Nutrient to Know: Potassium

by in Nutrients to Know, July 15, 2010

bananas
Your muscles just wouldn’t be the same without this mineral. Most folks know there’s potassium in bananas, but you might be surprised where else you can find this powerful electrolyte.

What Is It?
The body relies on potassium for nerve impulses and muscle contraction (including your most important muscle, the heart). It also acts as an electrolyte (along with sodium, calcium, chloride and magnesium) to help maintain proper fluid balance. Your body likes to maintain steady levels of this nutrient so your kidneys work hard to keep blood levels stable.

Why Is It Good For You?
In order for your heart to beat and the rest of your muscles to work properly, you need potassium around. In the event of serious deficiencies, heart arrhythmias may occur.

Research has also found that adequate intake of potassium can benefit blood pressure and bone health. As if all this wasn’t enough, this mineral also helps breakdown carbohydrates for energy.

Where Can I Find It?
Luckily potassium is found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as some nuts, dairy products, fish, beans, and grains. Healthy adults want to aim to get about 3,500 milligrams of potassium per day. People that suffer from kidney disease should talk to their doctor about how much potassium they should be taking in.

Foods Packed with Potassium
1 medium baked potato = 926 milligrams (26%)
1 medium baked sweet potato = 694 milligrams (20%)
1/2 cup prunes = 637 milligrams (18%)
1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt = 579 milligrams (17%)
3 ounces cooked halibut = 490 milligrams (14%)
1 medium banana = 422 milligrams (12%)
1/2 cup cooked spinach = 420 milligrams (12%)
1 cup raisin bran cereal = 362 milligrams (10%)
1 medium orange = 237 milligrams (7%)
1 ounce almonds = 200 milligrams (6%)

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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