High-Potassium Foods

Marathoners who go bananas over bananas are in good company:  the fruit is high in potassium.  Hydration fluids that are overflowing with potassium are likewise recommended to replace lost electrolytes.  A potassium-rich diet is highly advised for sufferers of hyperthyroidism because the anti-thyroid medications they take (like propylthiuracil or PTU) eliminate potassium from the body at a faster than normal rate.

Potassium is an essential dietary mineral that is vital in the normal functioning of smooth muscles (like the lining in our stomachs), and skeletal muscles (as in those found in our extremities).  Potassium is also critical in transmitting electrical signals all throughout the nervous system through electrolytes.  That tingling feeling after sweating heavily without refueling means your nerves are about to experience power outage.  Dehydrated people literally black-out.

Because the heart is kept pumping by smooth (involuntary) muscles, adequate levels of the mineral maintain rhythmic contractions.  Any skewed level of potassium could lead to cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal rhythms.

Potassium also helps control the acid-base balance of body fluids (potassium, together with sodium, is an alkali), which is important to maintain normal blood pressure.  Since potassium affects the entire nervous system, it is likewise critical in neural function.  No wonder, potassium-rich nuts like peanuts, almonds and pistachios improve mental stamina.

Obviously, a potassium-deficient diet can lead to a host of additional problems, like kidney disorders and tissue damage.  The most common symptom that we often run into, when we lack the required potassium in our diet, is muscle weakness.  That’s why high-endurance athletes and hyperactive individuals engaged in strenuous activities need loads of it.

Another reason why endurance athletes need to consume potassium pre- and post-activity is its reflex effect.  Lost electrolytes mean diminished conductors of electrical signals, resulting to delayed transmission.  You would want to sprint right away after you hear the gun.

There has been a noted effect of potassium in bone health.  This area of study however, needs further investigation to establish correlation between potassium consumption and bone density.

In hypokalemia (a condition of dangerously low potassium levels), lack of potassium in the diet is not the cause; rather, it is the dumping of the mineral from the kidneys and the intestines that depletes the body’s store of it.  Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats) can result from too little of this mineral, and this is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent attention.

Potassium consumption may have to be regulated among the elderly.  As we age, our bodies tend to be less efficient in evacuating excess potassium, high levels of which is called hyperkalemia, which is equally fatal with its hypo- counterpart.  Too much potassium in the bloodstream could overwork the heart and lead to cardiac arrest.

Fruits, vegetables and nuts are generally excellent sources of potassium, bananas included.  The following are plant-based sources that are high in potassium:

  • Citrus juices like the good old standby orange juice;
  • Avocados;
  • Apricots and peaches;
  • Artichokes and asparagus;
  • Cantaloupes and watermelons;
  • Tomatoes;
  • Corn;
  • Potatoes and carrots;
  • Lima beans and soybeans;
  • Nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts (with skin) and pistachios;
  • Bamboo shoots;
  • Bran and brown rice;
  • Wheat bread and white rice;
  • Parsley, spinach and lettuce;
  • Squash, winter squash and pumpkins;
  • Yogurt, dried milk and chocolate;
  • Prunes and raisins;
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage;
  • Green peppers and onions.

Potassium can also be found in all types of meat, but healthy amounts are in poultry, like chicken and turkey.  Fish like cod, salmon, flounder and sardines, go swimmingly well with the rest of the potassium-rich diet.