Q: How Can I Get More Potassium Into My Diet?
May 7, 2013
Senior Culinary Nutritionist Andrea Canada explains the effects of a sodium/potassium imbalance and suggests some dietary sources of potassium.
Sodium and potassium have been back in the headlines recently. Recently, the BMJ published several reviews that examined the impact of reduced sodium and increased potassium intake on deaths from heart disease and stroke globally. Generally, they found that millions of deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided by modest reductions in sodium and increased potassium intake.
Sodium can raise blood pressure, which puts additional strain on your heart and blood vessels. Therefore, it’s understandable that reducing our intake of sodium would decrease risk of heart disease and strokes. While sodium is frequently discussed, we don’t hear quite as much about potassium. Potassium is a mineral that can counteract some of the less desirable effects of sodium by helping our bodies excrete more sodium and lower blood pressure.
Though I've written about this topic before, it’s worth revisiting. In the US, we generally consume more sodium than the USDA recommends. Consumption surveys tell us that most people consume more than the recommended amount of sodium per day (3371mg on average compared with a recommended 2300mg). To make matters worse, we also consume too little potassium (2632mg on average compared with a recommended 4700mg).
If you eat out frequently or eat more convenience foods that may be processed, you may be getting more sodium -- and less potassium -- than you think. You can check food labels for the sodium content or look out for nutrition facts provided by chain restaurants. In addition, you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are the most common sources of potassium. For a list of foods containing potassium, check out my previous post here.
If you like to cook at home, here are a few tips to reduce the sodium in your meals:
- Make your own stocks without adding any salt. This will help to reduce the levels of sodium in your home-made soups.
- Make your own sauces and salad vinaigrettes. More processed versions of these can contain a lot of hidden sodium without the added flavor of fresh ingredients.
- Always taste before you season with salt to make sure that more salt is necessary.
How do you make sure you get enough potassium? Let us know in the comments section below.
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