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Lower the sodium and beef up the potassium

Karen Miller
Lower the sodium and beef up the potassium
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK

Potassium and sodium are the body’s dynamic duo. They work in concert to maintain the body’s fluid balance and control the heartbeat. Every step you take occurs because the two help fire off muscle contractions.

PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK

PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK

It’s a good relationship. Good … but not balanced. The body cannot make either of these essential minerals on its own. Instead, it relies on you for its source. That’s the problem. The general diet in this country is heavily stacked towards sodium, while potassium brings up the rear. So important is potassium that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has mandated that nutrition facts labels found on packaged foods and beverages now list its content in each serving. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, a program within the National Institutes of Health, the body requires 3,400 to 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day, but only about 2 percent of the population meets that goal. On the other hand, the American Heart Association stipulates that we require no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, but 3,500 is more the norm. There are good reasons for this imbalance. Foods high in potassium are mostly fruits and veggies, seafood and some dairy products. There’s the problem right there. Only about 10 percent of American adults eat the minimum daily requirements of fruits and veggies, and milk consumption is on the decline.

High in Potassium

Food:  Size  |  Potassium (mg)

Avocado:  ½ cup  |  364

Sweet potato:  1 medium  |  542

Spinach:  ½ cup  |  370

Banana:  1 medium  |  422

Plain yogurt:  1 cup  |  579

Baked potato:  1 medium  |  941

Salmon:  3 oz  |  534

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020

Hidden Sodium

Food:  Size  |  Sodium range (mg)

Bread:  Slice  |  80–230

Pizza:  Slice  |  510–760

Cold cuts:  3 oz  |  450–1,000

Soup:  1 cup  |  700–1,260

Cheeseburger:  1  |  710–1,690

Processed cheese:  1 oz  |  377–444

Canned veggies:  1/2 cup  |  310–346

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthline

Vegetable Growers News found that in 2019 broccoli was the most commonly eaten vegetable in the U. S. but other veggies, such as spinach are considered more significant sources of potassium. Fruits do a little better, though. The most popular fruit is the banana, which contains 422 mg per serving. Actually, most people don’t know they’re eating too much sodium. There’s a common misperception that its greatest source is plain ole table salt, or sodium chloride. That’s not the case. Only about 10 percent comes from cooking and the salt shaker. One-fourth comes from restaurant foods, and the rest from foods we buy in stores. Why is this imbalance of any concern? It increases the risk of high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of stroke. Potassium actually helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure. African Americans in particular have to be mindful of excessive consumption of sodium. Research suggests that blacks are more sensitive to sodium, so even a slight deviation in balance can affect the blood pressure. To increase your intake of potassium just take it one step at a time. Add a banana to breakfast, avocado to a salad and a baked sweet potato to dinner. And watch the milligrams add up. www.massgeneral.org/equity-and-inclusion

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