If I were to ask ten people, what the most important, essential nutrients are the list would probably include calcium and vitamin C. And if they’ve really been paying attention, they might include iron and vitamins B and D.
But very few folks would say potassium. And that’s more than a shame… it’s a problem. Because while all those nutrients are important, potassium is just as critical for good health. And the majority of us aren’t getting enough of it.
Experts recommend we get at least 4700 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day. But the average American is only getting 2640 mg.
In fact, experts say 98 percent of us are eating a diet that’s deficient in potassium rich foods.
Potassium is essential for good health
Potassium is an electrolyte. Which means it helps carry electrical signals across the cells in your body. Your muscles require it to function properly. And that includes the most important muscle of all, your heart.
Without enough potassium, your heart can’t hold a steady rhythm. This can lead to a dangerously irregular heartbeat. Plus getting enough of this critical mineral can help keep your blood pressure under control.
Researchers say adding 1600 mg a day to your diet is associated with a 21 percent lower risk of stroke. In other words, eating more potassium rich foods could wipe out nearly a fifth of your stroke risk.
But the benefits don’t end there. Potassium is also vital for your bones.
Our bodies naturally produce certain acids that can erode and weaken our bones raising the risk of breaks and osteoporosis. But potassium rich foods help neutralize those acids, protecting bone density and strength.
Signs there’s not enough potassium in your diet
You may be running low on potassium and not even know it. But if your levels drop too low, there are often signs.
Muscle cramps and an irregular heart beat top the list. But other symptoms may be easier to miss.
Being low on potassium can make you feel tired or weak. And because your digestive tract is one long series of muscles, it can also cause constipation.
Your shopping list for the top potassium rich foods
So chances are you should have more potassium rich foods in your diet. But if you think bananas are the answer, you might be disappointed.
With 442 mg, bananas are a decent source of potassium. But they’re far from your best option. You’d have to eat 11 a day to get close to the RDA.
Instead, mix it up with some of these other potassium rich foods to help protect your heart and bones.
I’ve told you before about the heart healthy fats in avocados. But those good fats aren’t the only reason to eat more of this delicious fruit. Avocados are also brimming with potassium.
A whole avocado will deliver around 1067 mg of potassium. Making it the tastiest heart and bone “prescription” ever ordered.
2. Black beans:
If foods had personalities, the black bean would be the humble and unassuming hero. This overlooked superfood is packed with potassium. One cup provides 739 mg.
And this protein filled food is far more versatile than you might imagine. Try tossing a handful into your next salad, folding some into an omelet or making them the centerpiece of your next soup.
3. Coconut water:
Coconut water is the liquid part of young green coconuts. It’s light, refreshing and naturally rich in a number of vitamins and minerals including potassium.
One cup of coconut water delivers 600 mg of potassium. That’s over 15 times the amount found in most so-called sports drinks. Just make sure to read labels to avoid added sugars.
Spinach is the superfood that keeps on giving. There are so many good reasons to eat more of this delicious dark green. And it turns out raising your potassium levels is another one.
A single cup of cooked spinach brings 839 mg of potassium to the dinner table. Add some to your next salad, drop some leaves into the blender when you’re making your next smoothie or fold some into your favorite egg recipe.
5. Sweet potatoes:
Sweet potatoes are so tasty that eating one might feel a bit sinful. But rest assured you’re doing something good for your body when you add them to your menu.
You may already know that sweet potatoes are a terrific source of fiber and beta carotene. But they’re also hiding a punch of healthy protein inside those skins. An average size sweet potato contains around 542 mg of potassium. Try grilling, steaming or roasting a couple and tossing them into a summer salad for a warm weather treat.
It turns out everyone’s favorite summertime dessert, watermelon, is a potassium filled powerhouse too. Two slices of this sweet and delicious fruit will deliver 641 mg of the essential mineral.
Add these six potassium rich foods to your shopping list today.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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