Health Benefits of Potassium

A diet rich in potassium is associated with some impressive health benefits. It may prevent or alleviate a variety of health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure: Many studies have shown that potassium-rich diets can lower blood pressure, especially for people with high blood pressure
  • Salt sensitivity: People with this condition may experience a 10% increase in blood pressure after eating salt. A potassium-rich diet may eliminate salt sensitivity.
  • Stroke: Several studies have shown that a potassium-rich diet may reduce the risk of stroke by up to 27%.
  • Osteoporosis: Studies have shown that a potassium-rich diet may help prevent osteoporosis, a condition associated with an increased risk of bone fractures.
  • Kidney stones: Studies have found that potassium-rich diets are associated with a significantly lower risk of kidney stones than diets low in this mineral.

Summary: Potassium is an important mineral and electrolyte. It is involved in muscle contractions, heart function and regulating water balance.


How Much Should You Consume Per Day?

Your daily potassium needs can depend on a variety of factors, including your health status, activity level and ethnicity. Even though there isn’t an RDI for potassium, organizations around the world have recommended consuming at least 3,500 mg per day through food. These organizations include the World Health Organization (WHO), and countries including the UK, Spain, Mexico and Belgium. Other countries, including the US, Canada, South Korea and Bulgaria, recommend consuming at least 4,700 mg per day through food. Interestingly, it seems that when people consume more than 4,700 mg per day, there appear to be little or no extra health benefits.

There are several groups of people who may benefit more than others from meeting the higher recommendation, including:

  • Athletes: Those who partake in long and intense exercise may lose a significant amount of potassium through sweat.
  • African Americans: Studies have found that consuming 4,700 mg of potassium daily can eliminate salt-sensitivity, a condition more common among people of African American descent.
  • High-risk groups: People at risk of high blood pressure, kidney stones, osteoporosis or stroke may benefit from consuming at least 4,700 mg of potassium per day.

In short, aim to consume 3,500–4,700 mg of this mineral per day from foods. People who need more potassium should aim towards the higher end.

Summary: A healthy adult should aim to consume 3,500–4,700 mg of potassium daily from foods. Certain groups of people should aim to consume at least 4,700 mg per day.


The Bottom Line

Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that’s involved in heart function, muscle contraction and water balance. A high intake may help reduce high blood pressure, salt sensitivity and the risk of stroke. Additionally, it may protect against osteoporosis and kidney stones. Despite its importance, very few people around the world get enough potassium. A healthy adult should aim to consume 3,500–4,700 mg daily from foods. To increase your intake, incorporate a few potassium-rich foods into your diet, such as spinach, beet greens, potatoes and fish, such as salmon.

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