Managing Intakes: Daily Potassium Requirements

Oct 20, 2022 , PotassiumVitamins & Supplements

Managing Intakes: Daily Potassium Requirements

Quick Health Scoop

  • Potassium is an essential mineral that your body needs to support heart, muscle, and nerve function.†
  • This key nutrient is primarily found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Daily Potassium requirements vary depending on age and sex, but generally, the recommended daily intake for healthy adults is 3,400 mg/day of Potassium for men and 2,600 mg/day for women.
  • Nearly 98% of U.S. adults are not meeting the daily intake recommendations for Potassium. [4]

Potassium is an essential mineral that your body needs to support heart, muscle, and nerve functions. It also works as an electrolyte, carrying tiny electrical charges that activate different nerve and cell functions within your body’s cells. [1] Even though Potassium is naturally found in many foods (mostly fruits and vegetables), many Americans are not getting enough Potassium in their diets, and a low Potassium level can lead to some health issues.†

So, how do you maintain normal Potassium levels? What Potassium foods should you add to your diet? And what is the daily requirement for Potassium?

Read on to learn more about the Potassium intake recommended by health professionals as well as Potassium rich food.

What Is Potassium?

Your body needs Potassium, an essential mineral, to work properly, as it helps balance a range of body functions. Most of the body’s Potassium (roughly 98%) resides inside your cells, including 80% inside your skeletal muscle. [2] Potassium absorption occurs mainly in the small intestine, and Potassium excretion occurs mainly through the urine, in the stool, and through sweat. [3]

In the body, Potassium works closely with Sodium to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Because of the impact of too much Sodium on health, The American Heart Association (AHA), Institute of Medicine (IOM), and US Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting Sodium intake while increasing Potassium intake through food. [4] These professional organizations recommend a daily intake of 2,300 mg Sodium per day and 4,700 mg Potassium per day for heart health and function.

Because your body can’t naturally produce this mineral and you must get it from the diet, it’s especially important to eat a variety of Potassium-rich foods. While this key nutrient is naturally present in many foods (see below), you can also find Potassium in dietary supplements.

Benefits of Potassium

Your body requires Potassium for almost everything it does, including proper heart and nerve function. [3] Potassium is also required for proper nerve conduction and muscle contraction. And as mentioned above, Potassium works closely with Sodium to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance.†

Potassium-rich food

Because your body can’t produce this mineral, it’s important to eat a variety of Potassium rich foods. Found in many fruits and vegetables, Potassium is easy to add to your diet. Doing so will help you meet your daily Potassium requirements. Foods with high Potassium mean they contain at least 20% of the Daily Value (DV) which is 940 mg per serving of Potassium, for children and adults. The following foods are rich in Potassium:[5]

  • Beans (kidney beans, lima beans, black beans, pinto beans, Great Northern beans)
  • Dried apricots
  • Baked potatoes
  • Prunes
  • Lentils

Other dietary sources of Potassium include: [1,3,5,6]

  • Raisins
  • Squash (acorn)
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Beet greens
  • Bananas
  • Yams
  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanut butter

The types of dietary Potassium found in fruits and vegetables include Potassium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Sulfate, and others—but not Potassium Chloride (the form used in salt substitutes). [3] Some processed and prepared foods, like breakfast cereals, contain Potassium but be sure to check the Nutrition Facts panel to see how much of this mineral you are getting in each serving. If you don’t regularly consume enough foods with Potassium, consider adding the above foods to your diet. A healthcare professional may need to prescribe supplemental Potassium if your blood levels are low.

Potassium deficiency or shortfall?

Potassium loss in the body is natural, as you lose about 195 mg of Potassium each day through urine, with smaller amounts lost through stool and sweat.[3] That’s why it’s important to consume Potassium daily in your diet. Some health conditions can contribute to excessive loss of Potassium in the body (such as prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, use of some medications, and some forms of kidney disease), which can lead to a deficiency.[6] However, having a diagnosed Potassium deficiency is rare.

Instead, Potassium is considered a shortfall nutrient. What this means is that a high percentage of the population is not consuming enough of an essential nutrient in their diet to meet recommended daily amounts. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans list Potassium as a “nutrient of public health concern” since a dietary shortfall of this nutrient is associated with adverse health effects, including heart health concerns. Women of childbearing age, especially, are not consuming enough Potassium since 68% of women ages 31-44 years and over 66% of women ages 15-30 years have an inadequate intake of Potassium in their daily diet.[7] Even more concerning, only about 2% of Americans overall are meeting daily Potassium recommendations as set by professional health organizations (4700 mg per day).[4] Because of inadequate daily Potassium intake among so many Americans, the Food and Drug Administration required manufacturers to include Potassium content on the Nutrition Facts food label.[6]

If you think you’ve got a low Potassium level, your healthcare provider may order a blood test. A normal serum Potassium level ranges from about 3.6 to 5.0 mmol/L. If your level falls below that, your doctor might prescribe Potassium supplementation.

Daily Potassium Requirements

Intake recommendations for Potassium and other nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) established by expert committees of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). Due to insufficient evidence on Potassium, in 2019, NASEM updated the DRIs for Potassium because they haven’t determined a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Estimated Average Requirement (EAR). Instead, they’ve established an Adequate Intake (AI), which can vary depending on your age, sex, and other factors. [3] The general daily Potassium recommendation for healthy adults is 3,400/mg for men and 2,600/mg for women. [3,6] For heart health and to counteract the effects of excessive intake of sodium in the diet, professional organizations recommend no more than 2,300 mg/day of Sodium and 4,700 mg/day Potassium. If you think your diet may be lacking in Potassium-containing foods, consider adding more potassium-rich foods or talk to your doctor about taking a Potassium supplement.

Bottom Line

As an essential mineral that your body needs, Potassium helps support heart, muscle, and nerve functions. Potassium naturally occurs in a variety of plant and animal foods but the richest sources are in fruits and vegetables. What is the daily requirement for Potassium? While factors such as age and sex impact the daily Potassium requirements, the general recommendation for healthy adults is 3,400/mg of Potassium every day for men and 2,600/mg for women. Many adults are not eating enough foods with Potassium, which is important because the body loses Potassium through regular excretion (i.e., urine, stool, sweat). But other factors (such as vomiting, diarrhea, use of certain medications, and certain health conditions) can contribute to excessive Potassium losses. If you’re concerned about your Potassium levels, talk with your healthcare provider, who may recommend Potassium supplements.

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.


† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


References 

  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Potassium.” 2022. Accessed on: September 15, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/potassium/
  2. Seminars in Nephrology. “Extracellular Potassium Homeostasis: Insights from Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis.” May 2013. Accessed on: September 15, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4131448/
  3. National Institutes of Health. “Potassium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” June 2, 2022. Accessed on: September 15, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/
  4. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES 2003-2008.” September 2012. Accessed on: September 16, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22854410/
  5. S. Department of Agriculture. “FoodData Central.” 2022. Accessed on: September 16, 2022. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov
  6. Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute. “Potassium.” April 2019. Accessed on: September 15, 2022. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/potassium
  7. Devarshi PP, Legette LL, Grant RW, Mitmesser SH. Total estimated usual nutrient intake and nutrient status biomarkers in women of childbearing age and women of menopausal age. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021;113(4):1042-1052. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqaa392. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8023996/.

Authors

Lisa Beach

NatureMade Contributor

Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.

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Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

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