Potassium is essential for normal body function, including muscle formation, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the metabolism of carbohydrates and protein.
In 2005, the Institute of Medicine established an adequate intake (AI) level for potassium of 4,700 mg per day for adults. This AI was calculated based on intake levels found to lower blood pressure, reduce salt sensitivity, and minimize the risk of kidney stones.1 Adequate potassium consumption may also prevent against stroke and osteoporosis.
Several large epidemiological studies, when considered together, suggest that increased potassium consumption can decrease the risk of stroke.2, 3, 4, 5 In cross-sectional studies of premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women, as well as elderly men, increased potassium consumption (from fruits and vegetables) is significantly associated with increased bone mineral density (BMD), suggesting that diets rich in potassium may help prevent osteoporosis.6, 7, 8
From an evolutionary perspective, our modern dietary ratios of potassium to sodium are much lower than those of our distant ancestors. Researchers estimate that people in Western industrialized cultures consume three times more sodium than potassium, whereas primitive man consumed seven times more potassium than sodium.9, 10
The chart shows the potassium (K) and sodium (Na) concentrations of common Paleo foods. As you can see, all of them provide many times more potassium than sodium, with the exception of chicken meat/skin and eggs, which contain potassium and sodium in roughly a 1:1 ratio.
The Paleo Diet, of course, recommends plenty of vegetables, modest amounts of fruit, seeds, and nuts, and no processed foods (which are typically high in sodium and low in potassium). Mushrooms are also an important food group, not only for their immune-boosting properties, but also for their impressive amounts of potassium. So try our fantastic recipe pairing cilantro-enriched guacamole with grilled Portobello mushrooms for a delicious potassium boost.
- 1 avocado
- 1 clove garlic, pressed (divided)
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch cilantro
- Freshly milled black pepper
- 2 Portobello mushrooms
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.
1. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science. (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309091691
2. Ascherio, A, et al. (September 1998). Intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and risk of stroke among US men. Circulation, 98(12). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9743511?dopt=Abstract
3. Iso, H, et al. (September 1999). Prospective study of calcium, potassium, and magnesium intake and risk of stroke in women. Circulation, 30(9). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10471422?dopt=Abstract
4. Fang, G, et al. (July 2000). Dietary potassium intake and stroke mortality. Stroke 31(7). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10884449?dopt=Abstract
5. Bazzano, LA, et al. (July 2001). Dietary potassium intake and risk of stroke in US men and women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I epidemiologic follow-up study. Stroke 32(7). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11441188?dopt=Abstract
6. New, SA, et al. (June 1997). Nutritional influences on bone mineral density: a cross-sectional study in premenopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 65(6). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9174480?dopt=Abstract
7. New, SA, et al. (January 2000). Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(1). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10617959?dopt=Abstract
8. Tucker, KL, et al. (April 1999). Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 69(4). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10197575?dopt=Abstract
9. Young, DB, et al. (April 1995). Potassium’s cardiovascular protective mechanisms. The American Journal of Physiology, 268(4 Pt. 2). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7733391?dopt=Abstract
10. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Micronutrient Information Center. Potassium. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/potassium/