The stereotype about the Paleo diet is that it is meat heavy. How much meat Paleo era-eaters ate is debatable, but that they consumed large amounts of potassium rich, plant-based foods is not! When examining 159 Stone Age diets, the average daily potassium intake has been reported to be 400 meq/day (Sebastian et al. 2006), as shown below:
How much is 400 meq in milligrams (mg) of potassium? 1 meq = 39.1 mg of potassium, so to figure that out we multiply 400 *39.1, thereby yielding an average daily potassium intake of 15,640 mg/day! It’s important to note that this value is based on a 3000 calorie diet (Eaton et al. 1997). Dividing 15,640/3000 yields 5.21 mg potassium/calorie.
In contrast, as studied in 12,581 US adults, the average dietary potassium intake has been reported to be only ~2600 mg/day (Cogswell et al. 2012). Furthermore, only 1.4% of all subjects had potassium values greater than 4700 mg/day!
What’s my potassium intake? Shown below is my 7-day average intake from 8/29/2015-9/4/2015. The black rectangle in the lower right corner shows my average daily potassium intake to be 10,383 mg/day.
My average daily calorie intake during that week was 2193. In terms of mg potassium/calorie, my value is 4.73 (10,383/2193), which isn’t far from the reported average Paleo value. What’s yours?
For reference, shown below is a representative day during that week (Wednesday, September 2; 2251 calories) for what I ate.
If you’re interested, please have a look at my book!
Cogswell ME, Zhang Z, Carriquiry AL, Gunn JP, Kuklina EV, Saydah SH, Yang Q, Moshfegh AJ. Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES 2003-2008. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Sep;96(3):647-57.
Eaton SB, Eaton SB 3rd, Konner MJ. Paleolithic nutrition revisited: A twelve-year retrospective on its nature and implications. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1997 Apr;51(4):207-16.
Sebastian A, Frassetto LA, Sellmeyer DE, Morris RC Jr. The evolution-informed optimal dietary potassium intake of human beings greatly exceeds current and recommended intakes. Semin Nephrol. 2006 Nov;26(6):447-53.