Myth-Busting: Potassium & Your Food
Quick! What food has the most potassium in it per serving?
Wait, don’t answer that. Let’s have some fun, and talk about this in terms of a Jeopardy! question.
Did you say “bananas”? Or rather, “What are bananas?”
If you did, you’re not alone. You’re wrong, but you’re not alone. Until the last few years, I would have said the exact same thing.
It seems lately potassium has come up in many conversations I’ve had with people I know. Interesting topic, right? Okay, I know it’s not, but, the conversation typically goes something like this in response to something I must have said to draw such an answer, “Well, I eat a banana a day, so I don’t worry about potassium.”
The thing is, while I love bananas (I do, truly), and they are a great source of potassium, they are not the best source of potassium, nor will one banana a day, with its 422 milligrams of potassium, meet the RDA of 4700 milligrams (4.7 grams). You would need to eat 10 bananas a day just to come close to this RDA, and that would be extremely boring.
So, if not bananas, what are the best sources of dietary potassium?
In my opinion, it’s dark leafy greens, especially beet greens, tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes, and legumes. Here is a great chart that breaks down the best potassium sources by category, weight in grams, and milligrams of potassium, as well as an explanation of why we need it. I can’t do a better job than the article does in explaining this, so I won’t try, but the bottom line is it’s important for cardiovascular and adrenal health, as well as many other important functions like building bones.
For what it’s worth, since I’ve moved to a focus on whole-food, minimally-processed eating, I really don’t find that I have an issue meeting the RDA of any key vitamins or minerals from food…except potassium. A few days’ worth of tracking meals on MyFitnessPal reveals an overall very sound nutritional breakdown, but even with the wide variety of fruits and veggies I eat, I rarely hit that 4700 mg RDA amount, and usually fall somewhere around 2500-3000. This is with eating what most people would consider a ton of plant foods.
That said, do I supplement with potassium? Nope. I just thought this topic was interesting to share, and to give you some ideas of foods that can help boost your potassium intake outside of the ever-popular banana.
So, what did you say to the initial question? Did I trick you, or did you already know the real answer?