If you’ve ever complained of muscle cramps you may have been told to eat a banana.  That’s because banana’s are a great source of potassium.  Among other things, potassium helps your muscles contract, helps regulate fluids and mineral balance in and out of body cells and helps maintain normal blood pressure by blunting the effect of sodium.  And while cramping in athletes is often also due to a lack of sodium balance, potassium plays a very important role in our health overall.

According the latest report just released by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, most Americans are falling short of their daily potassium needs, which could have devastating effects on their blood pressure.  That is why the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage choosing foods that provide more potassium.

So how much do we actually need?

The recommended daily intake of potassium is different for adults than it is for children but still, both groups are coming up short. 

For adolescents and adults is 4,700 mg/day.

Children aged 9 to 13 years, 4,500 mg/day.

Children aged 4 to 8 years, 3,800 mg/day

Children aged 1 to 3 years, 3,000 mg/day

Lots of foods are loaded with potassium and meeting the 4,700 mg/day recommendation should not be hard. That is if you eat a variety of foods and colors each day.  Below are only a few foods that are packed full of potassium.

Potato, skin on, baked 738 mg
Nonfat yogurt, 1 cup, plain 579 mg
Baked potato, baked with skin 542 mg
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces 490 mg
Winter Squash, ½ cup cooked 448 mg
Banana, 1 medium 422 mg
Spinach, ½ cup cooked 419 mg
Tomato sauce, ½ cup 405 mg
Pork chop, center loin, cooked, 3 oz 382 mg
Cantaloupe, ¼ each 368 mg
Milk, 1%, 1 cup 366 mg
Kidney beans, cooked, ½ cup 358 mg
Almonds, 1 ounce 201 mg

Incorporate some of these tips to make sure you’re getting all the potassium you need to keep your heartbeat regular, your muscles working properly, your blood pressure normal and to benefit your bone health.

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables such as melons (cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon), banana, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes
  • Consume an 8-ounce glass of milk or milk containing smoothie, shake or yogurt at least 3 times/day at breakfast, lunch, dinner or as snacks.
  • Eat at least one meal per day that includes either beans, legumes or peas
  • Include mushrooms, artichokes, squash or other hearty vegetable into casseroles or other mixed entrée
  • Add dried fruits and a handful of almonds or pistachio’s to yogurt
  • Add green leafy vegetables to your sandwich or wrap along with a spread of avocado
  • Add cooked spinach to a breakfast omelet and eat with ¼ melon
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