Nutrition 101: Potassium

Written By: Carolyn Berry, RD

Title: Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

Along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium, potassium is an electrolyte. Normal body function depends on tight regulation of potassium concentrations both inside and outside of cells

Recom​mended Intakes

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for potassium are shown below:

Age Group Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) per Day Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) per Day
Adults *No UL has been established for this nutrient
19 years and up 4.7 g
Kids and Youth
1 to 3 years 3.0 g
4 to 8 years 3.8 g
9 to 13 years 4.5 g
14 to 18 years 4.7 g
Special Considerations
Pregnant women 14 years and up 4.7 g
Lactating women 14 years and up 5.1 g

What Does Potassium Do?

Potassium is an electrolyte, meaning that it helps to conduct electrical charges in the body. As a result, potassium is crucial to heart function and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, making it important for normal digestive and muscular function. It also helps regulate fluids and mineral balance in and out of body cells and helps maintain normal blood pressure. Potassium may also reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones and possibly bone loss as we age.

Many enzymes require the presence of potassium for their activity. The activation of sodium, potassium-ATPase requires the presence of sodium and potassium. The presence of potassium is also required for the activity of pyruvate kinase, an important enzyme in carbohydrate metabolism

Hyperkalemia is when there is too much potassium in the blood. People with decreased kidney function are at greater risk for hyperkalemia because their kidneys are less efficient at eliminating potassium. Certain medications can also affect potassium levels.

Hypokalemia is when there is too little potassium in the blood. Diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, malnutrition, malabsorption diseases (such as Crohn’s disease) can also cause potassium deficiency. Most people get all of the potassium they need from a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits

Top Potassium-Rich Food Sources

Vegetables and fruit are some of the best sources of potassium. Whole grains, dairy products, lentils, meat and fish also have potassium.

Food Potassium per serving
Baked potato, 1/2 medium 470 mg
Spinach, cooked, 1/2 cup 419 mg
Yogurt, low fat, 3/4 cup 402 mg
Tomato sauce, 1/2 cup 364 mg
Avocado, 1/4 whole 244 mg
Banana, 1/2 large 243 mg
Strawberries, chopped, 1/2 cup 230 mg
Broccoli, cooked, 1/2 cup 229 mg
Cantaloupe, diced, 1/2 cup 208 mg
Peanut butter, 2 tbsp 179 mg
Wheat Bran 171 mg

Nutrition Facts Label and the % Daily Value

In the United States: The Daily Value (DV) for potassium is 3500 mg for ages 2 and older. The number you see on the Nutrition Facts label is a percentage calculated by dividing the amount of potassium in one serving of the food by the daily value. For example, a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, which contains 364 mg, has ​10% of the daily value (DV) for potassium. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.

In Canada: The Daily Value for potassium is also 3500 mg. Listing the DV for potassium on the label is optional.

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micronutrient - minerals, minerals, potassium, vitamins - minerals


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