K, ok?
January 5, 2017 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Do you get enough potassium in your diet? Do you even think about it?

I have been tracking potassium in my diet lately because of various weird things that might benefit from getting more of it -- ie feeling wiped out a lot, being thin and getting a lot of exercise but still having high blood pressure (yes, I have talked to doctors about this...).
I am not great at really limiting sodium. I know this is duh. Not really disciplined this way. (Tabasco, I wish I could quit you..). So I already know sodium can make your body eliminate potassium, and am looking for other insights about GETTING enough potassium to begin with.
Every day my potassium intake is way below the recommended.
Yesterday I ate kale, black beans, yogurt, romaine lettuce, some eggplant, half a banana and coconut juice (among some other things) all of which are supposed to be very high in potassium. (Yes, sweet potatoes are also great for this but I'm not going to make a sweet potato every day.)
Even with these healthy high-potassium choices my potassium intake was less than half of what it's supposed to be according to myfitnesspal, and less than a quarter of what it should be based on the more ambitious advice of the Drs. Google.
Do you take a potassium supplement? Do you eat on purpose to get potassium? Do you care at all?
I am middle aged, female, vegetarian but not vegan, fit but some chronic health issues. Curious if this is even a thing away from the small square dictator that is my laptop.
posted by flourpot to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't get enough potassium by default and I am suspicious that my hormonal birth control is depleting my potassium levels, but that is another thought for another time.

That being said, potassium supplement pills won't get you close to what you need per day (this is because the body can only absorb so much potassium in pill format, without going into much technical detail). You'd need to eat about 8 bananas instead. But what I do is drink coconut water. It is an expensive supplement but it has made such a huge difference- within moments of drinking 4 servings of coconut water (approx 1000mg potassium) my muscle cramps decrease significantly, my skin feels more hydrated, and my digestive processes improve as well.

I am at work on break and just typing this up quickly on my phone, otherwise I would get into more detail. But coconut water is the easiest and quickest way to get a lot of potassium into your system. And it makes a huge difference. If you have a Costco in your area, you should be able to get a box of 12 coconut waters for about $10.
posted by nightrecordings at 7:21 AM on January 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

You can get the "salt substitute" that is potassium chloride.
posted by 445supermag at 7:31 AM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Regular non-sweet potatoes are full of potassium. If you switched your carb intake entirely over to potatoes, you'd probably get plenty of K.
posted by Rust Moranis at 7:33 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding nightrecordings' recommendation! I did a search when pregnant and experiencing leg cramps and coconut water was by far the best solution for lotsa potassium for not a lot of bulk.
posted by LKWorking at 7:58 AM on January 5, 2017

I have actively monitored my potassium before, and something that I noticed was that not all the food entries on MyFitnessPal accurately reflected the amount of potassium in foods. If I recall correctly, potassium wasn't one of the required fields in creating an entry.

As for sources, blackstrap molasses! One tablespoon has something like 600mg. The flavor is potent, to say the least, but it was good stirred into Greek yogurt with a dash of ginger. Tasted like a ginger snap!
posted by BlueBear at 8:03 AM on January 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Can you just get a potassium blood test run? If it's low your doctor can make some recommendations.

Also, be careful with potassium supplements, having too much potassium in your body is not good.
posted by gregr at 8:26 AM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Coconut water, for sure. In a pinch I mix 1/8-1/4 tsp (or whatever the tiny one is) of potassium chloride in a very small amount of water, shoot it, then follow that up with a lot of just plain water. (Which is all you want to do after doing a shot of salt, anyway.)

No idea if it's as effective as coconut water, but it's not nothing.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:26 AM on January 5, 2017

I do and it's helped with migraines and a few other issues. I only do it via food, not supplements. Coconut water once a week or so helps.

