Updated: Apr 16, 2019
Every five years, experts in the field of food and nutrition review the latest research and make recommendations to the public. These “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” are made for the generally healthy population, and health professionals are expected to tailor the information to meet individual client needs.
Within the guidelines, experts declare certain vitamins and minerals “nutrients of concern” if they are under-consumed by our population as a whole. The 2015-2020 guidelines classify potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and fiber as nutrients of concern.
The main reason these nutrients are under consumed is due to a lack of nutrient-dense foods consumed on a regular basis. Overall, we consume too few fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, and dairy. Additionally, our diets are generally high in refined grains, added sugars, sodium and unhealthy fats.
Nutrient of Concern #1: Potassium:
Potassium is a mineral found in varying amounts in many foods. Along with sodium, magnesium chloride, and calcium, potassium is an electrolyte that helps to regulate electrical charges in our bodies. Because electrolytes are vital for heart and nervous system function, our bodies highly regulate electrolyte levels so that they stay within a particular range. You may have heard of individuals increasing potassium after a bout of diarrhea, vomiting, or intense exercise (extreme sweating). However, we all need this mineral on a daily basis, and most adults are seriously lacking; less than 2% get the recommended 4,700 milligrams per day.
An essential mineral and electrolyte in the body
Maintains healthy and strong heartbeat
Necessary for initiating muscle contractions and nerve signaling
Blunts the effects of sodium – working to lower high blood pressure
Reduces risk of kidney stones and kidney-related dysfunctions
Decreases bone density loss
Deficiency can cause:
Tingling or numbness in extremities
Elevated blood pressure
Abnormal heart beat/arrhythmias
Limited ability to exercise due to its role in muscle contraction.
May feel fatigued, achiness, spasms and cramps
Potassium on the new nutrition label:
The new nutrient label, which is common on all foods, specifically lists potassium, which helps individuals in determining their daily intake. See below for a comparison of the old versus new nutrition labels. The FDA requires the new label be used on all food products by 2021.
(Amounts based on dietary consumption levels shown to maintain lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of kidney stones, and potentially minimize bone loss.)
Recommended Daily Intake (in Milligrams – mg) by age:
1-3 year olds: 3,000 mg
4-8 year olds: 3,800 mg
9-13 year olds: 4,500 mg
14 & older (including pregnancy): 4,700 mg
Lactating Women: 5,100 mg
Potassium is found primarily in fruits, vegetables and dairy. Unfortunately, most Americans do not consume the recommended amount of these foods on a daily basis. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults meets the recommended intake of ½ to 1 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups vegetables per day.
Bananas are one of the most well-known sources of potassium, but as you’ll see below, there are many foods that are actually much higher in the mineral! White potatoes often get a bad rap, due to their common preparation methods (i.e., fried), but they offer a slew of beneficial nutrients, including potassium!
1 large baked potato (with skin): 1,644mg (Excellent source)
1 cup beet greens: 1309 mg (Excellent source)
1 cup canned white beans: 1,189mg (Excellent source)
½ cup apricots, dried: 1101 mg (Excellent source)
1 cup swiss chard: 960 mg (Excellent source)
1 cup sweet potato baked (with skin): 950mg (Excellent source)
1 cup acorn squash, cooked: 896mg (Good source)
1 cup spinach, cooked: 839mg (Good source)
1 cup lentils, cooked: 731 mg (Good source)
1 cup avocado, cubed: 728mg (Good source)
½ cup prunes: 699 mg: Good source)
1⁄4 cup roasted soybeans: 632mg (Good source)
4 oz. tuna: 598 mg (Good source)
1 cup orange juice: 496mg Good source)
1 cup broccoli: 457 mg (Good source)
6 oz. Container Plain Yogurt: 434 mg Good source)
1 cup cantaloupe: 427 mg (Good source)
1 medium banana: 422 mg (Good source)
1 cup carrots: 390 mg (Good Source)
1 cup skim milk: 382 mg (Good source)
Most fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of potassium. This is not an exhaustive list, and dietary intake should not be limited to these foods. Consuming a variety of foods is essential for meeting all of your nutrient needs.
Old Fashioned Rolled Oats made with 2% milk, topped 1 tbsp nut butter, cinnamon and ½ cup mixed fresh berries
1 hard-boiled egg
Whole grain wrap with sliced turkey, avocado, romaine lettuce, onion, tomato, and a slice of cheese
Handful almonds with a naval orange
Greek yogurt with a cheese stick
1 medium baked potato with 1 tbsp plain greek yogurt, chives,
3 oz. salmon with honey soy glaze topped with 1 tbsp diced pecans
Small side salad: 1 cup spinach leaves, ¼ cup sliced avocado,
1 small banana diced into coins, with a smear natural peanut butter and dipped in dark chocolate (60% cacao or higher).