It’s not uncommon for athletes to carry bananas in their gym bags for unexpected muscle cramps, or for a worried mother to give one to her child when they’ve been throwing up from the flu. The reason for this yellow fruit’s popularity in these cases is due to one important electrolyte: potassium.
While bananas actually don’t have as much potassium as many other foods, their ease of transport and lack of preparation needed (not to mention their general tastiness) has all but made them the poster child for this powerful mineral over the years. Furthermore, we know that it is very important to get potassium on the keto diet.
But why is potassium so important? And, if you can’t get your fill from fruit, which is generally a no-no on the keto diet, where can you get your supply?
Before we get into specifics, let’s brush up on some foundational information.
Why is Potassium Important?
Potassium in one of the 6 essential electrolytes, the other 5 being sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, calcium, and phosphate. All of these are vital to our nervous system, and they work together to keep us trucking along without falling ill or exhausting ourselves.
Potassium itself plays a hand in the healthy functioning of literally every cell in the body. From protein synthesis, assisting nerve pathways so they can operate at their optimal level, controlling fluid retention, to regulating heartbeat and more, it’s super important for us to make sure we’re getting enough of this particular electrolyte.
Apricot, prunes, and orange juice, along with bananas have beneficial levels of potassium, as do squash and potatoes. Unfortunately, if you’re following the keto diet you can’t exactly eat enough of these particular fruits and vegetables to stay in ketosis and get the optimum levels of potassium in your body. Potassium supplements are always an option, but for many they are not tolerated well and can lead to nausea and/or vomiting. There is also the danger of taking too much which, could lead to a dangerous, and in extreme cases, potentially deadly imbalance.
What is the Point of the Keto Diet?
For those of you just starting out on the keto path, or those that are just curious (or confused) as to what all the fuss is about, let’s briefly review what the keto diet is.
The standard keto diet involves radically reducing your carbohydrate intake and focussing on a moderate intake of healthy fats and proteins. When done correctly, the body will react by going into a metabolic state called “ketosis”.
When operating in ketosis, your body will burn fat for fuel instead of glucose making it an ideal diet for those looking to lose weight. Ketosis has also been observed by scientists to greatly impact the quality of life for some living with Alzheimer’s disease by increasing brain function, as well as notably diminishing the amount of seizures reported by some epileptic patients following the diet.
Research into the effects of ketosis is consistently under way, but so far, the benefits are looking pretty darn good (to say the least).
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How to Eat for Optimal Health on Keto (and Get Enough Potassium)
When carrying out the keto diet the main focus should be the nutritional density of your food. It’s easy in theory to up your fat intake, but what else are you getting out of that stick of butter that you’re pouring over your steamed vegetables?
Luckily, many healthy high fat foods have abundant nutritional profiles for when you’re trying to make sure you’re getting enough potassium, and electrolytes in general. For example:
High in heart-healthy, monosaturated fats & various vitamins and minerals, avocados are a perfect keto food. They have even been shown to improve the absorption of certain nutrients like A, D, K, and E.
One medium avocado has almost 20 percent of your DRI for potassium.
- Dark Leafy Greens
Along with being high in iron, folate, vitamin C, and a myriad of other vitamins and minerals, dark leafy greens are a fantastic way to get a low-calorie, low-carb & nutrition-packed punch.
1 cup of cooked beet greens contains roughly 28% of the recommended daily value for potassium , and 1 cup of swiss chard comes in a close second at 20%. 1 cup of cooked spinach contains around 12% (but you get the picture).
While the fat content of most seafood varies over a wide range, it’s usually safe to assume the fish you’re eating is low in carbs, high in protein, and carrying important trace minerals like zinc and selenium making seafood a smart addition to the keto diet.
Clams are the winner when it comes to potassium levels, with approximately 20 small clams supplying 25% of the DRI. Wild Atlantic salmon has around 23% for a 6 oz fillet, and yellowfin tuna compares at roughly 19% for the same size serving. s
Not to be left out, beans are a plentiful source of potassium as well, and are often touted as nutritional powerhouses due to their mineral make-up. Because beans tend to be quite high in carbohydrates however, they aren’t necessarily suitable for a keto diet. If you do choose to include beans in your meal plan, make sure to adjust your serving size appropriately.
Nuts and legumes are also encouraged on the keto diet, being high in good fats & protein and boasting a large array of minerals. Most nuts contain moderate to low levels of potassium so, while they can help you hit your daily quota, they should be eaten in tandem with the more potassium dense foods on the list above.
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