Potassium Introduction

Potassium may be the most important electrolyte for the maintenance and proper balance of body fluid. Potassium and sodium work closely together in maintaining the internal and external fluid balance of all cellular structures located throughout the body. The majority of potassium found in the body is located in muscle tissues.

Potassium is available for biochemical use through a number of forms. The forms found in dietary sources include; potassium acetate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, potassium chloride, and potassium gluconate.

Potassium also regulates the body’s acidity levels, or PH levels. Having a proper fluid balance is fundamental in regulating smooth muscle, cardiac, kidney, and skeletal functioning. Potassium is also vital for the proper conduction of nerve impulses that stimulate muscle contraction.

Potassium Food Sources

The best food sources for potassium include fruits, vegetables, and juices. Potassium intakes may vary due to individual absorption rates and consumer product choices. The dietary sources listed below are based upon the percentage of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in a particular food source. Percentages are based upon a 3.5oz serving: [1]

Potassium rich foodsPotassium ContentRDA % *Calories
Soya flour 1650mg 47% 450
Apricots ready-to-eat 1380mg 39% 160
Bran Wheat 1160mg 33% 200
Tomato Puree 1150mg 33% 70
Raisins 1020mg 30% 270
Potato chips 1000mg 29% 450
All Bran 1000mg 29% 260
Wheatgerm 950mg 27% 300
Figs 900mg 26% 100
Dried mixed fruit 880mg 25% 230
Bombay Mix 790mg 23% 500
Currants 720mg 22% 270
Seeds average 650mg 18% 500
Nuts average (unsalted) 600mg 17% 600
Baked Potato + skin 600mg 17% 130
Roast Potato 550mg 16% 160
Oven chips 530mg 15% 170
Bran Flakes 530mg 15% 320
Soya beans boiled 510mg 15% 140
Plantain boiled 500mg 14% 112
Weetos 500mg 14% 370
Crispbread 500mg 14% 320
Muesli low salt 450mg 13% 360
Sardines 430mg 12% 200
Pilchards 420mg 12% 125
Veal 420mg 12% 230
Wholemeal Pasta 400mg 11% 320
Banana 400mg 11% 96

Potassium Uses

There are a variety of conditions directly associated with adequate intakes of potassium. Hypokalemia (having too little potassium concentration in the blood) may be among the most critical of potassium-related conditions to correct. Studies suggest that this stage of potassium deficiency may be in direct correlation with cardiac, and/or congestive heart failure. [2] Signs of abnormal heart rhythm and function are usually measured by a physician via EKG, or electrocardiogram. Potassium may also prevent the likelihood of one developing high blood pressure, a contributing factor to cardiovascular health.

Another disease that may be directly affected by depleted potassium levels is IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. [3, 4, 5] This includes both Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis.

Potassium has the ability to provide for other preventative properties. As we age, potassium may assist us in the ability to preserve the bone mass developed in the first three decades of our lives. [6] Proper dietary intakes of potassium may lessen the likelihood of an individual developing a disorder associated with his/her skeletal structure. Furthermore, a diet that is adequately supplied with potassium may also reduce the incidence of stroke in both men and women. [7, 8]

Lastly, lower potassium serum levels in the blood may increase the occurrence of asthma in children, and the development of kidney stones in adults. [9, 10]

Potassium Dosages

The recommended daily intakes of potassium, or Estimated Minimum Requirement (mEq):

Age (years) Newborns/infants/childrenMenWomenPregnancyLactation
Birth to 6 months 500 mg or 13 mEq
7-12 months 700 mg or 18 mEq
1 year 1000 mg or 26 mEq
2-5 years 1400 mg or 36 mEq
6-9 years 1600 mg or 41 mEq
Adults 2000 mg or 51 mEq 2000 mg or 51 mEq 2000 mg or 51 mEq 2000 mg or 51 mEq

Potassium Toxicities and Deficiencies

Potassium Deficiencies:

As previously mentioned, hypokalemia is the primary deficiency associated with the dietary absence of potassium. Illness (flu), fasting, diarrhea, eating-disorders, vomiting, or use of diuretics, are all areas of concern in the development of any mineral deficiency.

Certain medications may further inhibit the absorption of potassium and other minerals. Persons suffering from severe burns, diabetes, and kidney disease are especially at risk. Sign and symptoms of potassium deficiency includes; cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), extreme fatigue and muscle weakness, irritability, muscle paralysis. If a severe potassium deficiency is left uncorrected, further complications may arise, including death. [11]

Of Note: the body’s supply of potassium decreases with age. This is due to the loss of muscle tissue and function; referred to as sarcopenia. Therefore, it is imperative to obtain adequate intakes of potassium via diet, or by means of nutritional supplementation.

Potassium Toxicities:

The excess intake of potassium is usually characterized by nausea and diarrhea. Hyperkalemia is the term used to describe excess potassium serum levels in the blood. Certain medications, such as ACE inhibitors, can cause increase levels of potassium in blood. Excessive intakes of potassium (acute hyperkalemia) can prove lethal; progressing from an initial decrease in heart rate, to cardiac arrest.


1. High potassium foods. Foods High in potassium. Table of foods rich in Potassium. 2003. www. weightlossforall.com/potassium- rich-food.htm.

2. Wester PO, et al. Intracellular Electrolytes in Cardiac Failure. Acta Med Scand Suppl. 1986; 707: 33-36.

3. Sacks FM, Willett WX, Smith A, et al. Effect on blood pressure of potassium, calcium, and magnesium in women with low habitual intake. Hypertens. 1998; 31(1): 131-138.

4. Hermansen K. Diet, blood pressure and hypertension. Br JNutr. 2000: 83(Suppl 1): S113-119.

5. Reif S, Klein I, Lubin F, Farstein M, Hallak A, Gilat T. Pre-illness dietary factors in inflammatory bowel disease. Gut. 1997; 40: 754-760.

6. Tucker KL, Hannan Mt, Chen H, Cupples LA, Wilson PW, Kiel DP. Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetables intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 69 (4): 727-736.

7. Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Hernan MA, et al. Intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and risk among U.S. men. Circ. 1998; 98: 1198-1204.

8. Iso H, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Prospective study ofcalcium, potassium, and magnesium intake and risk of stroke in women. Stroke. 199; 30(9): 1772-1779.

9. Gilliland FD, Berhane KT, Li YF, Kim DH, Margolis HG. Dietary magnesium, potassium, sodium, and children’s lung function. Am J Epidemiol. 2002. 15; 155(2): 125-131.

10. Curhan GC, et al. A prospective Study of Dietary Calcium, and Other Nutrients and the Risk of Symptomatic Kidney Stones. N Engl J Med. Mar 1993; 328(12): 833-38.

11. Herbert, Victor. “Vitamins and Minerals Plus Antioxidant Supplements” Total Nutrition Ed. Victor Herbert, M.D., Genell J. Subak-Sharpe, M.S. New York: Saint Martin’s Griffin, 1995. 94-118.


Potassium (Chloride) Products