Potassium: The Vital Mineral We Are All Lacking

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Potassium might be considered one of the most crucial minerals to the body, in general. Potassium is an electrolyte that helps regulate fluid and blood levels in the body. Most people don’t know it, but almost every single person is deficient in it, to a very significant degree. Potassium plays a vital role in a litany of bodily processes. Managing to consume enough, or come anywhere near realizing that specific health problems find root in this deficiency, from issues with muscle function to cardiac problems, has proven to be difficult. 

It is estimated that around 98% of all adults in the United States fail to meet the daily intake recommendation for Potassium. It might have something to do with depleted soils. It would only make sense because nature tends to avoid building our bodies based on minerals or vitamins that aren’t naturally accessible.

How much Potassium do I need?

There are very few sources of significant Potassium that we can find in modern society. It gets more complicated when you realize that the mineral is incompatible with supplementation.

The 2300-3000 mg recommended dietary intake of Potassium is nearly impossible to supplement in any significant volume. The FDA limits over-the-counter potassium supplements to less than 100 mg due to the potential danger of heart problems, including cardiac arrest. Even consuming a minimal dose in pill form can prove to be detrimental to heart health. 

The World Health Organization (WHO), despite their bad reputation with the people, sets the value at around 3,500 mg. At the same time, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Spain, Belgium, and other countries agree. United States, Canada, Bulgaria, South Korea, and other countries recommend as much as 4,700 mg of Potassium daily.


Potassium deficiency is known as hypokalemia. When levels of Potassium in the blood read as less than 3.5 mmol per liter, this is considered hypokalemia. The primary cause for deficiency is the body “losing” Potassium through such experiences as vomiting, chronic diarrhea, a great deal of exercise, or sweating. The use of such things as diuretics, which are responsible for making the body lose water, is also a culprit. 

Related: Boosting Your Immune System: 6 Things You Need to Be Eating

How do I get the Potassium my body needs?

With few options, eating foods with the necessary vitamins is the best and most convenient way to supplement it. While the debate continues as to the accuracy of daily recommended values of most vitamins and minerals, Potassium is probably accurately reported. 

This vital mineral and electrolyte is found in small amounts in many vegetables, legumes, fruits, and fish. Many believe bananas to be a good source. However, it is impossible to consume enough bananas to absorb the mineral. Below is a shortlist of foods high in potassium levels. (Here is a more extensive list.)

  • Dried apricots
  • Potatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Lentils
  • Prunes and prune juice
  • Tomato puree or juice
  • Raisins
  • Beans
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Seafood
  • Avocado

Are there any other options?

It seems the very best way to get enough Potassium is by drinking coconut water. Coconut water typically contains one half of the daily recommended value in one liter. One liter of coconut water daily, or better yet two, could be the one thing capable of replenishing a person’s supplies of Potassium.

Related: The Lactose-Intolerant Prepper’s Guide to Non-Dairy Milk

Why can’t we readily replenish our supply?

Debate: Does potassium deficiency result from the body’s loss of it, or do we not have enough in the first place? 

For some reason, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to consume enough Potassium to reach that RDI (Referenced Daily Intake). For that term to describe the necessary daily dose of a vitamin or mineral, technically, there has been no concrete definition for how much Potassium a person needs. Due to what they say is “insufficient evidence behind the mineral,” experts on nutrition have not determined an RDI.

80% of the body’s Potassium is estimated to be found in muscle cells, while around 20% is found in liver, bone, and red blood cells. Muscle contractions, an essential to heart function, and the balance of water in the body are all tied to Potassium. Managing to consume enough Potassium, perhaps with the help of coconut water and the other foods shared here, is vital to us all. 

