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Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte in your body. Electrolytes are compounds that are able to conduct an electrical current.
Potassium's functions include helping to:
Most people should aim to get close to 5,000 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day.
Estimated Minimum Requirement of Potassium
|> 13 years||4,700|
Severe potassium deficiency leads to a low potassium level in the blood, called hypokalemia. But a potassium deficiency is rare in healthy people. However, certain conditions can cause the body to lose significant amounts of potassium. Examples of these conditions include:
Signs of a severe potassium deficiency include the following:
If hypokalemia persists, it can lead to irregular heartbeat. This can dangerously decrease the heart's ability to pump blood.
In addition, people who are on high blood pressure medication should ask their doctor about the need for a potassium supplement.
Potassium is rarely toxic because excess amounts are usually excreted in the urine. However, people with kidney problems may be unable to properly excrete potassium, allowing it to build up in the bloodstream (called hyperkalemia). Therefore, people with kidney problems need to closely monitor their potassium intake.
Hyperkalemia can also lead to weakness, an irregular, sometimes fatal heartbeat, and constipation.
Potassium is found in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Less processed foods tend to have more potassium.
Here are some examples of foods that are high in potassium from the United States Department of Agriculture:
|Food (amount)||Serving Size||
|White beans, canned||1/2 cup||595|
|Potato, baked with skin||1 medium||610|
|Lentils, cooked||1/2 cup||365|
|Clams, canned and drained||3 ounces||534|
|Yogurt, low fat, plain||1 cup||531|
|Lima beans, cooked||1/2 cup||484|
|Dried apricots||1/4 cup||378|
|Tuna, yellowfin, cooked||3 ounces||484|
|Honeydew melon||1/8 medium||365|
|Winter squash||½ cup||448|
|Cod, Pacific, cooked||3 ounces||439|
|Spinach, cooked||½ cup||419|
|Milk, fat-free||1 cup||382|
|Kidney Beans, cooked||½ cup||358|
You can make small changes to your diet that will help increase your intake of potassium. These include:
Eat Right—American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Office of Dietary Supplements
Chapter 8 sodium and potassium. Health website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/chapter8.htm. Updated July 9, 2008. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Food sources of potassium. Health website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/appendixb.htm. Updated July 9, 2008. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Hyperkalemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115641/Hyperkalemia. Updated June 13, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Updated August 17, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Hypokalemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115951/Hypokalemia. Updated September 17, 2015. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Potassium. Linus Pauling Institute Oregon State University website. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/potassium. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Last reviewed October 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 11/4/2015