High Potassium Foods That Keep Your Muscles Healthy and Strong
By Tiffany Gagnon
You don’t need to be a fitness pro to know that electrolytes are essential to athletic performance. Gatorade commercials taught us that. But there are far better ways to get them than from a bottle of corn-syrupy fruit punch. Like from foods high in potassium.
“Electrolytes”—such as potassium—“play a key role in hydration in our muscles and tissues, which helps with muscle contraction and relaxation, and is also crucial for muscle health and recovery,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.
Keep your muscles healthy and strong by adding these weight loss foods that are packed with potassium to your diet now. Next time you win the big game, you’ll be pouring lentils over the coach’s head.
Serving: 3 1/2 oz, 100 calories, 70% DV potassium
More than a centerpiece on the Thanksgiving table, these potassium-rich gourds—which include acorn squash, butternut squash and spaghetti squash—should be eaten all year long. They’ve got a low-calorie, high-fiber combo and are easily baked or turned into “pasta.” Also, the bright orange color of the flesh signals that it’s full of carotenoids, nutrients that help fight against heart disease and also promote better vision. Winter is coming—to make you healthier.
Serving: 1 cup, 235 calories, 25% DV potassium
As reigning king of the fats that help fight fat, avocado is a rich source of potassium, in addition to healthy monounsaturated and oleic fatty acids, which may actually help spot-reduce belly fat. What’s more, the fiber-rich guac-and-roller also boosts the healthful properties of other fresh veggies when paired together. Research shows that by adding healthy fats like avocado to produce-rich dishes like salad, you can boost your body’s absorption of the nutrients available.
Serving: 1 cup, 243 calories, 23% DV potassium
Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart—and also your skinny jeans. Legumes like pinto beans are an inexpensive, virtually fat-free source of potassium, protein and gut-filling fiber. One half-cup of beans provides your body with about seven grams of easy-to-assimilate protein—equal to the amount in about one ounce of chicken. The protein content combined with the high dosage of fiber will help slow digestion and work to stabilize blood sugar. As a result, pinto beans can help prevent unhealthy cravings and encourage regular, healthy bowel movements, which will translate into a slimmer, healthier you.
Serving: 1 cup, 230 calories, 21% DV potassium
Tiny, but mighty, these little legumes offer very similar benefits to beans. Thanks to the potassium content, lentils can help prevent your muscles from cramping up. They work even more to support muscle growth and development as a solid source of plant-based protein, which helps with muscle recovery after tough workouts. Also, if you tend to be a bit impatient in the kitchen, know that lentils cook more quickly than beans, making them a more convenient choice for those nights when you just don’t have the time.
Serving: 1 cup, 75 calories, 15% DV potassium
They’re underground and underdogs—the veggie often least bought. But beets are low in calories, high in fiber and rich in the mineral iron. Like potassium, iron is another mineral that is crucial for proper muscle function because it boosts blood flow to your muscles, increasing their efficiency. And they’re not hard to cook. Trim both ends of the beet, toss in a small amount of olive oil and roast at 450 degrees F until tender. Then slice and pair them with some mint and goat cheese as a small salad, or as a side to a lean meat dish.
Serving: 8 ounces, 168 calories, 15% DV potassium
No, not Fig Newtons. Figs—fresh figs. While they may not help you get ripped, the nutrients they contain, including potassium, help your muscles work. They’re also a great source of fiber, which will help slow digestion and keep you feeling fuller, longer. Do resist going for the dried version though, since the sugar skyrockets. For the tastiest figs, stock up between June and September when they’re in season.
Serving: 1 cup, 60 calories, 14% DV potassium
They’re the go-to joke—every child’s worst nightmare—but avoiding them now would be, well, childish. Besides the potassium, they encourage weight loss as a high-fiber, low-calorie food. Whether you roast or steam these green veggies, just be sure to avoid overcooking—that’s when you get hit with that unpleasant sulfur smell.
Serving: 1 cup, 56 calories, 14% DV potassium
Hot weather calls for cool, refreshing foods, and cantaloupe should be at the top of your list. Juicy, light and extremely high in water content, the melon is hydrating, with potassium an added workout bonus. The fruit is also particularly low in calories. Next time you think your store-bought fruit salad has just a bit too much, dig in instead.
Serving: 1 medium, 108 calories, 13% DV potassium
Well, we couldn’t not include them! Trainers and fit-minded folks go ape over this nearly-perfect pre and post-workout fruit, and they’re right to do so. One banana clocks in at only 108 calories, and can give you just enough energy (thanks to the carbohydrates) to get through your workout without being weighed down by, say, a protein shake. They’re also a great source of fiber and naturally a little sweet, so they’ll fill you up and satisfy sweet cravings the healthy way. Bonus: we love the biodegradable packaging.
Serving: 1 cup, 38 calories, 11% DV potassium
When you think of building strong, healthy muscles, tomatoes may not jump to the front of your mind. However, these juicy fruits are worth adding to your meal, for a more toned, healthy body. At less than 40 per one cup serving, they’ve got potassium, but are probably best known as an incredibly potent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that promotes healthier, younger looking skin and may also fight against some types of cancer. Put one atop the Best Burgers for Weight Loss!