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Diabetes Diet

The Best Sources of Potassium

You always knew that you should be eating more fresh veggies and fruit. But after reading this now, you will know why you need to and where you can get the potassium you need in your diet.

A study that the American Society of Nephrology published online November 12 in advance of print in its Clinical Journal, discovered that when we get more potassium in our diet, we have fewer kidney and heart problems. While only the abstract is free online, the lead author, Shin-ichi Araki, M.D., Ph.D., from the Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan, kindly sent me the full-text of the study.

It found that among more than 600 people with type 2 diabetes that they followed for an average of 11 years the more potassium they pee (technically “urinary potassium excretion”) the fewer of these problems they had. What goes in must come out.

Now, the Dr. Araki and his colleagues recommend interventional trials to see if increasing our the amount of potassium we get in our diet will help us. We don’t need to wait years for these studies to be set up, analyzed, and reported. We can increase the amount of potassium we get from our food now.

Diet, Not Supplement

But taking a potassium supplement as a shortcut is likely to be quite a bad idea. Taking any supplement is questionable, but for good reasons U.S. law limits how much over-the-counter potassium supplement can have. They must have less than 100 mg per capsule because taking more can increase the risk of toxicity and can drive our fluid balance out of whack.

Look to these foods instead to take in more potassium:

Foods highest in Potassium (based on levels per 100-gram serving) in Vegetables and Vegetable Products

The top 10 are:

  • Beet greens
  • Potatoes
  • Pinto beans
  • Green soybeans
  • Cress
  • Lima beans
  • Spinach
  • Parsley
  • Swiss chard
  • Portabella mushrooms

Foods highest in Potassium (based on levels per 100-gram serving)
in Fruits and Fruit Juices

The top 10 are:

  • Raisins
  • Japanese persimmons (aka Fuyu persimmons)
  • Seedless raisins
  • Golden seedless raisins
  • Prunes
  • Medjool dates
  • Orange juice
  • Deglet noor dates
  • Avocados
  • Grapefruit juice

These High-Potassium Foods Are Low-Carb

Foods highest in Potassium, and lowest in Total Carbohydrate (based on levels per 100-gram serving) in Vegetables and Vegetable Products

Of the commonly available fresh vegetables the top 10 are:

  • Watercress
  • Pak-choi (aka bok choi)
  • Mustard greens
  • Sprouted alfalfa seeds
  • Cucumber
  • Butterhead lettuce (including Boston and Bibb)
  • Napa cabbage
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Spirulina

Foods highest in Potassium, and lowest in Total Carbohydrate (based on levels per 100-gram serving) in Fruits and Fruit Juices

Of the fresh fruit, none match the potassium benefits of these vegetables.

Since I follow a very low-carb diet, the key foods that I will eat more of will be those salad greens listed above. For example, I really like watercress, but was put off by its high price. I also really like cucumber, but had assumed that it wouldn’t help. I am determined to increase the amount of potassium in my food.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Carl at

    Chris, the elevated levels of potassium you have (hyperkalemia) can be a result of kidney disease or a side effect of certain medications.

    You mention that you’ve had IDDM for 40 years and suffer from neuropathy. Nephropathy (kidney disease) often accompanies neuropathy. Ask your doctor if your kidney function is impaired or if you are on any medications that can cause hyperkalemia.

  • Margaret T. at

    I have been diagnosed w Diabetes Type II for about 10 years now and have recently had to stop taking insulin due to the costs.

    I’ve been trying to make a few changes to my diet to make up for this and have been using vinegar and cinnamon quite successfully. My sugar levels have gone down slightly just through the change in diet, although they are still not where I want them to be.

    Can you recommend any other dietary changes I could make along these lines.


    • David Mendosa at

      Absolutely, Margaret. Please read some of my many articles here about the advantages of a very low-carb diet. Just about anyone who is willing to try it can manage her or his type 2 diabetes very well with it.

  • Tim at

    I had always assumed cucumbers were ‘worthless’, but never thought about the potassium potential. Obviously it’s not a huge amount (2% at nutritiondata.com), but now I know why I’m adding them to my salads (hydration, low/no glycemic, and now potassium). Thanks!

    • David Mendosa at

      Likewise, I had also made the same assumption, Tim!

  • chris james at

    Thanks David, I’ll check that site out.

  • chris james at

    Hi David

    Great newsletter as usual. And thanks for all the info and tips you right about it’s always interesting.

    I’m an insulin dependant had it for 40yrs now and I’m 55. Got the neuropathy issues in feet and hands but without the pain. It’s more noticeable when I got to bed and relax. Things just don’t feel right, like I cannot have the sheets resting on my feet or legs as the sensation is rather stressful and I think the brain can’t identify what is touching you.

    However, I was writing regarding the potassium levels. I recently had some blood done and was informed that I had elevated levels of potassium and was told to cut down on bananas. I said I don’t eat many bananas but I do drink a lot of coconut water. Coconut water has high levels of potassium I believe, so I’ve cut it out altogether for a while until the levels drop off. I mainly drank it, because it is very hydrating more hydrating than water.

    Not sure what your thoughts maybe on this David or Dr Carl?

    Many thanks, keep the newsletter coming David.
    Cheers, Chris
    London UK

    • David Mendosa at

      Your potassium level can be too high, as your doctor says Chris. It is of course more than just bananas, and I show some of the biggest sources. If I were in your shoes, I would check out the other sources that you can find at nutritiondata.com

  • Carl at

    David, I’m fairly new to your excellent blog but wanted to insert a word of caution to your readers. As a physician, I agree a healthy intake of potassium is good but I would caution that too much can be very dangerous in someone with kidney disease, which can complicate diabetes.

    In fact, there are some vegetables that are so high in potassium that they should be avoided in those with kidney troubles–artichokes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, okra and even tomatoes.

    Readers with kidney troubles should check with their doctor and can just search for “renal diet” to learn more about foods with potassium, sodium, phosphorus–minerals one has to worry about with kidney disease.

    Looking forward to next next great posting.

    • David Mendosa at

      Thank you, Dr. Carl! You make an important point.