Become a Potassium Powerhouse

Stomach or muscle cramp? Eat a banana, one of many foods that are rich in potassium. Learn why potassium is so important for your health and well being.

Banana

Stomach or muscle cramp? Eat a banana. How many times have you been told this by a coach, teammate or trainer after you caught a cramp. (See Three Key Benefits From Eating Bananas.)

Although cramping among athletes is commonly due to a lack of sodium balance, potassium plays an extremely important role in our overall health. Potassium helps the muscles contract, regulates fluid and mineral balance in and out of the body's cells, and maintains normal blood pressure by blunting the effect of sodium.

A report from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee stated most Americans fall short of their daily potassium needs. This begs the question: how much do we actually need?

  • Adolescents and adults: 4,700 mg/day
  • Children aged 9 to 13 years: 4,500 mg/day
  • Children aged 4 to 8 years: 3,800 mg/day
  • Children aged 1 to 3 years: 3,000 mg/day

Meeting the 4,700-mg/day recommendation should not be hard given the profusion of potassium-rich foods. You should eat a variety of foods and colors each day.

Potassium-Rich Food Sources

  • Baked Potato, skin on, baked - 738 mg
  • Nonfat yogurt, 1 cup plain - 579 mg
  • Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces - 490 mg
  • Winter squash, 1/2 cup cooked - 448 mg
  • Banana, 1 medium - 422 mg
  • Spinach, 1/2 cup cooked - 419 mg
  • Tomato sauce, 1/2 cup - 405 mg
  • Pork chop, center loin, cooked, 3 ounces - 382 mg
  • Cantaloupe, 1/4 cup - 368 mg
  • Milk, 1%, 1 cup - 366 mg
  • Kidney beans, cooked, 1/2 cup - 358 mg
  • Almonds, 1 ounce - 201 mg

Tips to Ensure You Meet Your Potassium Requirements

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Consume 8 ounces of milk, or a smoothie or shake made with milk, or a cup of yogurt at least three times per day
  • Eat at least one meal per day that includes either beans, legumes or peas
  • Include mushrooms, artichokes, squash or other hearty vegetable in casseroles or other mixed entrées
  • Add dried fruits and a handful of almonds or pistachios to yogurt
  • Add green leafy vegetables to your sandwich or wrap, along with a spread of avocado
  • Add cooked spinach to a breakfast omelet and eat with 1/4 melon

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SODIUM | FOODS | VEGETABLES | POTASSIUM | ALMONDS | YOGURT | BEANS