Why you need potassium during pregnancy
Potassium, a mineral found in many types of food, plays an important role in maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes in your body's cells. Potassium is also important for sending nerve impulses and helping your muscles contract.
Your blood volume expands by up to 50 percent during pregnancy, so 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 check whether you're getting enough potassium because a lack of this mineral (or sodium, calcium, or magnesium) could be the culprit.
How much potassium you need
Pregnant and nonpregnant women: 4,700 milligrams (mg) per day
Breastfeeding women: 5,100 mg per day
Food sources of potassium
Fresh fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of potassium. To give you a sense of how easy it is to get this important mineral from your daily diet, here's a list of some of the foods highest in potassium:
- one medium baked potato with skin: 926 mg
- 1/2 cup dried plums: 637 mg
- 1/2 cup raisins: 598 mg
- 6 ounces prune juice: 528 mg
- 1/2 cup cooked lima beans: 485 mg
- 1/2 cup cooked acorn squash, cubed: 448 mg
- one medium banana: 422 mg
- 1/2 cup cooked spinach: 420 mg
- 6 ounces tomato juice: 417 mg
- 6 ounces orange juice: 372 mg
- 1 cup raisin bran cereal: 362 mg
- one medium cooked artichoke: 343 mg
- 1 tablespoon molasses: 293 mg
- 1 medium tomato: 292 mg
- 1 ounce sunflower seeds: 241 mg
- one medium orange: 237 mg
- 1 ounce almonds: 200 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 from your diet.
The signs of a potassium deficiency
Low potassium is most often the result of chronic or severe vomiting or diarrhea, or from using 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.