium amount (milligrams)

Spinach

½ cup

420 mg

Sweet potato

1

450 mg

Plain nonfat yogurt

6 oz

260 mg

Banana

1

425 mg

Broccoli

½ cup

230 mg

Cantaloupe

½ cup

215 mg

Tomato, fresh

1 fruit

290 mg

Milk (fat-free, low-fat, whole, buttermilk)

8 ounces

350-380 mg

Tips for adding potassium foods to your healthy diet:

  • Add spinach or other leafy greens to your sandwiches.
  • Toss fresh or dried apricots into plain nonfat yogurt for a snack.
  • Enjoy a cup of low-sodium bean soup for lunch.
  • Eat a small baked potato or sweet potato instead of bread at dinner.

Are there any risks from potassium?

A potassium level that is too high or too low can be serious. Abnormal potassium levels may cause symptoms such as muscle cramps or weakness, nausea, diarrhea, frequent urination, dehydration, low blood pressure, confusion, irritability, paralysis, and changes in heart rhythm. Potassium supplements are prescribed by a doctor, usually after testing for potassium in the blood or potassium in urine. Do not start taking potassium supplements on your own.

People who have kidney disease and/or take blood pressure medicines such as ACE inhibitors should find out from a doctor if they should avoid foods high in potassium.

Low-potassium foods include:

  • Blueberries.
  • Cucumber.
  • Raspberries.
  • White or brown rice.
  • Spaghetti and macaroni.

References

Citations

  1. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011). Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements. Available online: http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/New%20Material/2_%20RDA%20and%20AI%20Values_Vitamin%20and%20Elements.pdf.
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (2012). Nutrient data laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Available online: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov.
  3. American Dietetic Association (2015). Potassium content of foods. Nutrition Care Manual. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=153&actionxm=ViewAll. Accessed September 10, 2015.

Other Works Consulted

  • Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011). Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements. Available online: http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/New%20Material/2_%20RDA%20and%20AI%20Values_Vitamin%20and%20Elements.pdf.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerTushar J Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology

Current as ofMarch 29, 2018


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×