3 surprising foods that are high in potassium



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


24 February 2020

Which foods are high in potassium?

In my blog, "4 health benefits of potassium", I discuss why potassium is an essential part of the diet, and the many roles which it has within the body. There are many foods which are rich in potassium; however, some sources are more well-known than others. Some foods which you may be unaware are rich in potassium include:

  1. Pomegranate
  2. Beetroot
  3. Cannellini beans.

Read on to find out more about these foods, and how they can be beneficial to health.

1. Pomegranate

Pomegranates are an excellent source of potassium. One fruit can contain as much as 666mg of potassium! This is about 19% of the recommended daily intake (RDI), which is 3500mg.

As well as being rich in potassium, pomegranates are also packed full of vitamins such as vitamin C, K and some B vitamins. In addition to vitamin C, pomegranates contain other potent antioxidants called punicalagins. These are found in the peel of a pomegranate and in the juice from the seeds. Being antioxidants, punicalagins have anti-inflammatory properties in countering any tendency to inflammation in the body.

Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for many serious diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity. As pomegranates are rich in punicalagins, including them in the diet has been linked to a potential decrease in inflammation in the body, and a reduction in the risk of the diseases listed above.

In one study, people with type-2 diabetes were given 250ml of pomegranate juice per day and their levels of inflammatory markers were monitored. The researchers found that pomegranate juice lowered the participants' levels of inflammatory markers by around 30%.1

In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, pomegranates contain a useful amount of fibre, at around 11g per fruit. This is very beneficial for bowel health, and can also make you feel fuller for longer, which can be helpful for weight management.

If you're looking for an easy way to include pomegranate in your diet, our homemade Pomegranate Perfection juice combines the flavours of pomegranate and mint for a refreshingly good taste, packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

2. Beetroot

Beetroot is another food which you may be unaware is rich in potassium. One cup (or around 170g) of beetroot can provide 518mg of potassium, which is just over 14% of the RDI.
In addition, beetroot is a good source of many other essential nutrients such as folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. On top of all this, the greens of beetroot are highly nutritious! They provide a rich source of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C, and can be cooked and added to meals much the same as other leafy greens such as spinach.

Similar to pomegranates, beetroots are a great source of antioxidants. In fact, beetroot has been ranked one of the 10 most potent antioxidant-rich vegetables.2 Antioxidant-rich foods can reduce damage to the body caused by harmful molecules called free radicals and, as previously discussed, this lowers the risk of many diseases.

As well as this, beetroot juice is thought to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. Studies have looked at the potential of beetroot in lowering blood pressure, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.3 It is thought to be the nitrate content of beetroot that supports blood vessel function and overall heart health.4 However, more research is required to understand this connection in more detail, and the role that nitrates play.


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3. Cannellini beans

Cannellini beans (a type of legume) are another rich source of potassium, which contributes to the body's ability to keep the heart pumping and maintain fluid balance.

In addition to this, they are a good source of protein, fibre and iron, as well as providing some calcium, vitamin K and folate.

In research, the consumption of cannellini beans and other legumes has been associated with lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels. In one study, participants with type-2 diabetes were given a low-glycaemic diet (a diet which includes low glycaemic index foods to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels) featuring legumes, and their blood sugar levels and blood pressure were monitored. Results showed that the diet rich in legumes lowered blood sugar levels and blood pressure; plus, the overall risk of cardiovascular disease was reduced in participants.5

Cannellini beans and other legumes are also excellent sources of polyphenols. Polyphenols are micronutrients with antioxidant properties, which help to repair and protect cells in the body, thereby lowering the risk of certain infections and diseases.

Cannellini beans can be a great addition to many different diets. As they are plants, vegan, gluten-free (depending on preparation), and low in fat, whilst offering a source of protein and fibre, they are not restricted to just one diet type.

If you are interested in incorporating cannellini beans into your diet, be sure to check the nutrition label for salt content. Canned cannellini beans are often processed with high amounts of salt. However, canned options can often be handy, especially if you lead a busy lifestyle! So, if you do opt for these, check for the salt-free versions that are available, or rinse the beans well in water before eating. You also have the option of buying dried beans and preparing and cooking these yourself.

What you said!

We recently ran a poll to find out which potassium-rich food surprises you most. We've crunched the numbers and here are the results.

Results: Which potassium-rich food surprises you most?

39.3% of you found cannellini beans to be the most surprising potassium-rich food. Cannellini beans are not only a rich source of potassium, they are also a good source of protein, fibre and iron, as well as providing some calcium, vitamin K and folate; making them a great addition to the diet!

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24949028 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28620796 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27796863 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425174/ 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1384247 

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