Potassium

I had been taking prescribed hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) 12.5 mg per day, a diuretic – to control (reduce) blood pressure, since 2011. It was not effective to counteract edema, which was a side effect of another medication. It has side effects that interfere with digestion and absorbing potassium. 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. It is an electrolyte, and can also be called a mineral or a nutrient. The US Department of Health, National Institute of Health (NIH), 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)”;
  • Branded data about foods presented as branded commodities “generated by industry through a public-private partnership” with LabelInsight, a data firm.

The data is not easy to search. A food source may be spelled differently than expected – moong beans may be moong or mung (the latter is a more popular version of spelling in on product packages in the USA). Many dry beans are listed both raw and cooked (boiled), but not all.

The information in the NIH fact sheet generally aligns to the database, but do not always align on product or serving,. The fact sheet seems confused on how much a consumer will consume as a serving. The NIH fact sheet does not list all the foods high in potassium. I transposed some foods from the fact sheet in a table below, and interpolated some foods – mainly legumesnot 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
red kidney beans
1 cup71317711822540.4.615.1
Boiled mature Cranberry
(Roman) beans
1 cup68517711424143.316.5
Wheat bran1 cup684585.712537.4.29.1
Boiled mature chickpeas:
Garbanzo, Bengal gram
1 cup47716498.726944.97.914.5
Boiled mung beans1 cup457185
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% milk*1 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. The fact sheet says 366 mg; the database says 391 mg.

The NIH fact sheet 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 large “serving”. 1 cup of dry lentils braised in 2 cups of water yields what consumers would regard as 4 servings. The USDA data search returns on specific lentils and legumes in the branded product data are incomplete. Some show raw red lentils as containing significant potassium. US and Canadian farmers have been growing mainly large green and brown lentils. Red lentils are split, hulled, brown lentils. But hulled whole brown lentils are red or pink in appearance and marketed by farmers and distributors as red 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, dal (split hulled moong beans) with spinach and other dishes. The potato/vegetable recipes, like lentils, will make several servings 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.

A cup of wheat bran has 684 mg. of K. I have recipes for a dozen bran muffins made with 1.5 cups of bran and a half cup of raisins has 1642 mg. of K. 1 muffin has 137 mg. of K.

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