I recently began to track my food with an app on my phone. After a couple weeks I noticed that my potassium intake averaged about 1/3 of what was recommended (1000-1200 mgs per day). I have issues with muscle cramping, and I heard that potassium can help, is this true? What are the other benefits of potassium? Also, what foods can I eat to increase my intake of potassium, and if I just can’t get it all from food, then can I compliment it with a potassium supplement? Are there potassium supplements, and what should I look for in them? Whoa, sorry, I didn’t realize that I would have so many questions until I wrote this! LOL. Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer. – Enna W.
Yes, muscle cramping might benefit from more potassium. Like other electrolyte minerals, potassium affects both smooth muscle (organs) and skeletal muscle. Its action is in nerve impulse transmission. You need to be careful with supplements because high doses can mess around with your heart! Supplements should really only be used upon the recommendation of your healthcare provider based on your blood chemistry.
Potassium plays a role in cellular hydration by prompting water to stay inside the membrane. Maintaining a high potassium diet helps to prevent hypertension. It also participates in acid-base balance.
Aiming for 4,700 mg per day is ideal for healthy adults. Strongest sources are bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, leafy greens, meats and milk products. With enough calories, a person can meet the goal by consuming good potassium sources within 5-7 fruits* and vegetables*, 6 oz. lean meat, 4-6 oz. grains, and 2-3 servings dairy. Here’s a sample menu providing roughly 4,600 mg potassium in 2050 calories:
275 mg 2 egg omelet with peppers & onion
420 mg banana
200 mg Wheat bagel with 2 Tbsp. light cream cheese
345 mg 8 fl. oz. milk
330 mg sandwich: chicken salad & spinach leaves on rye
200 mg 1 C. green beans
290 mg 1 C. grapes
575 mg 1 C. plain yogurt
385 mg small pork chop, trimmed
925 mg medium baked potato with margarine
95 mg 2 Tbsp. salsa
290 mg 1C. broccoli
185 mg baked apple with cinnamon
30 mg 1 oz. string cheese
Clearly, it isn’t easy to reach the RDA, especially if you consume fewer calories. One way to add more is by using a potassium-based salt substitute in cooking and at the table. A ¼ tsp of substitute provides 610 mg potassium. Sports drinks are promoted for their electrolyte content, but coconut water has as much as 10 times more potassium! It contains 385 mg in just 8 fluid ounces.
* The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also list the following as high potassium foods: apricots, artichokes, avocados, beets, Brussel sprouts, chard, dates, cantaloupe, nectarines, okra, oranges/orange juice, parsnips, prunes/prune juice, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, spinach and vegetable juice.
Check out this article for more about hydration and cramping:
– Debbie J., MS, RD
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