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Getting Enough Potassium

Overview

Potassium is a mineral. It helps keep the right mix of fluids in your body. It also helps your nerves, muscles, and heart work properly.

What is the recommended daily amount of potassium?

The recommended daily amount of potassium varies by age. Most people need the following amount each day.footnote 1

Recommended daily potassium

Age

Daily potassium intake (in milligrams)

1–3 years

2,000 mg

4–8 years

2,300 mg

Females, 9–13 years

2,300 mg

Males, 9–13 years

2,500 mg

Females, 14–18 years

2,300 mg

Males, 14–18 years

3,000 mg

Females, 19 and older

2,600 mg

Males, 19 and older

3,400 mg

If you are pregnant, you need an extra 300 mg of potassium per day than what is usually recommended for your age. If you are breastfeeding, you need 200 mg more potassium per day than what is usually recommended for your age.

How can you get more potassium?

Here are some ways to get more of this important nutrient into your diet.

  • Know which foods have potassium.

    Potassium is in many foods, including vegetables, fruits, and milk products. Bananas, baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, milk, and lentils are all good sources.

  • Notice how much potassium you're getting.

    You can figure out how much potassium is in packaged foods by looking at the percent daily value section on the Nutrition Facts label. The food label assumes the daily value of potassium is 4,700 mg. So if one serving of a food has a daily value of 20% of potassium, that food has 940 mg of potassium in one serving. Potassium may not be listed on all food labels.

  • Add some high-potassium foods to your healthy diet.

    For example:

    • Add spinach or other leafy greens to your sandwiches.
    • Toss fresh or dried apricots into plain nonfat yogurt for a snack.
    • Enjoy a cup of bean soup for lunch.
    • Eat a small baked potato or sweet potato instead of bread at dinner.

Are there any risks from potassium?

A potassium level that is too high or too low can be serious. It may cause symptoms such as muscle cramps or weakness, nausea, diarrhea, frequent urination, and dehydration. It may also cause low blood pressure, confusion, paralysis, and changes in heart rhythm. A blood or urine test can be done to find your potassium level.

Healthy kidneys keep the right amount of potassium in the blood. Your potassium level can be affected by many things, including how well your kidneys are working and certain medicines.

References

Citations

  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2019). Dietary Reference Intakes for sodium and potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25353. Accessed July 27, 2021.

Credits

Current as of: May 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Tushar J. Vachharajani MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology

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