Everyone knows that getting enough vitamins and minerals is critical for
preventing disease and supporting overall health. But in the long list
of nutrients people should remember to consume, it’s easy to overlook
one of the essentials--potassium.
Why is getting potassium so important?
- It helps muscles to move and nerves to communicate.
- It helps move nutrients into cells, and aids the kidneys in filtering blood.
- It is an electrolyte which, along with sodium, chloride, calcium and magnesium,
conducts electrical impulses between all tissues and organs in the body.
In a vegetable-rich diet, potassium has been linked to lower rates of
cholesterol, which is a key health indicator.
- Finally, potassium is needed for the heart to function as it helps to regulate
The daily recommended intake of potassium is 4,700 mg; fruits and vegetables
are the best sources for potassium, though it is also found naturally
in dairy products, meat, fish and whole grains. And when people think
of foods that contain potassium, the first one that usually comes to mind is
The average banana delivers about 422 mg of potassium, or about 9 percent
of that daily recommended intake. But there are some other foods that
are surprisingly rich in this necessary nutrient.
5 Food Alternatives to Bananas
Baked potato. Yes, the humble white potato can deliver a bigger potassium punch than
the banana – a medium-sized
baked potato contains about 941 mg, or 20 percent of the daily recommended intake.
Baking intensifies the potato’s natural flavors, so you won’t
need much more than a pinch of salt, snipped scallions, minced nuts,
vegetarian chili or a tablespoon of yogurt on top for a flavorful entrée-substitute.
Watermelon. Two medium-sized wedges of
watermelon provide 641 mg or 14 percent of the daily recommended intake of potassium.
It's also an excellent source of trace minerals, fiber and lycopene,
a natural plant pigment that's been linked to a reduced risk of certain
cancers. An aptly-named snack choice, watermelon could be nature's
sweetest way to
Plain yogurt. There’s nothing plain about plain
yogurt – it not only contains 573 mg (12 percent daily value) of potassium
per cup, it contains half your daily calcium requirement. And nothing
is better for adding to other dishes to make them yummy. Yogurt can be
substituted for sour cream, whipped cream, salad dressing and even ice cream.
Baked sweet potato. Delicious
sweet potatoes are even sweeter when roasted or baked, and an average sweet potato (or
yam) provides 542 mg (12 percent daily value) of potassium. The nutrients
don’t stop there: Sweet potatoes contain vitamins A, C, B1, B2 and
B6, plus manganese, pantothenic acid, niacin and fiber. Plain roasted
sweet potatoes are a flavor bonanza in themselves, but you can make them
the centerpiece of your dinner with creative toppings. Try stuffing them
with chopped veggies braised in olive oil, or topping them with a spoonful
of low-fat ricotta or cottage cheese with fresh grated pepper.
Spinach (Fresh or Frozen). This versatile green can brighten many dishes you enjoy already –
from pasta, stir-fries and omelets to
soups and smoothies. One cup of frozen
spinach provides 540 mg (11 percent daily value) of potassium, and it’s
such an inexpensive, convenient veggie to keep on hand in the freezer.
Try a healthy creamed spinach using low-fat milk, a dash of nutmeg, salt
and pepper, plus grated parmesan to taste. It tastes just as creamy as
the full-bodied side dish you love, without the calorie overload.
It's possible to have too much potassium in the blood, although it's
rare in people who eat a balanced diet; and for those with
kidney problems, potassium can pose additional health risks. So it's best
to consult your doctor or dietitian before significantly increasing your
potassium intake or taking potassium pills.
Do you have a great potassium-rich recipe? Share it in the comments.