BlueBear's bang on - I love MyFitnessPal but it freaked me out until I realized a lot of the food doesn't have the potassium counts on it - now I look for the version that does.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:26 AM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I was dancing a lot, I was more vigilant about potassium intake because otherwise my feet cramped up terribly. I'd eat a banana before and during rehearsals.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:32 AM on January 5, 2017

I would encourage you to rethink the potato thing. I bought myself a simple electric steamer, and as a result it's very easy for me to get a potato or two a day if I like. I'll do up a bunch and keep them in the fridge, Chapman to us to do, even with some gravy and I don't know other things you can put just a little bit of Tabasco on them.
posted by tilde at 9:14 AM on January 5, 2017

Chop them into soup!
posted by tilde at 9:26 AM on January 5, 2017

I aim to get mine from diet. There are a bunch of good foods for this purpose, including yams, winter squash, figs, dried apricots, tomato paste, cantaloupe, pinto beans, artichoke, avocado, prune juice, carrot juice and of course banana. Note that none of these require salt.

A smoothie made with a cup of cantaloupe (494), 5 dried apricots (407), a cup of carrot juice (689),a medium banana (467), a cup of skim milk (376), and a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses (498), for example, is going to get you a whopping 2931 mg of potassium, which gets you most of the way toward your daily 4700 mg. Some nuts, dishes made with beans or lentils, and seafood like salmon, trout or tuna fish, or vegetables like broccoli, parsnips, spinach or raw tomatoes, and you will be well over that number.
posted by bearwife at 9:27 AM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

This probably isn't a thing outside your smartphone. I'm an epidemiologist/toxicologist, and also vegan. Unless you have bloodwork that suggests you have a deficiency (I get a full panel during each physical exam), you don't have a deficiency no matter what an app says. If you're eating leafy greens regularly, you almost certainly do not have a deficiency (phylloquinone, one of the main forms of vit. K, is a key player in photosynthesis). Your app might be misclassifying foods' vitamin content. It's not, say, FDA-vetted for accuracy.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:32 AM on January 5, 2017 [15 favorites]

It would be very unusual for a basically healthy person with a basically adequate diet, who is not taking diuretics, to have a potassium deficiency. I am a middle aged pescetarian, and I never think about this as a concern.
posted by latkes at 10:09 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been logging food on a couple of different trackers this month and I too come up short -- even though I a) eat a lot of food, typically 3000 calories/day and b) eat a lot of fresh fruit and veg. I agree that the most likely explanation is that the tracking services don't have complete data.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:46 AM on January 5, 2017

Over the counter supplements won't do much unless you take a pile of them. I use a salt replacement product , Morton's Lite Salt, which is a blend of sodium and potassium salts. It has way less of that weird metallic taste I notice in salt replacement products that are all potassium salts (Nu-Salt). It's easy to pump up my potassium mg this way and I buy it at my supermarket, so it's easy and inexpensive to get.
posted by quince at 11:39 AM on January 5, 2017

Trader Joe's Low Sodium Garden Patch (which is essentially low-sodium V8 that doesn't taste like licking a flag pole) has 520mg/serving. I take dieuretics and use this to balance that.
posted by plinth at 11:45 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I try not to obsess about this kind of thing, because I figure my body will let me know if something is seriously out of whack, deficiency-wise, and I eat leafy greens fairly often. I'll only notice/care about potassium if I start getting more twitches and muscle cramps or charley horses, and then I'll think, "hmm, time to eat some more bananas." It's more likely your tracking app has incomplete data than that you have an actual deficiency, especially if you feel mostly okay aside from your known chronic health issues.
posted by yasaman at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2017

This is not a thing. You're unlikely to be low on potassium. Your kidneys carefully regulate your levels and if you increase the amount in your diet, your kidneys will just eliminate it anyway. Hypertension can have serious long term consequences. If you've tried all the recommended lifestyle interventions and you're not satisfied with your doctor's management, get another opinion and deal with it properly, don't faff around trying to work out if you should eat more bananas or kale or whatever.
posted by Stephanie_Says at 12:48 PM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

One other thing. I am quite a Tabasco fan myself, and became even more of one after I toured their little family owned factory on Avery Island, where the work force is local, diverse, long term, and decently paid. It is a very low sodium option compared to anything.
posted by bearwife at 2:20 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you had a BMP drawn? I don't think its a good idea to switch to KCl salt substitutes until you know your potassium level.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:07 PM on January 5, 2017

Sometimes, salt supplements are needed for muscle cramps. I have had to take them when I'm on an ultra-low carb diet. "Low sodium levels are often a factor in causing muscle cramps." http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/topicoftheweek119.htm
posted by getawaysticks at 4:18 AM on January 6, 2017

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