Potassium

I have been prescribed hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) 12.5 mg per day, a diuretic – to control (reduce) blood pressure, since 2011. It has sideeffects which interfere with digestion and absorbing potassium. It was not effective to counteract edema, which was a side effect of another medication.

I was hospitalized for 2 days in June 2021 as a result of losing control of my bicycle and falling. Someone on the hospital team thought I had a potassium deficiency (this was not suggested to have been a cause of the accident). Someone changed my medications to eliminate the diuretic, and prescibed a potassium supplement, for the days I was in hospital. This 2 day intervention did not affect my blood pressure, as far as I was told.

Potassium is an element. The chemical symbol is K. It is measured in milligrams (1/1000 of a gram, abbreviated as mg.) in nutrition. The US Department of Health, National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, publishes an online Fact sheet for Health Professionals which recommends an adult male person weighing about 80 kg. should consume 3,400 milligrams of potassium per day. The fact sheet, which has been varied 2018-2021, lists some foods high in potassium. The putative source data is found in the US Department of Agriculture’s database, available onlinein 2021 by an application program interface called FoodData Central. The database includes SR (Standard Reference) data, in the USDA “National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Legacy (2018)”. Cross-referencing the list and the data is time-consuming and frustrating. the information in the fact sheet generally aligns to the database.

The fact sheet and the data do not always align on product or serving,. The fact sheet seems confused on how much a consumer will consume as a serving, and does not list the foods high in potassium. I transposed some foods from the fact sheet in a table below, and interpolated some foods not in the fact sheet. Comments on the fact sheet, the list, and the table:

  • A calorie is a unit of heat. Literally, food scientists burned food to see how much energy the food contained;
  • The Calorie on a food package is 1,000 times larger than the calorie used in chemistry and physics. A Calorie is a kilocalorie (kcal,), the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius.(), abbreviated mg.
FoodAmountSizeK (mg)Mass (g)Water (g)CaloriesTotal carbs (g)Starch (g)Sugars (g)lipids
(fat) g.
protein (g)
Dried apricots½ cup11018024.71935042.7
Cooked lentils1 cup73119813823039.817.9
Boiled mature
White beans:
Navy, Great Northern
Cannellini
1 cup100017911324944.9.617.4
Boiled mature
black turtle beans
1 cup80118512224045.1.615.1
Boiled mature Cranberry
(Roman) beans
1 cup68517711424143.316.5
Raisins1/2 cup6188012.42395752
Potato, baked, flesh1medium61015611814533.72.73.1
Cauliflower, raw1 headmedium176058854414729.211.211.3
Eggplant1medium125054850613732.219.35.4
Banana1med. 7
to 7⅞ “
4221208810526.96.314.41.3
1% milk1 cup36624622110612.712.2
Spinach, raw2 cups3346054.813.82.1.21.7
Tomato, raw1medium292
Apple, with skin 1medium195
Cashews1 oz.18728.41.51578.66.71.712.45.2
Brown rice, cooked1 cuplong grain17420214224851.750.1.55.5
Brown rice, cooked1 cupmed. grain15419514221845.84.5
Sources: Fact sheet for Health Professionals and Food Data Central. In Food Data Central, a food may be listed as “Foundation”. “Legacy” or “Survey”.

The mg K number for 1% milk doesn’t align to the USDA data. The fact sheet says 366 mg; the database says 391 mg.

The list states 1 cup of cooked lentils contains 731 mg K. It aligns with lentils cooked by boiling in water, without salt, in the database. This is a very large “serving”. 1 cup of dry lentils braised in 2 cups of water yields what consumers would regard as 4 servings. The USDA does not specifiy which varieties of lentils it has surveyed. US and Canadian farmers have been growing mainly large green and brown lentils. Brown lentils became scarce in grocery stores near me during the Covid-19 pandemic; red lentils (hulled split brown lentils) remained plentiful. French green lentils and black lentils are available some times in some stores.

Dried apricots and raisins, and banana and apples contains sugars, which are metabolized differently than the carbohydrates in vegetables including legumes such as beans and lentils. Sugar metabolizes into body fat if the body does not need the energy within hours of consumption. Some of the foods listed as high in K provide a rationale for eating high sugar fruits and dried fruits.

Spinach is bulky when raw but wilts. Folding a few cups of chopped raw spinach into a hot dish is easy and fast.

I have recipes for Aloo Palak (potato/spinach stir fry), Aloo Gobi (potato/cauliflower stir fry), Aloo Baingain (potato/eggplant stir fry), braised lentils with spinach, and other dry legume dishes. The potato/vegetable recipes, like lentils, will make several serving but are high in potassium. The grocery stores have been able to provide potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, eggplants and several kind of dry lentils and beans in 2020 and 2021.

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