Like sodium, potassium helps to regulate the body's water balance, transmit nerve impulses, and trigger muscle contractions. Unlike sodium, however, it is not implicated in hypertension—in fact, it appears to reduce blood pressure.
Potassium is not overabundant in our diet. The average American consumes about 2500 milligrams per day—far below the Food and Nutrition Board's (FNB's) official Adequate Intake of 4700 milligrams (5100 for women who are lactating). To reach that level, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables—especially bananas, potatoes, and oranges. Other good sources are milk products, peanut butter, and nuts.
Potassium, like sodium, can be toxic if taken in large amounts. Symptoms include irregular heartbeat and muscle paralysis.
Your Daily Allowance
Diet Power sets your Personal Daily Allowance (PDA) of potassium at the official Adequate Intake of 4700 milligrams, increased to 5100 milligrams if you're lactating.
The FNB has not established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for potassium, but see the note about toxicity, above.
Revising Your Allowance
If your doctor recommends it, you can revise your PDA. See Personal Daily Allowances, Editing Your.
Color Coding of This Nutrient
The potassium bar in your personal Nutrient History is:
blue for "good" if you've logged 100 to 150
percent of your PDA
red for "bad" if you've logged less than 100
percent of your PDA
yellow for "caution" if you've logged more
than 150 percent of your PDA
missing if you've logged no potassium
In the nutrient profile of a food or recipe, the potassium bar is:
green for "good" if getting your entire PDA
of calories from this item would give you more than 150 percent of your
PDA of potassium
magenta for "bad" if getting all your calories
from the item would give you less than 50 percent of your PDA of potassium
blue for "neutral" otherwise
missing if the amount of potassium is either zero or (when the word Potassium is grayed out) unknown
How Complete Are Diet Power's Potassium Readings?
For the 8500 generic items in the Food Dictionary: very complete. Only 1 percent list their potassium content as "unknown."
For the 2500 chain-restaurant items: very incomplete. About 96 percent list potassium as "unknown."
For all 11,000 items combined: not terribly complete. About 22 percent list potassium as "unknown."
These figures mean that if you frequently log chain-restaurant foods (or user-added foods with missing potassium readings), your Nutrient History may under-report your intake of potassium by a few points.
To see whether a particular food has a potassium reading, open the Food Dictionary and check the food's nutrient profile. If you find a question mark beside "Potassium," it means the amount is unknown. (To see all foods with unknown potassium readings, click the dictionary's PowerFoods tab and sort the foods by potassium power; then scroll toward the bottom of the list until you see foods with question marks in the "Power Rating" column.)
Potassium on Food Labels
Food labels are not required to report potassium levels, but many do. They may cite the amount in milligrams or as a percentage of Daily Value.
The Daily Value for potassium is 3500 milligrams. (Why so much lower than the Adequate Intake? Because Daily Values are still based on the RDAs of 1968, when the government thought people needed less of that nutrient.) Daily Values aren't necessarily right for you, however—they are rough estimates meant to cover most of the U.S. population.
For more on label regulations, see Labels, Food.
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Last Modified: 7/25/07