Sources of Potassium among the U.S. Population, 2005-06


The purpose of this research was to identify the contributions of specific foods to intake of potassium in the U.S. population age 2 and older.

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We used the 2005-06 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine the contribution of specific foods to intake of potassium. The dietary intake data collected in the survey were catalogued according to discrete food codes. For this analysis, food codes representing similar foods -- such as the various types of pasta dishes -- were combined to provide an indication of the contribution of distinct food items to intake of the dietary component being studied. That is, the food codes were sorted into 96 mutually exclusive food categories, termed specific foods.

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There are separate tables for the percentage contribution and mean contribution of various foods, stratified by age group, sex, race/ethnicity, and family income.

Tables 1a-4a. Mean Intakes of Potassium and Percentage Contribution of Various Foods

Tables 1b-4b. Mean Intakes of Potassium and Mean Contribution (mg) of Various Foods

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This approach identifies food sources of a given dietary component for the population which may/may not be the richest sources of the component. For that reason, these data may be most informative when the component is over-, rather than under-consumed. If a component is under-consumed, rich sources -- foods with the greatest amount per 100 grams -- may be more relevant.

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Key Findings

The top five contributors of potassium for all persons are reduced fat milk (154 mg/day), coffee (135 mg/day), chicken and chicken mixed dishes (119 mg/day), beef and beef mixed dishes (94 mg/day), and 100% orange/grapefruit juice (90 mg/day). The major sources of potassium varied somewhat by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and family income. For example:

  • Rankings varied somewhat by age: The top source among persons 19 and older is coffee (176 mg/day). Other foods in the top five for several narrower age groups include: whole milk for 2-3 year olds, 4-8 year olds, 9-13 year olds; 100% fruit juice (not orange/grapefruit) for 2-3 year olds and 4-8 year olds; pasta and pasta dishes for 2-3 year olds and 9-13 year olds; skim milk for 2-3 year olds; dairy desserts for 4-8 year olds; fried white potatoes for 9-13 year olds and 14-18 year olds; potato/corn/other chips for 14-18 year olds and 31-50 year olds; pizza for 14-18 year olds; Mexican mixed dishes for 19-30 year olds; other white potatoes for 51-70 year olds and persons 71 and older; and bananas for persons 71 and older.
  • Rankings varied somewhat by gender: Bananas (88 mg/day) are a top source among 2-3 year old males, and soups (102 mg/day) and tea (101 mg/day) are top sources among 51-70 year old females.
  • Rankings varied somewhat by race/ethnicity: The top source for non-Hispanic Blacks is chicken and chicken mixed dishes (152 mg/day) and for Mexican-Americans it is Mexican mixed dishes (188 mg/day). Other foods in the top five include: fried white potatoes for non-Hispanic Whites (85 mg/day) and non-Hispanic Blacks (102 mg/day); potato/corn/other chips (130 mg/day) for non-Hispanic Blacks; and whole milk (150 mg/day), beans (122 mg/day), and soups (113 mg/day) for Mexican-Americans.
  • Rankings varied somewhat by income: Whole milk is among the top five sources for persons with a family income ≤130% of the poverty income ratio (PIR) (129 mg/day) and 131-185% PIR (119 mg/day). Potato/corn/other chips (93 mg/day) are among the top five sources for persons with 131-185% PIR; and fried white potatoes (92 mg/day) are among the top five sources for persons ≥185% PIR.

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Suggested Citation

Suggested citation for information contained on this page:

Sources of Potassium among the U.S. Population, 2005-06. Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program website. National Cancer Institute. Updated April 20, 2018. Accessed August 18, 2018.

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