Potassium

How much do you need daily?

Adults need 3500 milligrams of potassium per day. You should be able to get all the potassium you need from your daily diet.

Are we getting enough?

The 2016 National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that a one in three teenage girls and one in four adult women, are failing to meet targets for potassium. This situation for males is not much better with 15 per cent of teenage boys and one in ten adult men falling short.

The 2016 European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Oxford (EPIC) study found no significant differences in potassium intakes between meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans.

Why do we need it?

Potassium plays a key role in balancing fluids in the body, nerve signal transmission, heart muscle contractions and in kidney health. A diet rich in potassium helps maintain healthy blood pressure, kidney function and helps prevent kidney stones by neutralising acid.

There’s no need to take potassium supplements but if you do, taking up to 3,700 milligrams per day is unlikely to cause any harm. However, high doses can cause diarrhoea, nausea and stomach pain. Older people may be more sensitive to high doses of potassium due to reduced kidney function and shouldn't take potassium supplements unless advised to by a doctor.

Do I need a supplement?

No, a healthy vegan diet containing the above foods on a daily basis will cover your needs.

The best plant sources

The best plant sources of potassium include pulses (kidney beans, soya beans, adzuki beans, lentils, tempeh – fermented soya beans and edamame), potatoes (old, new and sweet potatoes), dried fruit (apricots and figs), squash (acorn and butternut), avocado, spinach, broccoli and bananas.

Although whole grains are wonderful foods, remember to also include plenty of pulses (peas, beans and lentils) and starchy veg (potatoes and sweet potatoes) which are good sources of potassium.

Signs of deficiency

weakness, tiredness, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, tingling or numbness, constipation, irregular heartbeat, feeling thirsty all the time and passing large amounts of urine and depression.