The second a muscle cramp hits your calves after a quick jog, you probably picture a banana. That’s because we think of bananas as being packed with potassium, a mineral that assists with water balance and muscle contractions in the body, among other functions.
But here’s the thing: Bananas aren’t the only, or even the best, source of potassium in your diet. However, they’re certainly the most portable, making them a convenient and easy snack for post-workouts, mid-hike, or pre-meeting your in-laws for the first time (yikes).
Potassium’s lesser-known (but possibly more vital) role is actually balancing out the sodium levels in your body. To put it simply, sodium can hike up your blood pressure, and potassium brings it back down by relaxing the blood vessels. Cutting salt can reduce your risk of heart disease or congestive heart failure, but upping your potassium is equally important in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
One banana has 420 mg of potassium—pretty impressive, right? But experts recommend getting 4,700 mg of potassium a day, or 5,100 mg if you’re breastfeeding. You probably don’t want to eat 11 ‘nanas a day (#math), so here are five common foods that actually have more potassium than a banana that you can incorporate into your daily noms.
Acorn squash: 896 mg of potassium in 1 cup (cubed and roasted)
Spinach: 839 mg of potassium in 1 cup (cooked)
Sweet potato: 855 mg of potassium in a large one with the skin on
Atlantic salmon: 534 mg of potassium in a 3 oz. serving
Cannellini beans: 460 mg of potassium in ½ cup
While you’re adding these potassium-rich foods to your diet, don’t forget to cut back on your salt intake as well. Here are a seven tips for eating less salt to get you started.