In this video, I give you three different ways to get enough potassium. The first focuses on eating a lots of fruits and vegetables. The second focuses on a diet low in fat, moderate in grains, and devoid of refined foods. The third focuses on selecting vegetables with the highest amount of potassium per net carb for use in high-fat, low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diets.
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Here are three ways to get enough potassium in your diet.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com, and this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we’re going to talk about three ways to get enough potassium.
In Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet, I outlined three different dietary approaches that are shown on the screen.
The first is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The second is a diet that’s low in fat, moderate in grains, and free of refined carbohydrates. The third is a diet for the context of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet where you choose specific vegetables to emphasize that have a high ratio of potassium to net carbs. Net carbs is total carbohydrate minus fiber, which is the way you typically count carbs on a low-carbohydrate diet.
Each of these approaches consists of general rules of thumb. The only way to know you’re getting enough potassium is to track your diet for at least a few days that are representative of what you usually eat and to look at the potassium content that’s coming up. I’ll talk more about how to do that in the next episode.
In this episode we’re going to focus on the simple rules of thumb. So, the first approach is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. This is in many ways the optimal approach because in this case, you’re eating fruits and vegetables that provide a lot of potassium with very few calories, and that gives you a lot of freedom of what to do with the rest of your diet.
If you aim to hit the official recommendations of five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you are very likely to get enough potassium. In that case, generically speaking, a serving is 100 grams or about 3 1/2 ounces, or you can look up what is considered a a serving for individual foods.
The second approach is a diet that’s low in fat, moderate in grains, and free of refined carbohydrates. In this case we’re assuming that you’re not able to hit the five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables target in the first approach, and that means that you have less freedom of what to do with the rest of your diet.
Let’s talk about these principles in order. So first, why low in fat? Because fat doesn’t contain any potassium. If you look at something like butter, there’s only 10 milligrams of potassium for every 300 calories. That’s negligible. If you look at whole foods, in milk or in eggs, the potassium is mainly in the water-soluble portion. If you take equal caloric loads of skim milk and full-fat milk, the skim milk is going to give you twice as much potassium as the full-fat milk, simply because by removing the fat, you’re eating more of the potassium-rich fraction.
Although I usually recommend eating whole eggs, nevertheless, if you’re looking at potassium, 300 calories of egg whites gives you over a gram of potassium. The same amount of calories from whole eggs gives you less than 300 milligrams. That’s less than a third, when the same amount of calories from egg yolks gives you only about 100 milligrams, which is less than a tenth of what
get in egg whites.
Now, the second principle is moderate in grains. The reason I say moderate in grains is because when you compare whole grains, which do have some potassium, to other starchy foods, like legumes, such as lentils, peas, and beans, or starchy tubers, such as potatoes, you’re getting a lot more potassium from the legumes and starchy tubers than you’re getting from the whole grains. So if you rely more on starchy tubers and legumes and less on whole grains, you’ll get more potassium.
The third principle is free of refined carbohydrate. That’s because when you refine carbohydrates, you get rid of the potassium. So white bread, for example, has very little potassium compared to whole-wheat bread. If you just get rid of the refined carbohydrates, then that in and of itself helps you eat more potassium-rich foods that those refined carbohydrates that you would have eaten would have displaced.
Now, you have some freedom to choose between the emphasis you put on these principles. For example, if you eat more legumes and starchy tubers, you don’t need to be as rigorous about restricting the fat in your diet. But if you aren’t able to eat fruits and vegetables, and you aren’t able to eat legumes and starchy tubers, then you may need to be very rigorous about restricting the fat in your diet in order to get enough potassium.
In the case where you are eating egg whites, I recommend taking a biotin supplement because egg whites on their own can induce a biotin deficiency. The third approach is for diets that are basically in some ways the opposite of the second. So in low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets, you have a lot of fat that’s not giving you hardly any potassium. So you need to be very selective about the other portions of your diet to get enough.
What I did in the Cheat Sheet was I took out the foods from nutritiondata.com that had the highest potassium intake relative to net carbs, and I listed them out in declining order from highest potassium to lowest: watercress, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, bamboo shoots, arugula, red leaf lettuce, celery, white mushrooms, green leaf lettuce, zucchini, Chinese cabbage, asparagus, common cabbage, iceberg lettuce, and tomatoes.
Now, watercress at 431 milligrams has a lot more than tomatoes at 66. So choosing within these foods can give you a lot of freedom of—can give you a lot of different ways to get your potassium in that may require more or less volume of food.
But if you’re trying to eat a diversity of these foods, clearly you have to eat a lot of them. So what I wrote in the Cheat Sheet was if you were to eat 100 grams of each of these vegetables every day, you’d get just under 5 grams of potassium and less than 32 grams of net carbs. So you’re looking really good in terms of net carbs and potassium, but you’re eating a lot of these foods.
I went on to say that the lean portion of the protein that you’re eating would bring the total potassium up to somewhere between 5.6 and 6.9 grams of potassium, and that leaves you a lot of freedom to have the rest of your diet be fat and still get the potassium you need.
Now, I picked these out of nutritiondata.com. I recommend that you, if you’re going to follow this approach, you should look at nutritiondata.com to develop your own list because there might be differences in what’s available to you or what you like. And so briefly, I’ll show you how I made the list.
On nutritiondata.com you go to “Tools” and then “Nutrient Search Tool.” You choose “Foods that are highest in,” and you start typing out potassium, and when you see it come in the menu, you select it. Choose “Foods that are lowest in,” and you don’t even need to start typing because the second item in the list is total carbohydrate. They don’t give you the option for net carbs, so that’s a disadvantage because it’s somewhat labor-intensive to go into each food and figure out the net carbs, but that’s what you have to do if net carbs is what you’re after.
You can then choose the type of serving that you want. I would leave it at 100-gram serving for myself, but you can choose. And then you just go through the list. Again, this is not showing you net carbs, so you’ll have to go in to each item and figure out the net carbs if that’s what you want. You simply take the total carbohydrate and subtract the fiber.
So, this was a few rules of thumb for a few different dietary approaches.
In the next episode, we’ll talk about how to track potassium.