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Potassium in your pregnancy diet

Why you need potassium during pregnancy

Potassium, a mineral found in many types of food, plays an important role in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in your body's cells. Potassium is also important in sending nerve impulses, helping your muscles contract, and releasing energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Since your blood volume expands by up to 50 percent during pregnancy, you'll need slightly more electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride, working together) to keep the extra fluid in the right chemical balance.

If you suffer from leg cramps during pregnancy, you might take a look at your potassium intake, because a lack of potassium (or sodium, calcium, or magnesium) could be the culprit.

How much potassium you need

Pregnant women: 4,700 milligrams (mg) per day

Nursing moms: 5,100 mg per day.

Food sources of potassium

Fresh fruits and vegetables, red meat and chicken, fish, milk and yogurt, nuts, and soy products all provide potassium. To give you a sense of how easy it is to obtain this important mineral from your daily diet, here's a list of some of the foods highest in potassium:

  • 1 medium baked potato with skin: 844 mg
  • 1 medium baked sweet potato: 694 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked beet greens: 654 mg
  • 1 medium baked potato without skin: 610 mg
  • 1/2 cup canned white beans: 595 mg
  • 8 ounces plain nonfat yogurt: 579 mg
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree: 549 mg
  • 3 ounces canned clams: 534 mg
  • 3/4 cup prune juice: 530 mg
  • 3/4 cup carrot juice: 517 mg
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses: 498 mg
  • 3 ounces halibut: 490 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked green soybeans: 485 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked lima beans: 484 mg
  • 3 ounces Coho salmon: 454 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked winter squash: 448 mg
  • 1/2 cup mature cooked soybeans: 443 mg
  • 3 ounces Pacific cod: 439 mg
  • 1 medium banana: 422 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked spinach: 419 mg
  • 3/4 cup tomato juice: 417 mg
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce: 405 mg
  • 1/4 cup dried peaches: 398 mg
  • 1/2 cup refried beans: 398 mg
  • 1/2 cup stewed prunes: 398 mg
  • 1 cup nonfat milk: 382 mg
  • 3 ounces center loin pork chop: 382 mg
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots: 378 mg
  • 3 ounces farmed rainbow trout: 375 mg
  • 3 ounces lean pork loin: 371 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils: 365 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans: 358 mg
  • 3/4 cup orange juice: 355 mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked split peas: 355 mg
  • 1/2 cup cantaloupe balls: 236 mg

Should you take a supplement?

It's probably not necessary. A wide variety of foods contain this important mineral, so it should be fairly easy to get all the potassium you need through your diet.

The signs of a potassium deficiency

Low potassium is most often the result of chronic or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or the use of certain diuretics, rather than a shortage in your diet.

A shortage of potassium could cause weakness, fatigue, muscle cramps, constipation, and abnormal heart rhythms. Talk with your doctor if you suspect that you're short on potassium or any other nutrient.

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