As WebMd says, "Potassium is a key player in good health, but you may not be getting enough from food." The Recommended Daily Intake is 3,500 milligrams. Some websites recommend 4,700mg for optimal health in reducing high blood pressure. Most people don't eat enough fruits and vegetables to meet this requirement. A deficiency in potassium causes fatigue, irritability, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. One of the reasons that people with anorexia die is because of total lack of potassium in their system; they'll suffer from a fatal heart attack or organ failure.
Potassium has been a big part of my life, along with magnesium, in reducing the number of cardiac arrhythmias I have. Ever since I was 16, I've had episodes of tachycardia, or, fast heartbeat, that is at least over 100 beats per minute (more like 200 bpm, sometimes!). NO DOCTOR or cardiologist has told me about maintaining proper electrolyte levels, I've discovered it on my own through the years.
About.com says, "Potassium is necessary for balancing the pH of your body and for keeping fluids in balance as well, so it's important for normal blood pressure regulation. Potassium is also needed for muscle growth, and for nervous system and brain function." Getting enough potassium in your diet can lower your blood pressure, if you have high blood pressure. It balances out your potassium to sodium ratio, and as you know, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure.
A few years ago, I was given an Rx for 1,000mg a day of Naproxen for my neck and upper back. I started to retain water. My gynocologist at the time noticed a pattern of high blood pressure (I usually have normal blood pressure). She prescribed me a diuretic. My arrhythmia came on strong...I was having 6 episodes in a month, when usually I've got it down to 0-6 a year! The diuretic was excreting all my potassium and magnesium reserves! I stopped taking the diuretic, and eventually got off of Naproxen 100%! By keeping track of my daily potassium and magnesium intake, I haven't had an arrhythmic attack in a while.
Here's a sample meal plan of my daily postassium intake (my numbers are approximate). It gives you an idea of what foods you need to look out for and how much you need with each meal:
Almond milk/blueberries/whey protein smoothie: 400mg
Coconut water: 500mg
1/2 avocado: 500mg
Raw kale: 300mg
1/2 banana and apple: 400mg
1/2 cup baked beans (white beans and molasses have tons of potassium): 700mg
Baked sweet potato with skin, medium: 700mg
5 oz salmon: 500mg
1/2 cup cooked spinach: 400mg
1 cup carrot: 300mg
My sample plan daily intake = 4,700mg
Of course, each day I have different high-potassium foods, like tomatoes, tomato soup, lentils, potatoes, nuts, etc. I calculate each food, as I go through my day, the amount of potassium and magnesium I am getting, so that by the end of the day, I am never below 3,500mg for potassium (I'll write a magnesium blog next, when I have the time!).
Below you'll find links to a bunch of sites that show the milligrams of potassium-rich foods. Aim for 3,500 to 4,500 through foods. Also read the website regarding side effects, because certain medical conditions can create problems if you eat too many potassium-rich foods. That is why a visit to the doctor would be beneficial. They can test for potassium levels, especially during yearly physical exams.
I do not recommend taking potassium supplements. A supplement usually just has 99mg--very little. A doctor may suggest/presribe high-dose potassium supplements if they have prescribed you a diuretic. The gynocologist that gave me the diuretic prescription did not ask about my history, nor recommend potassium supplements. I learned the hard way by experiencing my scary tachycardia episodes! And they are scary!
QUICK LINKS TO MORE INFO ON POTASSIUM:
WebMd (also talks about the DASH diet for people with high blood pressure: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/potassium-sources-and-benefits
MedlinePlus (includes SIDE EFFECTS of too much or too little potassium, plus those taking meds or have medical conditions that are effected by too much or too little potassium): http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002413.htm
Food lists high in potassium:
Top 10 foods highest in potassium: http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/food-sources-of-potassium.php
10 High potassium foods: http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/vitamins-minerals/10-high-potassium-foods.html
Potassium content of foods: http://www.drugs.com/cg/potassium-content-of-foods-list.html
P.S. In my sample plan, the coconut water, kale, avocado, apple and banana are blended into an alkalizing shake inspired by Paula Abdul!