17 May 11 Potassium - Yet Another Reason to Eat Your Fruits & Veggies!

Potassium should get more press since it is a mineral that is indispensible to normal cell functioning. Potassium levels affect how our nerves transmit signals, how our muscles contract, and how well our blood vessels maintain tone.

Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods, but especially good sources are: milk, yogurt, soy milk, legumes (e.g. dried beans and peas), potatoes, winter squashes, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and dark green veggies. The Dietary Reference Intake for adults is an "Adequate intake" of 4700 mg (5100 mg for women who are breastfeeding), which "should maintain lower blood pressure levels, reduce the adverse effects of sodium chloride intake on blood pressure, reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones, and possibly decrease bone loss."

If you have high blood pressure and you struggle to control your sodium intake, then be sure to check out the DASH Diet - insuring a good intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium in your diet can help control blood pressure at varying levels of sodium.

Currently, the recommended potassium intake (4700 mg) to sodium intake (2300 mg) is about 2:1. That is, try to consume twice as much potassium as sodium. That can be tricky to do if you eat a lot of processed or fast foods since they are so high in salt. One tactic is to start adding MORE food to your plate - specifically unprocessed veggies and fruit. Most people do not get nearly enough veggies even though in their unprocessed form, they are great sources of potassium and low in sodium.

Sample Foods High in Potassium but (Relatively) Low in Sodium

Veggies: baked white potato with skin (940 mg/medium), baked acorn squash (893 mg/cup cubed), low sodium V8 Juice (820 mg/cup), baked sweet potato with skin (564 mg/medium), spinach (423 mg/ 1/2 cup cooked), and legumes (averages 363 mg/ 1/2 cup cooked).

Fruits: avocado (488 mg/half avocado), banana (423 mg/7 inch or medium), cantaloupe (423 mg/1 cup diced), dried apricots (420 mg/6 dried), prune juice (376 mg/6 fl oz), papaya (376 mg/cup diced), and raisins (309 mg/ 1/4 cup raisins), and orange juice (329 mg/6 fl oz).

Dairy: Regular style yogurt (not Greek) (470 mg/cup), milk (376 mg/cup), soy milk (300 mg/cup)

Grains: Raisin Bran cereal (376 mg/cup), All Bran cereal (329 mg/half cup), and quinoa (329 mg/3/4 cup cooked)

Other: lean ground beef (376 mg/3 oz cooked), sardines (338 mg/3 oz), salmon (329 mg/3 oz cooked), and molasses (329 mg/tbsp).

Increasing foods high in potassium and lower in sodium (such as those above) will also encourage intake of healthful foods promoted by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.

For the Potato Lovers

If you are willing to exercise portion control and choose healthier toppings, then keep baked potatoes in your meal plan. As you can see above, baked potatoes are extraordinarily high in potassium, even for the medium size (which most of us would consider small at 2 1/4 inches x 3 1/4 inches). The caloric cost is reasonable (160 calories), and you will also be getting about 30% of your DRI for Vitamins C and B6 along with 4 grams of dietary fiber.

Tracking Potassium

Wondering why your potassium intake looks low on your MyNetDiary reports? Check your food items on your detailed food report - many brand name items do not include potassium. For unprocessed basic foods, try to use generic items since they typically have more complete nutrient information than brand items. Be sure to include potassium as a nutrient to track - you can do that on Plan screen in mobile apps or in your Plan tab on the web (if you have a Premium membership).
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Foods & Recipes/Fruit & Vegetables Nutrients/Other Vitamins & Minerals Nutrients/Potassium

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