Getting Enough Potassium on a Low Carb Diet by Dana Carpender

Bananas must have a killer press agent. Over and over folks ask, “But if I can’t have bananas on my low carb diet, where will I get potassium?” It is true that bananas are a pretty good source of potassium; one medium banana has 422 milligrams, or about 12% of the RDA of 3.5 grams. However, that banana also has 27 grams of carbohydrate, with only 3 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 24 grams – about half of my daily maximum carb intake, and more than the 20 gram upper limit for those of you who are in the induction phase of the Atkins diet. Clearly we can’t count on bananas for our potassium! But where will we get it?

It’s easier than you think.

There is a surprising quantity of potassium in the animal protein foods that are the backbone of our diet. A four ounce serving of pork loin provides 411 milligrams of potassium, and a quarter-pound hamburger patty provides 234 milligrams. Six ounces of sole fillet provide 584 milligrams of potassium, and four ounces of scallops provide 524 milligrams. Four ounces of chicken breast provide 282 milligrams of potassium, and four ounces of turkey breast provide 317 milligrams. All of these potassium-rich foods are carb-free, of course.

So already things are looking pretty good for us where potassium is concerned. But it’s when you get to the rest of our diet that things really start looking up. After all, we’re the ones saying things like, “Instead of the rice, could you bring me some steamed vegetables?” and “Do you mind putting those gyros on a bed of lettuce, instead of in a pita bread?” This is a terrific way to get plenty of potassium. A half-cup serving of white rice has a mere 32 milligrams of potassium, while a half-cup of broccoli has 166 milligrams – and the switch will save you 20 grams of usable carbohydrate, too, not to mention 75 calories. That pita bread has just 72 milligrams of potassium, with 32 grams of usable carbohydrate – no bargain. Have your gyros on a bed of 3 cups of romaine, instead, and you’ll get 415 milligrams of potassium, and just 2 grams of usable carb!

But the true, undying low carb potassium champion is the avocado. All avocados are great, but if you can, buy the little, black, rough-skinned California avocados; they’re a tad lower carb than the big, green, smooth-skinned Florida variety. One California avocado contains 12 grams of carbohydrate, but 9 grams of that is fiber, for a usable carb count of 3 grams. And for those 3 grams, you’ll get a whopping 690 milligrams of potassium. Avocados are also a great source of monounsaturated fats, the same heart-healthy fats found in olive oil – a real nutritional bargain, all the way around.

So eat avocados, early and often! You can put chunks of avocado in your tossed salad, of course, but try a simpler approach: sliced avocado on a bed of lettuce, sprinkled with lime juice, salt and pepper, or a simple vinaigrette dressing. Sliced avocados are dreamy in a cheese omelet – add salsa, and you have one of my all-time favorite breakfasts.

Guacamole is hard to beat, but without chips, how are you going to eat it? Try spreading it over a grilled steak; it’s to die for. Guacamole is also a terrific omelet filling, again with some Monterey Jack cheese melted with it. My favorite thing to do with guacomole, though, is to stuff it into tomatoes, and serve them as a salad. A medium tomato will add about 4 grams of usable carb, and another 273 milligrams of potassium.

Consider the half-avocado. Once you’ve removed the seed, you’ve got a nice big hollow, just perfect for putting things in. Consider stuffing avocados with tuna salad, chicken salad, cold shrimp, or anything else you can think of! Here’s a recipe for crab salad in avocados:

Thai-Style Crab Salad in Avocados

    • 1 ripe California avocado
    • 3 tablespoons lime juice
    • 6-ounce can crabmeat, or 6 ounces cooked lump crab meat
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
    • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
    • Salt, if desired.

Split the avocado in half, remove the seed, and sprinkle the cut surfaces with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice to prevent browning.

Combine the crabmeat, remaining lime juice, lemon juice, mayonnaise, cilantro, scallion, pepper, and salt in a mixing bowl, and mix well. Stuff into the avocado halves, piling it high. Garnish with extra cilantro, if desired, and serve.

2 servings, each with 9 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fiber, for a total of 4 grams of usable carb and 20 grams of protein. Plus 932 milligrams of potassium!
© 2011 by Dana Carpender. Used by permission of the author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.

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  1. Excellent article! I have been very concerned about my potassium needs , especially since I started ketogenic dieting. I like the advice on avocado, and I will start eating a whole small avocado a day rather than just half. In the afternoon, I enjoy blending half the avocado with a dollop of fat sour cream to make a delicious dip. No chips? No problem! I enjoy dipping a half ounce of crisp, crunchy delicious pork rinds. (The plain variety – – not the BBQ or other flavored kinds seasoned with MSG.) The other half of the avocado I will enjoy with my green salad at dinner time.

    I also am using organic wheat grass powder which I order from online distributors, such as Puritans Pride. A small scoop added to a glass of water provides 240 mg of potassium, and I have 2 servings a day.

    I am confident that this combined with my intake of almond butter and leafy greens will help me fulfill my daily potassium requirements.

  2. Thank you for the ideas – BOTH of you!

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