Potassium is important.
Really important. The mineral helps keep your entire body working properly -- cells, tissues and organs -- and it's considered a vital electrolyte. It helps build proteins, break down and use carbohydrates, and build muscle, and it also controls your heart's electrical activity. Too little potassium can cause weak muscles, abnormal heart rhythms and a rise in blood pressure. Most people need 4,700 milligrams daily -- so start with these potassium-rich choices:
One small potato -- flesh and skin -- packs an impressive 738 milligrams of potassium (for just 128 calories), according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you want to spice yours up, try low-calorie toppings such as salsa, Greek yogurt, spicy red onions or chili-seasoned kidney beans. Or toss some broccoli and low-fat cheddar cheese on top.
Perhaps the three best options: prune juice (1 cup has 707 mg), carrot juice (689 mg) and tomato juice (556 mg). Orange juice is also a smart choice: 1 cup provides 496 mg of potassium.
A quarter cup, which hovers around 54 calories, packs 664 mg of potassium. Aside from the obvious -- swirling it into spaghetti -- try it in chili, tacos, tomato bisque or baked ziti casserole. And feel good about the fact that you'll also be loading up on lycopene, an important antioxidant; vitamin C; and a decent amount of protein.
These are the leaves and stalks attached to beet roots. Just half a cup provides 655 mg of potassium -- for 19 calories. You can steam, saute, braise them, eat raw or add them to dishes like soups. Try roasted beets and sauteed beet greens, a beet green salad or beet greens mixed in pasta.
Dig into half a cup, and you'll reap 595 mg of potassium. Try Greek pasta with tomatoes and white beans, Moroccan white beans stew, or kale with sausage and white beans. In addition to potassium, white beans are full of fiber and help boost metabolism, and they're touted for being a heart-healthy option.
An 8-ounce serving of the nonfat or low-fat variety provides 531 to 579 mg of potassium. Try subbing it as mayo in tuna or egg salad, or use it as a base for dips and spreads. And if plain yogurt is too boring for your tastes, spice it up with blueberries, almonds, strawberry slices or a tropical blend of mango, pineapple and coconut.
Just one of the orange guys delivers 542 mg of potassium -- for 103 calories. Bonus: You'll also get 438 percent of your daily vitamin A, 37 percent of vitamin C and impressive doses of calcium, iron and fiber. Try roasted sweet potato salad, oven-roasted wedges or sweet potato and spinach quesadillas.
Three ounces of the fresh or canned variety equate to 534 mg of potassium. Try seafood pasta or New England clam chowder, or prepare red curry clams or miso soup with clams and spinach. Seafood linguine -- with clams and diced tomatoes -- is another tasty choice.
Three cooked ounces of the fish deliver 490 mg of potassium. Halibut is also rich in important nutrients such as selenium, magnesium, vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin B6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Try preparing halibut with herbs and capers, roasted halibut with banana-orange relish, or grilled halibut salad nicoise.