Potassium- Good for your health and not just found in bananas.

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Did you know that when you eat strawberries, melon, broccoli, milk, artichokes, apricots, dried beans, milk, yogurt—the list goes on and on—you are consuming the very important mineral potassium?

Yes, potassium comes in good and healthy eats. And like fiber, dietitians wish people would get more of it.

Potassium is an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body. It controls the proper functioning of your cells, helps keep your heart working, and plays a key role in skeletal and digestive muscle function. There is also research indicating that it is important for bone health.

When you don’t consume enough potassium, your body’s sensitivity to salt increases, which can heighten problems with hypertension and high blood pressure—ailments afflicting many people with diabetes.

Low potassium levels are called hypokalemia. This sometimes happens in people who take certain potassium-wasting blood pressure medications. Hypokalemia can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, increased glucose levels, formation of kidney stones, reduced bone formation and a possible increased risk of stroke.

So how much should you be getting to stave off these consequences? Well, there is no RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for potassium, but there is a recommendation for Adequate Intake (AI) set at 4.7 grams for all adults.

Unfortunately, most Americans eat significantly under this recommendation. A recent survey showed the median potassium intake of US adults between 2.8 and 3.3 grams. And African Americans, who would benefit most due to their risk of high blood pressure and salt sensitivity, are eating even less.

And it isn’t because potassium is hard to come by in the diet; lucky for us it’s widely distributed in some of the most healthful food choices.

Check out this chart for a list of foods and their potassium content to see if you’re consuming enough, and how you can get more.

For most people, getting more than the AI from dietary sources is no cause for alarm because excess potassium is excreted in the urine. However, certain conditions make consuming excess potassium potentially dangerous, such as chronic renal insufficiency and failure, severe heart failure and adrenal insufficiency.

Keep in mind, ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers, the commonly prescribed kidney-sparing blood pressure medications for people with diabetes and hypertension, can impair potassium excretion, so a more modest intake of potassium may be recommended by your health care provider.

Food Potassium (mg)
Acorn squash cooked 1 cup  896
Artichoke boiled 1 med 343
Broccoli cooked 1 cup 457
Banana 1 422
Kidney beans cooked 1 cup 713
Milk 1% 1 cup 366
Navy beans cooked 1 cup 708
Yogurt 1 cup plain lowfat 531
Zucchini 456
Sample High Potassium Dinner
Salmon baked 6 ounces  514 mg
Broccoli 1 cup  457 mg
Brown Rice ½ cup  42 mg
Medium whole wheat roll  34 mg
1 cup cantaloupe  427 mg
16 oz iced tea  176 mg

Find out more about potassium here.

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