15 Foods That Are High in Potassium

Medically Reviewed By Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT
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Potassium is an essential mineral, necessary for your body to function. It is an electrolyte, which means it has a small electrical charge that helps activate your heart, kidneys, muscles and nerves. Here is an overview of what you need to know about potassium, and some high potassium food choices to make sure you get enough in your diet.

How potassium works and why your body needs it

Bananas are one example of a high potassium food
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Potassium is a workhorse when it comes to keeping you going. It helps regulate the electrical signals that control your heartbeat, trigger your muscles to contract, and activate your nerve cells.

Potassium helps deliver nutrients to your cells and remove waste products. It is also involved in maintaining the volume of blood and fluid in your body, which affects your blood pressure.

The daily recommended intake of potassium includes:

  • 3,400 milligrams (mg) for adult males
  • 2,600 mg for adult females
  • 200–300 mg more potassium during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Potassium is found in many foods, but some of it can be lost during cooking. Many U.S. adults don’t get enough potassium in their diet, falling short by as much as 1000 mg a day.

Here is a list of some high potassium foods, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes foods with over 200 mg of potassium per serving. Consider adding some of these foods to your diet if your potassium intake is low or your blood potassium level is too low:

1. Potatoes

Potatoes are a great source of potassium. A baked potato contains 925 mg of potassium. French fried potatoes have 470 mg of potassium in a 3 oz serving, along with plenty of fat and calories. An ounce of potato chips provides 465 mg of potassium.

2. Yams and sweet potatoes

Yams are a potassium superfood, with about 911 mg per cup. Sweet potatoes are different from yams and not related to what we usually consider potatoes. They are also a good source, with about 572 mg of potassium per cup.

Both yams and sweet potatoes are root vegetables. Yams are browner, bigger, and part of the lily family. Sweet potatoes are redder and in the morning glory family. Sweet potatoes do indeed tend to be sweeter than yams.

3. Bananas

Many people think of bananas when they think of potassium-rich food. A medium banana has about 422 mg of potassium. Bananas are a popular fruit for athletes. They are an easy and quick way to replenish the potassium the body loses during intense exertion.

4. Yogurt and dairy products

Yogurt is the best source of potassium in the dairy aisle, with about 625 mg in an 8 oz serving of plain, nonfat yogurt. An 8 oz glass of whole cow’s milk provides 366 mg of potassium, even if it’s low fat milk.

Some cheeses, including ricotta and cottage cheese, are high in potassium. Not all cheeses are created equal though — goat cheese is a low potassium food.

A 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream has about 131 mg of potassium.

5. Oranges and orange juice

One orange contains 240 mg of potassium, so it counts as a high potassium food. However, orange juice is a more concentrated source of potassium, with 450 mg per 8 oz glass.

Not all fruits are high in potassium. Apples, for instance, don’t contain much potassium and berries are not a good source either. On the other hand, dried fruits like prunes and raisins are good sources of potassium. Fresh cantaloupe is also high in potassium.

6. Legumes and beans

Many vegans and vegetarians rely on legumes like lentils, lima, navy, and kidney beans to get the protein they need. Legumes also provide a good amount of potassium.

White beans are the highest in potassium, with 600 mg in a half cup. Other legumes like lima beans, pinto beans, navy beans and lentils contain about 300 to 350 mg in a half cup serving.

7. Winter squash

Winter squash with dark orange flesh, such as acorn squash, contains a good amount of potassium. They provide almost 900 mg of potassium per cup. Butternut squash has about 600 mg, which is still high. Yellow squash and zucchini, by contrast, are low potassium foods.

8. Spinach and other leafy greens

Just a half cup of cooked spinach contains about 420 mg of potassium. Whether baby or mature, raw spinach has about 167 mg per cup. Swiss chard, bok choy, beet greens, and fennel are also high in potassium.

Kale, while full of other nutrients, contains less potassium than these other dark leafy greens. Raw kale has about 73 mg per cup.

9. Salt substitutes

Many people with kidney or heart disease use salt substitutes to cut down on the amount of sodium in their diets. These substitutes contain potassium chloride. What they lack in sodium they make up for in potassium, with 800 mg per 1/4 teaspoon.

