The One Nutrient We’re All Short On

by karen on June 20, 2019

Nearly 100% of Americans fall short of getting this nutrient. Which one do you think it is?

  1. Calcium
  2. Vitamin D
  3. Potassium
  4. Chromium

Got your answer?

The correct answer is number 3, potassium, but most of us are lacking in all four nutrients (but we’ll leave that for another blog and focus on potassium today). Potassium is one of the most abundant minerals in our body: it’s one of seven essential minerals, and is important for muscle contraction, heart function, and regulating water balance. If we were getting enough potassium, our overall risk of death would be reduced 20 percent. It cuts the risk of stroke, lowers blood pressure, protects against muscle loss, preserves bone mineral density, and reduces the formation of kidney stones.

Symptoms of insufficient potassium intake can include muscle cramps, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, and constipation. Of course, these symptoms can be from many other causes as well, but increasing your potassium intake is a worthwhile venture.

So Where Do You Get More Potassium?

Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods, including those I’m always nagging you to eat more of, including those below.

  1. Baked potato with skin, 1 medium, 925 mg
  2. Soy milk, 1 cup, 600 mg
  3. White beans, ½ cup, 600 mg
  4. Avocado, ½, 500 mg
  5. Fish, 3 oz, 500 mg
  6. Banana, 1 medium, 425 mg
  7. Spinach, ½ cup cooked, 420 mg
  8. Papaya, 1 small, 400 mg
  9. Milk, 1 cup, 350 mg
  10. Lima beans, ½ cup, 350 mg
  11. Artichoke, 1 medium, 350 mg



How Much Do You Need?

The recommended daily intake is pretty high; 2300-3400 mg, which contributes to the challenge of getting enough. You’ll want to aim for 4 to 8 servings of these and other high potassium foods daily in order to up your intake of that all-important mineral.

A dinner of 6 oz grilled cod with avocado/papaya salsa, a baked potato and an artichoke will net you about 2200 mg potassium (maybe this isn’t so hard).

Here’s the salsa recipe—a delicious start to upping your potassium intake.

Avocado Papaya Salsa

1 avocado, diced
1 lime, juiced
1 papaya, diced
1 small red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
Salt to taste

Gently combine all in a medium-sized bowl, chill, and enjoy!

Serves 4 with 400 mg potassium per serving


Karen Fisher, MS, RD, LDN, CDE is a dietitian in Reno, Nevada, happily promoting the benefits of healthy foods at her nutrition consulting firm, Nutrition Connection. Find her website

To find a nutrition expert in your area, go to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website – Find an Expert

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