What is potassium?

Potassium is an essential mineral found naturally in many foods. It is present in all body tissues and is needed to maintain normal cell, kidney, and heart function. Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure and makes nerves and muscles function. It has a strong relationship with sodium, and both are responsible for maintaining fluid volume inside and outside of our cells. About 90% of potassium consumed is absorbed primarily in the small intestine. In healthy individuals with sufficient potassium stores, the kidneys increase potassium excretion after potassium consumption in response to changes in dietary intakes.

Why is potassium consumption important?

Dietary surveys show that people in North America consume less potassium than recommended, making it a nutrient of public health concern.

Insufficient potassium intake can increase blood pressure, kidney stone risk, bone turnover, urinary calcium excretion and salt sensitivity.

Although rate in healthy people with normal kidney function, severe potassium deficiency can cause hypokalemia. Hypokalemia is rarely caused by low dietary potassium intake alone, but can result from prolonged diarrhea or vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretic use, heavy sweating, dialysis or using certain medications, which increases potassium loss.

How do I need?

For males age 19 and older, Health Canada recommends 3400 mg/day of dietary potassium.

For females age 19 and older, Health Canada recommends 2600 mg/day of dietary potassium.

Certain groups of people are more likely than others to have trouble getting enough potassium. These include people with inflammatory bowel disease, people using certain medications such as laxatives and diuretics, and people with pica.

What foods are rich in potassium?

  • apples
  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • brown rice
  • figs
  • jackfruit
  • kidney beans
  • kiwi
  • lentils
  • Medjool dates
  • nectarines
  • papaya
  • passion fruit
  • peaches
  • potatoes
  • spinach
  • squash
  • sweet potatoes
  • tomatoes

Is excessive potassium consumption dangerous?

High dietary potassium intakes in healthy people with normal kidney function is not a health risk because the kidneys eliminate excess amounts in the urine. Some case studies have shown that very large doses of potassium supplements can cause heart abnormalities and death. Individuals with chronic kidney disease and those using certain medications can develop abnormally high levels of potassium in their blood.


  1. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. (2020, March 2). Potassium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods-od-nih-gov.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/
  2. Government of Canada. (2006, June 29). Dietary Reference Intakes. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/dietary-reference-intakes/tables/reference-values-elements-dietary-reference-intakes-tables-2005.html
  3. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. (2019, July 11). Potassium Fact Sheet for Consumers. Retrieved from https://ods-od-nih-gov.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/factsheets/Potassium-Consumer/

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