Research has shown the benefits of having enough Potassium include: 

  • Reduced Risk of High Blood Pressure and Stroke: Increasing the amount of Potassium in your diet and decreasing the amount of sodium might help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.
  • Reduced Risk of Kidney Stones: Increasing the amount of Potassium in your diet might reduce your risk of developing kidney stones.
  • Reduced Risk of Blood Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes: Low intakes of Potassium might increase blood sugar levels. Over time, this can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and lead to type 2 diabetes. 
  • Bone Health: People who have high intakes of Potassium seem to have stronger bones. Eating more of these foods might improve bone health by increasing bone density. 

Related: The Reasons for (Eating by) the Seasons

Your thoughts?

Potassium is so mysterious and unquantifiable in terms of how much we need. Is this something you’re working on increasing in your diet? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About Cassius

Cassius K. is a writer from North Highlands, California.

Cassius K

Cassius K

Leave a Reply

  • I have to tell you I am skeptical of this entire article. I track my food intake very carefully with Myfitnesspal app and it tells me I am getting 15k mg + daily of potassium. Main sources are red potatoes, fresh chunk salads, two different Campbell’s soups, raisins and BANANAS.
    So, why is this so hard?
    What are this author’s qualifications to make such statements? Are they accurate?
    Count me as skeptical.

    • Given Cassius’s vocabulary talking about molar concentration I would expect him/her to at least be a medical scientific researcher if not a doctor, also given the facts are easily to check (and I did) I found no issues at all with the article. It’s always good to be skeptical, but only to a point.

      I will note that I think I am deficient, I know because when I go to the range to shoot and I take a vitamin pill the night before and in the morning I get about 30 points higher than when I don’t, and given that potassium can have an impact on muscle control and fine motor skills I have long noted this down and I take a pill if for no other reason than to shoot better.

  • What doesn’t seem to be reported anywhere is that sugar strips the body of potassium. If you wake up with calf or foot cramps or have restless legs syndrome you will almost always think back and realize you have had sugar in some form the previous day. The writer, Cassius X, is correct, you would have to eat a mountain of bananas to get enough to stop this terrible affliction. I have found that potassium gluconate in 595 mg. chewed stops the cramping in about a minute. If after taking potassium it doesn’t go away totally you are probably deficient in magnesium also, so find a good source of that to handle it. Fifty one years ago I developed a topical method of getting ALL the major minerals and the trace minerals into the body. We just can’t get enough of those from our over-farmed lands anymore. Since I found what caused it if I just have to have sweets I take the minerals too, who needs to wake up in agony because of a couple of cookies? Good luck, Victoria Morton, PhD – Biological Science

    • To Cassius: I would like to know what made you think you are even qualified to write such an article? So many factual mistakes just using your sources. (See my comments below.) DAISY: This is NOT the first time I have fact checked this author using her own sources, and replied, correcting her mistakes. I suggest you stop accepting her articles for publication.

  • My annual lab numbers for this are normal. I think it’s important to know your numbers if you have decent health care. For me to get labs run I pay like $7 and they get e-mailed to me along with a chart of normal ranges and the DR so I already know what we need to discuss before I go in.

  • OK, I have several issues with this article. First of all, potassium needs to be in harmony with sodium. If you are eating processed foods of any kind, you are getting too much sodium. Read the labels on your foods. Do you have any idea how much sodium is in ketchup? Soy sauce? How about canned vegetables? I bet your daily intake of sodium is through the roof!! And that doesn’t even include the salt from the shaker you add to your food at the table! And if you are eating out? Oh my goodness!! i don’t even want to think about how high your sodium levels are!!

