Up to 23% of Americans don’t meet the recommended daily potassium intake already — but it may be even more critical to watch this mineral when you’re on a ketogenic diet[*].
Potassium is the third most abundant mineral found in your body, but more importantly, it’s one of the major electrolytes along with sodium, calcium, chloride, and magnesium.
Electrolytes are important chemicals your cells require to function.
Electrolytes have their hands in activities such as[*]:
- Muscle contractions
- Heartbeat regulation
- Body temperature management
- Bladder control
- Energy production
- Neurological functions
Potassium, specifically, is involved in what’s known as the “sodium-potassium pump”.
Basically, this function helps move molecules across cell membranes, which…
- Controls muscle contraction, including in the heart
- Transports amino acids and nutrients to cells
- Allows messages to be delivered along your nerves by conducting voltage (electricity)
Adults need around 4,700 milligrams per day of potassium from food. If your body is low in potassium, a condition called hypokalemia, the sodium-potassium pump doesn’t work properly–leading to conditions like cramps and heart arrhythmias[*]
Signs you don’t have enough potassium in your diet include:
- Severe headaches
- Fatigue, both physically and mentally
- Fluid retention
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure (a.k.a. hypertension)
- Gland and tissue swelling
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle weakness and aches
- Weight gain
- Nausea, bloating and tummy cramping
Healthy bodies should be able to regulate potassium levels on their own, but some health conditions can get in the way of this process and trigger potassium deficiency:
- Elevated corticosteroid levels
- Specific medications (like ACE inhibitors)
- Kidney disease
- Gastro issues such as vomiting, diarrhea and laxative/diuretic use, which all deplete your body of electrolytes
- Intense cardio/endurance without adequate hydration and electrolyte replacement
If you have a medical condition or take medication that depletes potassium, be sure to speak to your doctor if you experience symptoms of potassium deficiency.
But either way, it’s wise to ensure you get enough potassium on keto.
CAN YOU HAVE TOO MUCH POTASSIUM?
Yes, but it’s usually from taking supplements or other non-food sources of potassium. That’s why the FDA doesn’t allow companies to sell potassium tablets with more than 99 milligrams of potassium (which is approximately 2% of the recommended daily allowance for adults).
An overdose from naturally-occurring potassium in food is exceedingly rare, unless you’re on dialysis, undergoing cancer treatments or have kidney problems or another medical condition.
If you have too much potassium in your system, you’ll likely experience nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, too much potassium can lead to cardiac arrest.
Again, these high levels are usually the result of a medical condition or taking potassium salts or supplements, not from eating high-potassium foods.
Along with safety concerns, since potassium supplements are legally required to contain very little potassium, that’s another reason foods are your best bet to boost your potassium levels.
According to one perspective, keto may deplete your body of potassium and other electrolytes, especially when you first begin.
That’s because when you start eliminating carbs from your diet, your glycogen stores will quickly get depleted.
But for every gram of glycogen found in your body, there’s also three grams of water holding on as well.
So as you start losing glycogen, your body starts flushing out this water. And each time you pee, you’re flushing out these super critical electrolytes too.
Check out our guide on keto electrolytes when you’re done with this one for more help.
However, there’s some evidence that a low-carb diet like keto doesn’t actually deplete your potassium levels[*]. The jury’s still out, but you want to pay extra attention to potassium on keto due to the fact that you’re working with a more limited menu.
In other words, when you can’t eat carbs, you need to ensure you get sufficient dietary potassium from low-carb sources.
Either way, your health will show noticeable improvements when you hit your potassium target, as we’ll see next.
#1: PREVENTS AND TREAT MUSCLE CRAMPS
The first sign people usually notice when their bodies are screaming for more potassium (or magnesium) is muscle cramping and charley horses.
That’s because these painful cramps are often caused by dehydration and electrolyte and mineral loss[*].
Your body requires potassium for muscular contractions[*]. So when your diet is high in potassium rich foods, your muscles will not only be less prone to cramping, but will also be stronger.
Potassium may even help with menstrual cramping and PMS[*].
#2: PROMOTES HEART HEALTH AND LOWERS RISK OF STROKE
Low levels of potassium have been connected with high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a diet high in potassium from whole food sources may lower blood pressure by lessening the effect of sodium, which can raise blood pressure in high concentrations[*].
Research shows that potassium may help keep your blood vessels and arteries soft and prevent the harmful buildup of calcium (calcification)[*].
Studies also show a connection between diets with high potassium foods and protection against strokes[*].
#3: KEEPS YOUR BONES STRONG
Researchers have learned that people with more potassium in their diet also have higher bone density than those who don’t meet their recommended daily intake levels.
Potassium helps your body better absorb calcium, which helps strengthen your bones[*].
