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Potassium is one of those nutrients that is pretty crucial to try and obtain on a plant based diet. For starters, potassium (shortened as K+) is an electrolyte that is necessary for the proper regulation of fluids in our cells via those sodium potassium pumps you may or may not remember from biology class.
Potassium is necessary for a whole slew of cellular functions, including allowing muscles to contract (and your heart is very much a muscle!), regulating heartbeat rhythms and nerve impulses and balancing fluid levels throughout the body. It’s also an important mineral to consume if you tend to overdo it on the salt.
Potassium also can be incredibly useful for those on a ketogenic diet.
Why is Potassium Important on a Ketogenic Diet?
While in ketosis, your body holds onto less water (as there is no glucose to store in your muscles), and so electrolytes like sodium and potassium are more easily flushed out of the body. Sodium is easy to obtain, and for those of us who salt our food and eat anything processed, we definitely hit the target. But other minerals, like potassium, are a slightly different story on a low carb diet.
Additionally, increased potassium intake on a ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce the incidence of kidney stones, which can be a rare side effect of keto.
While there is potassium in plenty of foods, many of the top sources just happen to be pretty carb-heavy.
How Much Potassium Should I Try to Get Every Day
Because it’s rare for an individual to have a potassium deficiency in the developed world (even potato chips have potassium), there isn’t really an RDA. However, the Mayo Clinic suggests that consuming between 1600-2000mg should be sufficient for most people. I
The Australian Ministry of Health has a slightly higher range for adults, as noted in the following table. Because it’s a quite important nutrient, we will be aiming for the 2,800-3,800 mg recommendation outlined here.
Recommended Intake of Potassium for Adults (AUS)
WebMD presents an even more aggressive recommendation for potassium intake at 4,700mg for adults. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have even higher nutrient demands.
What Are The Best Low Carb Vegan Sources of Potassium
Like I mentioned before, there are plenty of high-card sources of potassium, namely potatoes. Meat is also a common source of potassium for people on a standard western diet. So, the average person who happens to eat a relatively starchy diet with meat at every meal is likely consuming a solid amount of potassium without even trying. However, for those of us who are remaining plant based and low carb, things can be slightly trickier.
Fortunately, potassium is basically in every plant food, so you’ll definitely end up consuming some throughout your day, but when you’re on a ketogenic diet and trying to make sure you’re eating plenty of electrolytes, it’s good to keep the following list of foods in mind.
All of these numbers were obtained by doing a search of the USDA nutrient database. The full report is here.
|Sun dried tomatoes||100g||3427|
|Soybeans, mature seeds, roasted, no salt added||100g||1470|
|Hemp seeds, hulled||100g||1200|
|Beet greens, cooked||100g||909|
|Sesame butter (tahini)||100g||582|
|Dessicated coconut (unsweetened)||100g||543|
|Soybeans (green, boiled)||100g||539|
One thing to note in particular is that the above foods are all whole foods, or at least foods you can make on your own (like the chickpea flour). I specifically chose these foods for that reason. There are certain other foods that are crazy high in potassium, like processed soy protein, but I purposefully left those off the list in favor of less processed foods with a better overall nutritional profile.
Now, you’re probably thinking that you aren’t likely to actually eat 100g of most of those foods, and you’d be totally right. However, you can definitely consume sufficient amounts of potassium-rich foods on a low carb plant based diet with just a tiny bit of planning.
Putting it All Together: Reaching the recommended intake for potassium on a low carb vegan diet
- Avocado: The average avocado weighs 200g: 1014mg
- Spinach salad with 100g of spinach and an ounce of hemp seeds on top: 894mg
- 2 ounces of almonds as a snack: 399mg
- 1 cup of kale and 2 tbsp flaxseeds in a smoothie: 492mg
- 1 cup of sauteed spinach with 2 tbsp of tahini at dinner: 1014mg
- 2 ounces of toasted soybeans as a snack: 883mg
The above totaled up equals 4696mg, so you’re at the RDA without too much craziness. Keep in mind that there is potassium in other foods you are eating as well, so it’s not too hard to obtain with just a little effort. If none of the foods on the above list look appealing to you, it might be worth checking out the USDA database list.
When planning out your meals, it’s obviously better to add foods that are closer to the top of the list, like hemp seeds and beet greens. Sun dried tomatoes are an awesome source of potassium, but they are also super high in salt and relatively high in carbs. Despite this, adding 2 tbsp of chopped sun dried tomatoes to the top of your salad will net you 343mg of potassium, which is pretty impressive!
Overall, be sure to eat a variety of these foods and you shouldn’t struggle to get enough potassium.