    On top of that, your article does not make sense. Take for example, the statement
    “you realize that the mineral is incompatible with supplementation.” And then, you write:
    “The FDA limits over-the-counter potassium supplements to less than 100 mg due to the potential danger of heart problems, including cardiac arrest. Even consuming a minimal dose in pill form can prove to be detrimental to heart health.”
    Well, if supplementation is so worthless, why does the FDA limit it to 99mg? That just doesn’t make sense. And I went and read your reference at the NIH website. In addition to them pointing out at the beginning, “Potassium has a strong relationship with sodium, the main regulator of extracellular fluid volume, including plasma volume” and yet your article makes no mention of salt or the very delicate balance between potassium and sodium.
    “A 2016 dose-response trial found that humans absorb about 94% of potassium gluconate in supplements, and this absorption rate is similar to that of potassium from potatoes [25]. According to an older study, liquid forms of potassium chloride (used as drugs to treat conditions such as digitalis intoxication or arrhythmias due to hypokalemia) are absorbed within a few hours [6]. Enteric coated tablet forms of potassium chloride (designed to prevent dissolution in the stomach but allow it in the small intestine) are not absorbed as rapidly as liquid forms [26].”
    Therefore, I fail to see how supplementation in a pill form is not helpful. 94% is better than nothing! It is darn close to 100%!!! I have been taking potassium supplements for over 2 decades and it has been very helpful to me. I take more than 1 per day, so i am getting much more than 94mg per day. I also do not take the gluconate form, as gluconates in any vitamin do NOT agree with my system. Maybe next time you write an article on such an impotant topic, you should do more research.

    • 100 mg supplements won’t do much in my experience. I did plenty of research, you’re excessively critical for no reason

  • Every cell in the body (except fat cells) relies upon the sodium/potassium pump in the cell membrane to perform it’s function. The passage of sodium out of the cell, and potassium into the cell, is what enables the electrical output of the cell (the difference between the two negative charges of the sodium and potassium ions). The need for both is critical for life to go on. Not having enough or too much will eventually cause death, depending upon which organs are first affected (the heart being one of the first usually affected).
    Potassium Chloride is the main ingredient in Lo-Salt. The biggest complaint though is it does leave a metallic aftertaste in your mouth. One way to reduce that is to mix the two salts (usually 3 parts Sodium to 1 part Potassium) to minimize the aftertaste. For those not salt restricted, this is another way to increase you Potassium intake.

  • And then, on the other end of the spectrum, we have those like me who have kidney disease. Too much potassium is our enemy and we are constantly monitoring our food intake to keep our potassium levels down. When the potassium levels rise, our kidney numbers drop. Not a good thing.
    HINT: When it comes to getting potassium from potatoes, baked potatoes are the way to go. But you lose 1/3 of the potassium when you remove the skin. Boiling skinless potatoes (like for making potato salad) takes the numbers down by around half. Processed potatoes (canned, frozen fries and hash browns, etc.) also lose a lot of potassium in the processing. This is good for me, but not for someone looking to increase their potassium.

  • I have a tendency towards hypokalemia or low potassium. I can always tell because my heart will feel like it starts to skip beats. (Premature ventricular contractions or PVCs) I used to end up having to take a supplement occasionally when it would get too low but now I just drink low sodium V-8 which has a good amount of potassium (1250 mg for 11 1/2 oz) instead of the sodium. The taste is a little different, but now I like it better. It makes a great Bloody Mary! (I don’t have any connection to the company, I just really like their product.)

    Tamkae is correct – the potato skin has a lot of potassium. A low sodium V-8 Bloody Mary and a serving of potato skins is a pretty great way to keep up on your potassium intake.

    I think Cassius K did a nice job on the article. The link is an excellent resource as well. (I majored in Biology am in a healthcare field) The only thing I’m skeptical about is the government’s RDA. They can’t get anything else right…

    Anyway the biggest point you should be looking at that Cassius makes, is to reduce your sodium intake at the same time that you are increasing your potassium. Try to do this through your food and not supplements.

  • food is best but a very common blood test will tell if you require more potassium
    i was marginally low so i take 3 a day of the 100. and since blood checks out my problem high bp i take diuretics cmp id the test useally done if you get physical
    if uninsured shop labs quest is expensive anf too much is more dangerious than too little

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

    In the event of a long-term disaster, there are non-food essentials that can be vital to your survival and well-being. Make certain you have these 50 non-food stockpile essentials. Sign up for your FREE report and get prepared.

    We respect your privacy.
    Malcare WordPress Security