During a study of 266 elderly women, researchers noticed a positive association with bone density mass and potassium intake, suggesting that eating foods high in potassium may play a role in osteoporosis prevention[*].
Kidney stones are hard minerals clumped together that form a small “stone” that you’ll feel in your back and in your urinary tract. These can be very painful, and your chances of having them increase if you’ve already had one before.
Potassium deficiencies have been linked to increased kidney stones.
However, high dietary potassium intake can reduce kidney stone risk by up to 56% for two reasons[*]:
- Kidney stones formed with calcium are a sign your urine is too acidic and needs to be balanced. Potassium has an alkaline effect, which will increase your urinary pH and make it less welcoming for kidney stones to nest.
- Potassium citrate increases citrate levels, which binds with calcium, so calcium doesn’t have the chance to bind with other minerals that cause kidney stones. More calcium in your urine means higher chances of kidney stones forming, while less means a lower chance.
So now that you know why your body needs potassium, let’s talk about the best dietary sources.
Your recommended daily intake value of potassium is 4,700 milligrams[*].
That’s why people usually reach for potassium rich foods such as bananas, potatoes, black beans and yogurt when they need a boost.
But the bad news is these aren’t keto-friendly because they have way too many carbs and sugar.
Add these 12 potassium sources to your ketogenic menu plan to meet your potassium goals and stay in ketosis the easy way!
Avocados are a true superfood and one of the best sources of potassium when you’re on a ketogenic diet.
Packed with healthy fats, tons of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals, avocados are one of the best ways to meet your potassium requirement when you’re in keto.
One medium Hass avocado provides 689 mg of potassium, equivalent to 20% of your recommended daily intake.
Bonus: One study showed people who regularly nosh on avocados are healthier and better looking; avocado eaters had lower BMIs, body weight and waist sizes than those who didn’t eat them, not to mention they had lower risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease too[*].
Get some! We love this amazing fruit at Perfect Keto and can’t wait for you to try these recipes featuring avocado:
#2: BRUSSELS SPROUTS
One cup of cooked brussels sprouts delivers 494 mg of potassium, or 14% of your RDA.
That same serving of these cruciferous veggies also packs 4g of protein, 4g of fiber, over 150% of vitamin C and over 200% of your vitamin K–all for a measly 60 calories.
Add this Cheesy Bacon Brussel Sprouts Casserole to the table and it will disappear before you can even hashtag your keto potassium win.
Portobello and white button mushrooms add flavor and texture to your meals and deliver a dose of potassium worth 630 mg, or 18% of your daily value.
You’ll also score 5g of protein for just 3g net carbs in that serving as well.
#4: SUMMER SQUASH OR ZUCCHINI
Whether you like them spiralized as zoodles or roasted in the oven, a cup of zucchini gives you 10% of your recommended intake of magnesium and 13% of your potassium requirement (455 mg).
For less than 30 calories, 40% of your vitamin A intake and 2.5g fiber, these versatile veggies can be noshed on every day of the week.
Try them: Replace the noodles in your old carby lasagna recipe with this Low Carb Keto Lasagna using zucchini noodles.
#5: PUMPKIN SEEDS
One ounce of pumpkin seeds will give you 226 mg of potassium, or 6% of your RD.
These small nutritional powerhouses also supply noteworthy amounts of magnesium, zinc, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and are a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, which promotes restful sleep.
Get some: Pumpkin seeds can be added to your snack time along with nuts and cheese, or sprinkled on top of salads or Keto Oatmeal for extra crunch.
#6: SPINACH AND LEAFY GREENS
There’s a reason spinach is a true nutritional rockstar. Check out the stats for one cooked cup of the green gold[*]:
- 40 calories
- 5g protein
- 4g fiber
- 2.5 net carbs
Those seem great, but not super awesome, right?
So check out the vitamins and minerals that same serving packs:
- Vitamin A: 377%
- Vitamin K: 111%
- Manganese: 84%
- Folate: 66%
- Magnesium: 39%
- Iron: 36%
- Vitamin C: 29%
- Calcium: 24%
- Potassium: 24%
- Sodium: 5%
Now we’re talking.
You get all three electrolytes in a cup of cooked spinach (i.e., potassium, magnesium and sodium).
Spinach is also ridiculously high in vitamin A and vitamin K, which have been studied for use in preventing cancer, helping your bones stay strong, and increasing insulin sensitivity[*].
Plus, with close to 90% of your manganese intake, you can also achieve greater antioxidant defense, energy and immune function if you add a daily dose of spinach[*].
What if spinach isn’t up your alley?
One cup of cooked beet greens provides 37% of your DV of potassium, while a cup of Swiss chard provides 27%. Other leafy greens have similar levels.
