Potassium is a vital mineral and electrolyte that your body needs to maintain normal blood pressure, transport nutrients into your cells, and support healthy nerve and muscle function.
It’s considered an essential nutrient because your body can’t produce it. Therefore, you must get potassium from foods to meet your recommended daily needs, also known as the Daily Value.
However, most people don’t get enough potassium through their diets. It’s estimated that less than 0.015% of American adults meet their daily potassium needs.
Since a medium banana contains around 9% of the DV for this mineral, most people consider it the go-to food to increase their potassium intake. However, bananas are not the only good source of potassium.
Avocados are packed with healthy fats, vitamin K, and folate.
Half an avocado without the skin and seed (68 grams) contains 345 mg of potassium, or 7% of the DV. If you eat a whole avocado, you’ll get almost 15% of the DV at once.
What’s more, avocados may benefit people with high blood pressure, who often need to increase their potassium and reduce their sodium intake. Like most other fruits, avocados are low in sodium, with half an avocado providing just 0.2% of the DV
Sweet potatoes are often used as an alternative to white potatoes.
They’re an exceptionally nutritious way to support your potassium intake. A 1-cup (328-gram) serving of mashed sweet potato boasts 16% of the DV.
What’s more, sweet potatoes are low in fat, offer a small amount of protein, and are a good source of complex carbs and fiber.
They’re also an excellent source of vitamin A, which is critical for vision. The same serving of sweet potatoes provides more than 200% of the DV of vitamin A.
For a balanced and filling meal, you can pair these delicious root vegetables with a protein source such as beans or meat, some dark greens or colorful vegetables, and a little fat.
Watermelon is a large, delicious fruit with high water content.
Just 2 wedges (about 1/8 of a melon, or 572 grams) provides just under 14% of the DV for potassium.
The same serving also contains 44 grams of carbs, 3.5 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of fat, and 2.2 grams of fiber. What’s more, this lush, red melon is a great source of magnesium and vitamins A and C
Coconut water is a particularly hydrating drink.
It’s an excellent natural alternative to sports drinks, as it contains key electrolytes that help draw water into your cells. Its natural sugars also provide energy during exercise and help replenish lost glycogen stores afterward.
Just 1 cup (240 mL) of coconut water contains 13% of the DV for potassium. Plus, it’s a good source of magnesium, sodium, and manganese.
Coconut water is very refreshing when served chilled with ice after a sweaty workout. Just make sure to avoid varieties with added sugar.
Certain lean and fatty fish offer potassium.
For example, just half a fillet (154 grams) of cooked cod provides 12% of the DV, and a whole fillet (150 grams) of haddock offers 11%.
Similarly, half a fillet (154 grams) of cooked salmon has a whopping 21% of the DV, and the same serving of tuna boasts 17% of the DV.
In addition, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which may further reduce your risk of heart disease.
How much potassium do you need?
Like other vitamins and minerals, potassium is a micronutrient, meaning that you need to consume it only in small amounts.
As previously mentioned, vitamin and mineral needs are measured according to their Daily Values (DV), the recommended amounts to consume per day.
The DV for potassium for healthy individuals is 4,700 mg. You can consume this amount by following a wholesome, varied diet.
Although Western diets are often low in potassium and high in sodium — two factors that can increase your risk of heart disease — eating foods from the list above may help you easily increase your potassium intake.
The bottom line
Although bananas are a good source of potassium, many other nutritious foods, including sweet potatoes, legumes, and beets, offer more potassium per serving. Swiss chard, yams, and white beans even have twice as much potassium per cup as a medium banana.
The key to getting enough potassium is to eat a range of plant foods each day. Certain fish, such as salmon, tuna, and cod, are good animal-based sources of this mineral too.