Are you getting enough potassium from food?
Potassium is a key player in good health. It is part of every cell in the body, and life would be impossible without it. But are you getting enough potassium from food?
Here’s how potassium contributes to good health, and how to get the potassium you need.
Potassium is often taken for granted, in spite of its role in maintaining fluid balance, and keeping your brain, nerves, heart, and muscles functioning normally on a constant basis.
It’s important to eat enough potassium every day to feel your best, and to help prevent certain chronic conditions. Falling short on potassium on a regular basis could jeopardize your long-term health in more ways than one.
Potassium protects the heart, bones, and more
Potassium in the diet lowers blood pressure, according to Lawrence Appel, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and international health at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
“High blood pressure is the major risk factor for stroke and heart disease. Potassium may curb elevated blood pressure by contributing to more flexible arteries, and by helping the body get rid of excess sodium. Sodium promotes fluid retention, which may result in higher blood pressure,” says Appel.
Appel has researched the effects of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on elevated blood pressure and found that it’s capable of lowering blood pressure, often in a matter of weeks.
Potassium may also bolster bone strength by helping guard against bone loss, and it helps to reduce the risk for kidney stones.
Potassium’s partners in better blood pressure
Potassium is important, but there’s more to lowering blood pressure than a single mineral.
“Diets that include foods rich in potassium are associated with lower blood pressure, but it’s not entirely accurate to give all the credit to potassium,” says Marla Heller, MS, RD.
Heller, author of The DASH Diet Action Plan, says the relatively low-sodium DASH diet is based on large amounts of fruits and vegetables, low-fat and nonfat dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean meats, fish, and poultry.
Although the DASH diet is a treasure trove of potassium, it’s also rich in calcium and magnesium, which help reduce blood pressure.
Experts suggest 4,700 milligrams of dietary potassium a day for adults as part of a balanced diet.
But average intake is lower for most adults. Men average 3,200 milligrams per day of potassium, and women average 2,400 milligrams in the United States, for example.
“Relying on convenience and restaurants foods and not eating enough fruits and vegetables is why so many people don’t get enough potassium,” Heller says. “Fresh and lightly processed foods, including dairy and meat, have the most potassium.”
The cooking effect
Home cooking determines potassium levels in produce, too.
Boiling depletes potassium. For example, a boiled potato has almost half the potassium of a baked potato. To preserve potassium, eat fruits and vegetables raw, or roast or lightly steam them.
When dining out, increase potassium by ordering a salad, extra steamed or roasted vegetables, bean-based dishes, fruit cups, and low-fat milk instead of soda.
Top potassium food sources
Experts say food, not supplements, is the best way to meet potassium needs.
“My preference is food because potassium is found in foods that provide other nutrients, such as fiber, that also have beneficial health effects,” Appel says.
Here’s how many milligrams (mg) of potassium you’ll get from these potassium-rich foods according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Winter squash, cubed, 1 cup, cooked: 896 mg
· Sweet potato, medium, baked with skin: 694 mg
· Potato, medium, baked with skin: 610 mg
· White beans, canned, drained, half cup: 595 mg
· Yogurt, fat-free, 1 cup: 579 mg
· Halibut, 3 ounces, cooked: 490 mg
· 100% orange juice, 8 ounces: 496 mg
· Broccoli, 1 cup, cooked: 457 mg
· Cantaloupe, cubed, 1 cup: 431 mg
· Banana, 1 medium: 422 mg
· Pork tenderloin, 3 ounces, cooked: 382 mg
· Lentils, half cup, cooked: 366 mg
· Milk, 1% low fat, 8 ounces: 366 mg
· Salmon, farmed Atlantic, 3 ounces, cooked: 326 mg
· Pistachios, shelled, 1 ounce, dry roasted: 295 mg
· Raisins, quarter cup: 250 mg
· Chicken breast, 3 ounces, cooked: 218 mg
· Tuna, light, canned, drained, 3 ounces: 201 mg
Factors influencing your need of potassium
Besides being linked to the potassium in your diet, potassium levels in your body are influenced by several factors, including kidney function, hormones, and prescription and over-the-counter medications.
People who take thiazide diuretics, often used to treat high blood pressure, may need more potassium. That’s because thiazide diuretics promote potassium loss from the body. Steroids and laxatives also deplete potassium.
Other drugs used to lower blood pressure, including beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, raise potassium levels in the body.
People with reduced kidney function may need to limit their daily potassium intake.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist about how all of the medications you take affect the potassium levels in your body, and if you need more, or less, of the mineral
Your Knowledge Gate
Original Publishing Date: 30-11-2011
Republishing Date: 21-07-2016
Republishing Date: 26-12-2016