10. Tomato paste

If you are making pasta sauce or chili, tomato paste is a great way to increase the potassium in your diet. 1 cup contains 1220 mg. Even if your dish contains about a quarter cup of tomato paste, you are still getting more than 300 mg in a serving.

11. Avocados

Avocados are an excellent way to add potassium to your diet. 1 cup of sliced avocado contains 708 mg of potassium. A medium-sized whole avocado has about 1000 mg.

12. Bamboo shoots

If you like traditional Asian dishes, add some bamboo shoots to boost your potassium intake. A half cup has about 400 mg of potassium. Another common ingredient in some Asian dishes are water chestnuts. They have about 360 mg of potassium.

13. Fufu and beet greens

Fufu is a typical West African or Caribbean dish made of pounded yams, plantains, or cassava. These starches are all very high in potassium. A cup of fufu, which is usually served as a ball and dipped in a sauce, can contain over 1000 mg of potassium.

Beet greens are another food with more than 1000 mg of potassium per serving. They contain about 1309 mg per cup.

14. Clams and tuna

When it comes to protein from seafood, clams are the best source of potassium with 534 mg in just 3 oz. If you are not a fan of clams, skipjack tuna has 444 mg in 3 oz. Salmon, one of the most popular fish, is often lower in potassium. However this varies depending on the type.

15. Chicken and beef

These proteins are considered high in potassium, though there are more efficient ways to get enough potassium in your diet. A 3 oz serving of chicken breast has an estimated 332 mg of potassium. Beef, while popular, has just under 300 mg per serving.

What to know about sport drinks

Some sports drinks are marketed as being formulated to replenish electrolytes, including potassium. However, a typical 12 oz bottle of sports drink contains less than 50 mg of potassium. Make sure you stay informed and read labels. There may be better options to manage potassium levels.

Can too much potassium be harmful?

Potassium keeps our bodies functioning, but too much potassium can be harmful. 

People with healthy kidneys will eliminate excess potassium through urination.

People with kidney disease or another chronic disease like diabetes, liver, or heart disease may not be able to get rid of excess potassium. Certain medications such as ACE inhibitors, which are used to lower blood pressure or treat heart ailments, can also affect potassium levels.

A blood potassium level higher than 5.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) is usually considered high. However, different labs use slightly different measures.

Potassium over 6.0 mmol/L is considered hyperkalemia and needs immediate medical attention. Some cases may require emergency treatment. Hyperkalemia can leave you short of breath, cause your heart to beat irregularly, and even lead to a heart attack.

Tips for reducing potassium in your diet

Here are some ways you can lower your potassium levels:

  • Replace potatoes with starches like white bread, pasta, or white rice.
  • Eat low potassium fruits like apples, berries, and grapes.
  • Drink water instead of fluids that contain potassium, such as sports drinks.
  • Limit your coffee intake, which can add up to 116 mg of potassium per cup.
  • Try cranberry juice instead of orange juice.
  • Avoid dishes made with pumpkin, such as pie and bread.
  • Eat yellow squash and zucchini rather than sweet potatoes, yams, or winter squashes.
  • Use romaine, butter, or iceberg lettuce in place of darker greens like spinach, Swiss chard, or beet greens.

Talk to your doctor before making changes to your diet. They may offer specific recommendations to help safely manage your potassium levels.

Summary

Potassium is an essential mineral that supports many of your vital functions. Many people in the U.S. don’t get enough potassium in their diets. Too much potassium can seriously affect the heart in people with certain chronic conditions. These include kidney disease or people on certain medications.

If your doctor finds your potassium is too low, eating certain foods can help to raise your levels. Foods high in potassium include potatoes, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and bananas, among others.

If your potassium level is too high, swap high-potassium foods for lower-potassium alternatives. Substitute white foods like rice and pasta for root vegetables, and stick to fruits like apples and berries. Use light green lettuces for salads instead of spinach or kale. Follow your doctor’s advice for maintaining a healthy potassium level.

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Medical Reviewer: Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT
Last Review Date: 2022 Jul 28
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