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What is potassium?

Potassium is a mineral which also acts as an electrolyte. Potassium along with sodium help to regulate the balance between water and acidity in the blood. Potassium is important for nerve function and muscle contraction, including heart contractions. Potassium deficiencies can result in altered heart rhythm or heartbeat. Potassium is found in fruits, vegetables, grain foods, meats and milk.

What causes low potassium levels?

Many different factors can cause low potassium levels, but most of the time people lose potassium through their digestive tract. This often happens if they are ill and unable to eat food, are vomiting frequently, or experiencing diarrhea. Diuretics can also cause low potassium levels. 

Some adrenal disorders like Cushing syndrome can also cause low potassium levels, since the syndrome produces high levels of a hormone that triggers the kidneys to excrete potassium.

Moderately low levels of potassium can be remedied by simply eating foods that have lots of potassium. However, if these levels are unable to be remedied, it can cause muscle weakness, cramps, heart arrhythmia, or even paralysis. 

If you have extremely low potassium levels, your doctor may prescribe a potassium supplement that’s taken by mouth, accompanied by food.

How much potassium is in a banana?

Many people consider bananas the gold standard of foods with lots of potassium and eat them after workouts to help boost muscle function. There is approximately 422 mg of potassium in one medium banana. 

Bananas are great foods to eat if you want to boost your potassium intake because they’re both portable and delicious, but if you’re serious about your post-workout snack, try eating an avocado (487 mg of potassium) a baked sweet potato (541 mg of potassium), or drink a cup of coconut water (600 mg of potassium).

What foods are highest in potassium?

There are plenty of delicious foods that are rich in potassium. Some of the highest potassium counts can be found in the following foods. 

  1. Swiss chart (961 mg per 1 cup) 
  2. Edamame (676 mg per 1 cup) 
  3. Pomegranate (666 mg each) 
  4. Watermelon (640 mg per 2 slices) 
  5. Coconut water (600 mg per 1 cup) 
  6. Butternut squash (582 mg per 1 cup) 
  7. Sweet potato (541 mg per 1 medium potato) 
  8. Spinach (540 mg per 1 cup) 
  9. Beets (518 mg per 170 gram serving) 
  10. Dried Apricots (488 mg per 6 apricots)

Learn more about Potassium:

Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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