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The standard American diet is starving for potassium

Potassium is a vital mineral that is needed to maintain health. It is found in many whole foods and typically is absent in the standard American diet, which includes fast foods and processed foods. This post will cover common signs of potassium deficiency and the food sources that contain potassium to help address the deficiency.

As someone who works in the health-care field and in a clinical setting with patients, I have seen a consistent trend in nutrition that focuses on finding a “new” compound or substance. Every year there is usually a new supplement that claims to produce some miracle cure or health benefit. It is common that these miracle supplements rarely deliver on their promise of improved health or cure.

When providing advice to patients concerning nutrition I always start with improving their existing diet prior to adding in a supplement. An important place to start is to address micronutrient deficiencies with potassium being the one we will discuss here.

Determining whether someone has a nutrient deficiency is typically done by a blood test. Although this is the gold standard when identifying a deficiency, many patients are not interested in having the blood test performed for various reasons. Therefore, the next best method is to discuss the patient’s diet, determine from where he or she is getting the needed nutrients and to analyze the current symptoms the patient is experiencing.

The standard American diet lacks most, if not all, of the essential nutrients for a healthy lifestyle. Since most patients are consuming this diet, we then can proceed with the premise that potassium is lacking in their diet.

Next, we can look at symptoms that are commonly associated with a deficiency in potassium. These would include weakness, fatigue, muscle cramping, muscle stiffness and achiness, numbness and tingling, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing and mood changes.

Once it is established that there is a likely deficiency in potassium based on dietary practices, symptoms and hopefully a blood test, it is time to improve consumption of potassium through the increase in whole food sources. There currently is not a recommended dietary allowance for potassium. General recommendations, however, are to consume 1,600 to 2,000 milligrams per day.

The following is a brief list of foods that contain significant amounts of potassium. This list, however, is not an exhaustive one for foods containing potassium. A brief Google search will give you a more comprehensive one:

  • avocados

  • sweet potatoes

  • spinach

  • watermelon

  • coconut water

  • black and white beans

  • edamame butternut squash

  • potatoes

  • dried apricots

  • Swiss chard

  • beats

  • pomegranate

I hope the above information will be useful in helping you improve your diet by ensuring that you are consuming adequate amounts of potassium to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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