Try it: Pair any protein with this decadent Creamed Spinach Keto recipe for maximum potassium potential.
#7: WILD-CAUGHT SALMON (AND OTHER FATTY FISH)
Wild-caught salmon is one of the healthiest fish you can eat. Studies have shown every increase in fatty fish like salmon you eat reduces your risk of dying from heart disease thanks to their omega-3 content[*].
A six ounce serving gives you 1,068mg of potassium, or 31% of your recommended daily intake.
But if you don’t love salmon or can’t get the wild-caught version, here are a few other fish in the sea high in potassium and perfect for you:
- Pompano: 30% of your potassium intake in a 6 oz. filet
- Mackerel: 28%
- Halibut : 26%
- Snapper: 26%
- Tuna: 26%
- Trout: 22%
Get some: This Crispy Skin Salmon and Pesto Cauliflower Rice recipe will convert any salmon nonbelievers.
You may not think these little guys are worth the effort of shucking, but clams are an amazing source of potassium for their size (and you can also find them in cans).
A 3.5 oz serving of canned or fresh clams provides with 18% of your potassium needs.
And for their size, clams also contain almost your entire selenium intake, twice your requirement for iron and the highest concentration of vitamin B12 found in any food seafood.
Try them: Because they’re so small, clams cook super fast when lightly steamed, grilled or cooked on the stove in butter and garlic. You can also add them to keto soups and stews.
#9. PORK CHOPS
The ol’ classic combination of pork chops and applesauce may be out of your keto macros, but pork chops shouldn’t be.
As “the other white meat,” pork chops pack a healthy dose of protein while being on the relatively low-cal end of the meat spectrum.
One pork chop packs a whopping 532 mg of potassium, 9g of fat and 40g of protein[*]!
#10: PLAIN COCONUT WATER (IN MODERATION)
Coconut water is hydrating and boasting with potassium. One cup of this elixir gives you:
- Potassium: 515 mg (14% DV)
- Fat: 0.4 grams
- Protein: 1.5 grams
- Total carbs: 8 grams
As you can tell, you should enjoy coconut water only in moderation on keto due to its higher carb count. However, it can fit your keto macros if you pay attention!
Packaged coconut water usually contains more sugar, so look closely at the labels to find a low sugar brand, or stick to plain coconut water directly from coconuts.
Now you know how to get more potassium from whole foods, but what about when you don’t have the time to cook these or eat enough to meet your requirements?
Coming up: two safe and easy ways to supplement potassium.
#11: A HIGH-QUALITY ELECTROLYTE SUPPLEMENT
Supplementing your potassium in tandem with other electrolytes is the easiest way to ensure you have the right electrolyte balance in your body, without worrying too much about what to cook to get them all.
When looking for a supplement, make sure it has no fillers, added sugars, or unnecessary ingredients that downgrade its quality.
Perfect Keto Electrolytes is specifically formulated for the keto diet since you’re more likely to lose electrolytes when you enter ketosis.
It provides a precise 4:2:1:1 ratio of sodium to potassium to calcium and magnesium, to support healthy biological functions.
In each capsule you’ll find:
- 140 mg of sodium
- 70 mg of potassium
- 35 mg of magnesium
- 35 mg of calcium
How to use it: You can take electrolytes in between meals, before your workouts to support performance, or in the morning fasted.
#12. EXOGENOUS KETONES
Your body makes ketones and ramps up production when you’re in ketosis. These energy saviors are what your body will run on when you’re burning mainly fat for energy.
Exogenous ketones help your body transition to a state of ketosis — and stay there — much easier than if you tried to get in keto without them.
They’ve been shown to:
- Support a healthy metabolism
- Increase satiety
- Boost your focus
- Improve your athletic performance
Most exogenous ketone supplements bind the ketones as beta hydroxybutyrate (BHB) to a salt, such as sodium, calcium, magnesium…or potassium.
So if you find the right exogenous ketone supplement, you’ll get an excellent source of potassium as well.
How to use them: Grab a high-quality exogenous ketone base without additives, fillers, carbs or sugar for these recipes:
- Chocolate Sea Salt Peanut Butter Bites
- Perfect Keto Chocolate Mousse
- Perfect Keto Mocha Fat Bombs
- Chocolate Sea Salt Smoothie
- Perfect Keto Frappuccino
Stock your pantry with these 10 potassium rich foods and 2 keto-friendly supplements and you’ll have an easier time hitting your daily potassium intake while staying in ketosis the whole time.
And you don’t have to eat the whole list every day. Start with your favorite, then rotate through the others for best results.
On the other hand, we’d all like to get all our nutrition from whole foods, but if you take an electrolyte supplement or an exogenous ketone base that binds to potassium, you may be able to knock out your daily intake in one sitting. Perfect if you’re pressed for time or traveling!