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11 Potassium-Rich Foods for a Healthy Heart, From Nutrition Experts

If you're one of the millions of people keeping an eye on your heart health, experts say it can be as simple as eating more of these foods that you probably already love.

How your diet can reduce your heart disease risk

Heart disease (more technically referred to as “cardiovascular disease,” or “CVD” for short) is the leading cause of death among Americans. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is responsible for about one in four deaths in the United States. The most common heart disease risk factors include:

  • medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • lifestyle factors, like your activity level, alcohol use, and smoking
  • having a family history of heart disease

While some of these factors are out of your control, you can make certain lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing heart problems. Specifically, science has identified a close relationship between diet and heart health. Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that for every two percent of calories we get from trans fats—like the fat in fried foods and baked goods—we raise our heart disease risk by a staggering 23 percent.

And, it’s not just about what you should remove from your plate, as more recent studies have highlighted foods with nutrients that can improve heart health. Potassium is a big one of those. In fact, a 2021 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and conducted by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, found that eating a potassium-rich diet can work to lower your cardiovascular disease risk.

If it seems like potassium is a mineral worth knowing a little more about, nutrition and medicine professionals have shared their wisdom right here. (Speaking of heart health, don’t miss these 5 surprising silent symptoms of clogged arteries.)

What does potassium do for your body?

banana in the shape of a heart SasaJo/Getty Images

“Potassium is an electrolyte that, along with sodium, magnesium, and phosphate, helps regulate fluid balance at the cellular level,” says registered dietitian Linda Van Horn, PhD, a professor and the chief of the department of preventive medicine’s nutrition division at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and member of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee.

She explains that the mineral helps maintain osmotic pressure, a delicate balance that ensures our cells’ healthy function and communication.

Interestingly, potassium also conducts electrical impulses throughout the body, says Daniela Novotny, a clinical instructor of biomedical sciences at Missouri State University and doctor of healthcare science. That means it’s essential for nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and maintaining a regular heartbeat.

“Research has also shown that there is an inverse relationship between potassium and blood pressure,” says Siera Holley, a registered dietician nutritionist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “This means that potassium, in appropriate amounts, can be beneficial in lowering blood pressure and preventing hypertension.”

Because high blood pressure is a major—but often silent—risk factor for cardiovascular disease, potassium may help promote long-term heart health.

Why does sodium matter for heart health?

Potassium has a unique relationship with sodium in the body, working together to regulate fluid balances, promote muscle contractions, and conduct nerve impulses.

The problem is that most of us eat too much sodium, throwing off the balance the body needs to support these processes. CDC data says that, on average, Americans consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day—one-third more than experts recommend.

Too much sodium can cause your blood to retain water and put pressure on your arteries, Holley says.

Here’s one place potassium comes in: getting adequate potassium in your diet can help filter out excess sodium, lowering your blood pressure to a healthier range.

Here’s how much potassium you need

If you’re like the average American, you’re probably not getting enough potassium each day. “The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans note potassium as one of four dietary components of public health concern, as the general U.S. population is under-consuming it,” Holley says.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends adults aim to get 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily—though it sets the adequate intake at 3,400 milligrams for men and 2,600 milligrams for women. Still, CDC data found that the mean potassium intake among Americans falls well below recommended levels.

Most of us are consuming too much sodium, too. “The requirement for dietary sodium is very low, less than 500 milligrams per day,” Dr. Van Horn explains. The FDA advises we keep our sodium intake below at most 2,300 milligrams per day—though the average American eats about 3,400 milligrams daily.

Can you get too much potassium?

While too little potassium can elevate your blood pressure and put your heart health at risk, too much potassium can be a problem, too. For some people, dangerously high potassium levels in their blood can interfere with the body’s electrolyte-signaling, leading to an abnormal heartbeat.

This condition—called hyperkalemia—occurs when potassium builds up in your blood to dangerous levels, typically because your kidneys aren’t flushing out the mineral efficiently. That’s why it’s most often a risk for people with chronic kidney disease.

Still, according to the American Heart Association, other causes of hyperkalemia include:

  • A diet too high in potassium (usually due to supplements and salt substitutes)
  • Certain medications, including blood pressure-lowering drugs
  • Existing conditions like diabetes or congestive heart failure

High-potassium foods: The list

While you should always talk to your doctor before making any change to your diet, many of us could benefit from some extra potassium on our plates.

Potassium is also available in supplement form, but experts advise that people avoid a potassium supplement unless their doctor prescribes it. Multivitamins often contain small amounts of the mineral—up to 99 milligrams per serving, according to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute—but more potent versions require close monitoring to ensure your levels are within a healthy range.

Fortunately, there are many ways to include more potassium in your diet. “The DASH Diet is a neat way of eating that has been shown to lower blood pressure,” Novotny says. (“DASH” is abbreviated for the “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” diet.) Novotny continues, calling the DASH diet “a plan that emphasizes foods rich in potassium (and other essential nutrients like magnesium and calcium) while lowering foods that are high in sodium.”

1. White Beans

Dr. Van Horn says that most legumes are rich in potassium, including peas, peanuts (unsalted!), lentils, and different types of beans.

White beans have an especially high content, with a whopping 1,540 milligrams per 100-gram serving. Legumes like white beans are also excellent sources of plant-based protein, B-vitamins, and iron.

For more on beans, read 50 Functional Foods for People With Diabetes.

2. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato on wooden kitchen board from above.Julia_Sudnitskaya/Getty Images

This healthy carb is versatile and full of nutrients like vitamin B6 and magnesium. A cup of mashed sweet potatoes also contains 950 milligrams of potassium, which is more than 20 percent of your daily requirement. Just make sure to eat it with the skin to get the root vegetable’s full nutrient load.

Worried that potatoes are high in starch that can make it tougher to slim down? Read This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Eating Carbs.

3. Avocados

Avocado benefits are impressive. This fruit is a concentrated source of many nutrients, including healthy fats, fiber, and a huge range of vitamins and minerals. With about 690 milligrams of potassium in a single avocado, they also bring almost 15 percent of your daily potassium requirement to your plate.

4. Leafy Greens

Dark, leafy greens like spinach are great sources of potassium. A cup of cooked spinach can have up to 839 milligrams of potassium, as well as 60 percent of your vitamin A requirement. Other leafy greens like beet greens, kale, and mustard greens are also nutrient-rich potassium sources.

Inspired? Here’s more: 11 Benefits of Spinach That Will Convince You To Eat More Leafy Greens

5. Watermelon

Every juicy bite of watermelon delivers a great boost of nutrients, including vitamin C, copper, and vitamin B5. One wedge (about one-sixteenth of a full watermelon) also has 320 milligrams of potassium. (By the way? This is EXACTLY How to Pick Out the Perfect Watermelon.)

6. Coconut water

Toss back a glass of coconut water for an easy way to rack up about 13 percent of your daily potassium requirement. A one-cup serving has about 600 milligrams of potassium—in addition to magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.

7. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are a group of hearty, cabbage-like vegetables with nutrients—including potassium. Of these super-veggies, you can expect:

  • 631 milligrams of potassium from a cup of bok choy
  • 450 milligrams of potassium from a cup of Brussels sprouts
  • 230 milligrams of potassium from a cup of broccoli

Cruciferous vegetables are also generally high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid.

8. Bananas

Most tropical fruits are a great source of potassium, but the banana leads the bunch with about 450 milligrams (almost 10 percent of your daily requirement)! And, if you don’t eat a banana every day, this might convince you to start.

Dr. Van Horn says that oranges and kiwis are also potassium-rich. These fruits happen to be high in dietary fiber, too, helping to promote great gut health and lower your cholesterol.

9. Orange juice

Citrus fruits are generally a good source of potassium. Experts suggest the juice concentrate offers an even more potent amount. With its 496 milligrams of potassium, a cup of orange juice in the morning will kick-start your day with more than 10 percent of your daily requirement. (But if you’re looking to support your immunity, also check out 9 Foods With More Vitamin C Than an Orange.)

10. Dried apricots

Dried apricotsFotografiaBasica/Getty Images

Whether you add them chopped to granola or smoothie bowls, arrange them on a cheese board, or grab a few for an on-the-go snack, a handful of dried apricots can net you about seven percent of your daily potassium requirement.

The average serving size—about 30 grams, or eight pieces—contains around 350 milligrams of potassium. The dried fruit is also rich in vitamin A, a nutrient essential for your vision and immune system. (Also read 15 Vitamin A Foods and How They Boost Your Health.)

11. Seafood

Most meats are good sources of potassium: 100 grams of chicken (with the skin) offers 292 milligrams and the same serving of ground beef has 302 milligrams. Still, certain types of fish edge these land-based options out—especially if you’re consciously trying to reduce the fat in your diet.

As examples, yellowfin tuna, cod, and halibut are all high-potassium fish choices. Salmon is also a winner: A 100-gram portion of salmon adds 490 milligarams of potassium to your meal, in addition to its heart-healthy omega-3 content.

And, if you really want to get the most out of your salmon, check out Which Type of Salmon Is Healthiest? A Registered Dietitian Reveals.

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Leslie Finlay
In addition to The Healthy, Leslie has written for outlets such as WebMd.com, Fodors.com, LiveFit.com, and more, specializing in content related to healthcare, nutrition, mental health and wellness, and environmental conservation and sustainability. She holds a master's degree in Public Policy focused on the intersection between public health and environmental conservation, and an undergraduate degree in journalism. Leslie is based in Thailand, where she is a marine conservation and scuba diving instructor. In her spare time you'll find her up in the air on the flying trapeze or underwater, diving coral reefs.

10 Foods Higher in Potassium Than a Banana

Bananas are famous for potassium (which protects against stroke and heart disease), but it isn't the best source.

Most of us associate bananas with potassium, but there are many other fruits or vegetables that have just as much if not more of this important mineral. An important electrolyte, potassium helps the body function properly, according to the Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Center. It helps muscles contract and helps regulates heart rate and blood pressure, for starters. But you don’t have to go wild on bananas to get the recommended 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. “If you’re eating a balanced plate of vegetables and fruit and legumes, you’re going to get potassium,” says Wesley McWhorter, MS, RD, chef and dietitian at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. Here are some specific stars in the potassium category:

Sources
Medline Plus: Potassium Health.gov: Sodium and Potassium Wesley McWhorter, MS, RD, chef and dietitian at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston Medical News Today: What's to Know About Butternut Squash? SELFNutritionData: Edamame SFGate: Sweet Potato and Potassium Levels SFGate: Does a Potato Have Potassium In It? SELFNutritionData: Swiss Chard University of Michigan Health System: Potassium Content of Foods SELFNutritionData: Tomato Sauce Eatthismuch.com: Black Beans SFGate: What Is Full of Potassium? SFGate: How Much Potassium Is in Watermelon? SFGate: Potassium and Yogurt

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 with a B.A. in Journalism. When she’s not writing for RD.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.