potassium

Chicken gets K+ for being high in potassium

Our diets today are much higher in sodium and much lower in potassium than they used to be decades ago; as sodium goes up, potassium goes down.

By Hélène Charlebois, RD

Our diets today are much higher in sodium and much lower in potassium than they used to be decades ago; as sodium goes up, potassium goes down. This is due in part to eating too many packaged foods that are high in sodium as well as too little fruits & vegetables that are high in potassium. Society as a whole today eats less than 4 fruits + vegetables/day; one of these being fried potatoes (French fries). 

Having enough potassium (K+) in the diet is important in the body’s water balance. Vegetables and fruits are the best sources of potassium, but did you know that fish and meats like lean beef, pork, and chicken also contain a lot of potassium?

What is the role of K+ in the body?

Potassium is very important in water balance in the body and is key in helping to control/stabilize blood pressure. Your body needs potassium to:

  • Build proteins

  • Break down and use carbohydrates

  • Build muscle

  • Maintain normal body growth

  • Control the electrical activity of the heart

  • Control the acid-base balance

Why is potassium so important? 

Our bodies are like an electrical system; we need ‘charges’ to make the body parts work, for the muscles to contract and for the nerves to carry information. Potassium makes up a major part of this system. It is a mineral as well as an electrolyte involved in the balance of the water in the body. New research shows that potassium is a key factor in blood pressure control, just as is sodium. Potassium levels in the body can become unbalanced if you are on a cholesterol-lowering medication. Ask your doctor or registered dietitian for more information.

How much do I need daily?

Age (years)

Potassium Amount required/day

1 to 3 

3,000 mg

4 to 8 

3,800 mg

9 to 13 

4,500 mg

Over 14 

4,700 mg

Pregnant women 

(all ages)

4,700 mg

Breastfeeding women (14–50 years old) 

5,100 mg 

Health Canada Dietary Reference Intake, 2010 

Any special circumstances where potassium levels can be compromised?

  • Diuretics (a ‘water’ pill) used to treat heart problems &/or high blood pressure may cause potassium to be lost in the body through the urine. K+ levels should be monitored by a health care professional.
  • Individuals with chronic kidney disease or on renal dialysis need less potassium. 
  • Athletes may need to assure they are getting enough potassium in their diet due to its loss in sweat.

Where can I get potassium? What do I need to eat?

Chicken is a good source of K+, especially the white meat breast. Bananas have been touted as being the ‘go to’ source for K+ by many health professionals but it is worth noting that chicken is just as high.

  • 100 g skinless chicken breast = 430 mg K+

  • 100 g banana (approx. medium size) = 350 mg K+

Food

Serving Size

Potassium (mg)

Tomato paste

60 mL (¼ cup)

658

Potato, baked

1 (12cm x 6cm)

610

Pinto or kidney beans

175 mL (¾ cup)

566 to 591

Lentils

175 mL (¾ cup)

579

Sweet Potato

1 medium

540

Avocado

½ whole

487

Squash, baked

125 mL (½ cup)

473

Banana

1 medium

422

Papaya

½ medium

392

Milk, 2%

250 mL (1 cup)

387

Apricots 

¼ cup

380

Chickpeas

175 mL (¾ cup)

378

Yogurt

175 g (¾ cup)

362

Fish

75 g (2 ½ oz)

313

Almonds, roasted

175 mL (⅓ cup) 

310

Chicken Thigh

100 g

307

Spinach, cooked 

½ cup 

290

Walnuts, roasted

175 mL (⅓ cup)

276

Orange

1 medium

237

Tomato, fresh

½ cup

210 

Apple

1 medium

150

Mushroom

½ cup 

110 

Eat Right Ontario, 2014 (modified with info from Raymond J. et al, 2012)

Sample Meal Plan to Help Boost the Potassium in your Diet 

Breakfast

  • Fruit smoothie
    • 1 banana
    • 60 mL (¼ cup) blueberries
    • 250 mL (1 cup) milk 
    • 60 mL (¼ cup) granola 

Lunch

  • Salad: 250 mL (1 cup) lettuce
    • 125 mL (½ cup) tomato
    • ½ whole of avocado 
    • 125 mL (½ cup) cucumber 
    • lemon & olive oil dressing 
    • 90 g (3 oz) grilled chicken thighs or trout
  • 125 mL (½ cup) orange juice + 250 mL (1 cup) of soda water as a beverage

Snack

  • Apple with almond butter spread

Dinner

  • Roasted chicken (dark meat) with tomato sauce
    • ½ a sweet potato roasted 
    • 125 mL (½ cup) sautéed spinach 
    • 125 mL (½ cup) sautéed mushroom

Key Ingredients:

Along with dark chicken cuts, add sweet potato, avocado, and orange juice to pump up your potassium intake.

Try these nutritious recipes that are rich in potassium from Chicken Farmers of Canada: 

Chicken & Sweet Potato Stew

Lentil & Ground Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

Artichoke Heart, Date & Chicken Salad with Mint Yogurt Dressing

Resources

Canadian Nutrient File 2010; www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/index-eng.php

Canadian Diabetes Association; http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/diet-nutrition/dash-diet

Eat right Ontario;  www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Nutrients-(vitamins-and-minerals)/What-you-need-to-know-about-potassium.aspx#.VAzCpl6j7-s

Heart and Stroke Foundation www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484133/k.56B3/Heart_disease__Diuretics.htm

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