While sodium may get all the attention, don’t let potassium fall by the wayside.

There are many surprising choices that top the banana’s potassium content.

© Melis82 | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Sodium and potassium are two minerals that play a balancing act together in maintaining good health. Yet sodium always seems to get all the attention while potassium is often left out of the spotlight.  Accumulating research, though, ought to make you take note of potassium’s power in protecting against your health.

A recent study found that eating plenty of potassium-rich selections defends against having a stroke while at the same time, reducing the risk for other forms of cardiovascular disease. The research, out of the University of Naples, reviewed 11 studies investigating the link between potassium intakes and cardiovascular disease. Of the 247,510 men and women who participated in the studies, those who consumed the most potassium from food had the lowest risk of having a stroke.  For every 1,640-milligram increase in the subject’s daily potassium intake, the likelihood of suffering a stroke decreased by 21 percent.

According to the latest figures, over 5 million Canadians aged  12 years and older – that’s almost  than one in five people – have diagnosed hypertension.  And these figures are growing. Considering that high blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, you have to wonder whether the incidence of stroke will also soar.

If you want to stop blood pressure levels from climbing, upping your potassium intake is wise as it plays a role in reducing sodium sensitivity.

If a person is sodium sensitive, when they consume less sodium, their blood pressure readings drops. When they have too much, blood pressure climbs.  Potassium can mitigate that effect, making sodium consumption less costly to your health.

Yet Canadians fall short of this vital mineral. According to the latest data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, the average potassium intake of both men and women in Canada over the age of 19 was well below the recommended 4700 milligrams per day.

So how can you boost your potassium intake? It’s simple – eat more fruit and vegetables. Go for at least five in total each day and chances are you’ll hit the mark.

If you look at dietary patterns that offer the most health benefits, the Mediterranean diet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension), both are packed with fruits and vegetables. In addition, the DASH diet menu plan contains two to four servings of lower-fat dairy products a day. Consider that one cup of milk contains similar amounts of potassium as is found in a banana.

© Cathysbelleimage | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Though only bananas tend to come to mind when you think of potassium-rich foods, there are numerous options that beat this fruit.

A note of caution, though, for people with kidney disease: Check with your physician before increasing the amount of potassium you consume as some kidney ailments may require that potassium intakes be restricted.



Check out the chart below to help you boost your potassium figures.

             Food    Amount     Potassium Contentx(milligrams)
Spinach, cooked       1 cup         839
Baked potato with skin       1 small         738
Tomato juice*       1 cup          556
Mushrooms, cooked       1 cup          555
Sweet potato, cooked       1/2 cup          475
Vegetable juice cocktail*      1 cup          469
Banana      1 medium          422
Cantaloupe      1 cup          417
Low-fat milk      1 cup          407
Kidney beans, cooked       1/2 cup          317
Avocado, California       1/2          345
Tomato      1  medium          292
Kiwi      1 medium          284
Strawberries      1 cup          233
Orange      1 medium          232

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 

* Go for lower-sodium varieties


Do you pay attention to meeting your potassium quotas? Please comment below.

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Categories: Research Roundup

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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