Food News: Potassium and Your Health

Ask anyone to name a source of potassium and inevitably they’ll say “bananas.” Yet if you ask that same person why we need potassium, you might find less of a definitive answer.

In fact, few can answer that question.

Potassium is a mineral that’s not only found in bananas, but also citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables, yogurt, beans, whole grains, and sweet potatoes. Researchers suggest that it’s wise for people to increase the amount of potassium in their eating patterns, since potassium can help lower blood pressure, regardless of sodium intake.

Let’s take a closer look at some of that research…

Dr. Alicia McDonough, a professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), evaluated the diets of several populations and found that higher potassium intakes were associated with lower blood pressure, no matter what the sodium intake was. Her review included a combination of interventional and molecular studies evaluating the effects of dietary potassium and sodium on high blood pressure in various populations. During this review, she found that the kidneys get rid of more salt and water when dietary potassium intake is high. McDonough likens high potassium intake to taking a diuretic or water pill.

Unfortunately, a typical American diet tends to be higher in processed foods, which in turn tend to be high in salt content and low in potassium. One of the most cost-effective strategies to reduce blood pressure is to cut back on salt. Improved consumer education regarding salt, changes in processed food, and reduced consumption of high sodium foods should be implemented to this effect.

Why?

Let’s explore some more data.

Finland and the UK were first to start salt reduction programs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Europeans consume an average of 7-18 grams of salt per day, which is far above the suggested limit of 6 grams per day, which contains 2400 mg sodium. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggested that adults consume 4.7 grams of potassium daily to reduce blood pressure, reduce the impact of high sodium intake, and slash the risk of bone loss and kidney disease. Dr. McDonough notes that consuming just ¾ cups of dried beans daily can help individuals reach half of their potassium goal.

Here are more ways to obtain more potassium:

  • Eat an orange or banana daily.
  • Include green leafy vegetables daily. Think broccoli, spinach, or kale.
  • Snack on unsalted nuts.
  • Add an avocado to your salad or sandwich.
  • Choose dark orange fruits and vegetables like melon and sweet potatoes.
  • Enjoy kiwi, mango, or papaya regularly.

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD

Reference:

Alicia A. McDonough, Luciana C. Veiras, Claire A. Guevara, Donna L. Ralph, Cardiovascular benefits associated with higher dietary K vs. lower dietary Na evidence from population and mechanistic studies.  American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. Apr 4, 2017, E348-E356

WHO Salt Facts http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs393/en/

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Handout Sneak Peek: Vitamin and Mineral Chart

You know what has been flying off the shelves lately?

The Vitamin and Mineral Chart. This poster highlights particular foods that are rich in certain vitamins and minerals. Since most consumers need to eat a more plant-based diet in order to avoid excess saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars while somehow managing to get enough nutrients in the calories allotted, it’s wise to have a few materials that could make that transition easier. This chart has been an eye-catching tool for inspiring and maintaining motivation, along with teaching key nutrient lessons.

As a special bonus, I want to share the printable educational handout that comes with the poster. Normally you could only access this if you had already bought the poster, but today I’m going to make an exception. The Eat Your Nutrients handout features macronutrients and micronutrients alike, highlighting the health benefits of these vital food elements.

Enjoy!

Vitamin A: Prevents eye problems. Necessary for normal vision, immune function, and reproduction.

B-Vitamins: This group includes B-1 Thiamin, B-2 Riboflavin, B-3 Niacin, B-5 Pantothenic Acid, B-6 Pyridoxine, B-7 Biotin, B-9 Folic Acid, and B-12 Choline. Necessary to metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and amino acids. Activates B-6 and folate, which is essential for red blood cell growth and maturity.

Vitamin C: Antioxidant that protects against cell damage; boosts immune systems; forms collagen in the body.

Vitamin D: Aids absorption and usage of calcium and phosphorous ; necessary for growth and calcification of bones and teeth. The best source is the sun.

Vitamin E: Acts as an antioxidant that protects cells against damage.

Vitamin K: Important for blood clotting and bone health.

Calcium: Essential in bone and teeth formation, muscle contraction, absorption of B-12, blood clotting, and growth.

Copper: Necessary for absorption, storage, and metabolism of iron; key to formation of red blood cells.

Iodine: Regulates rate of energy production and body weight. Promotes growth and health of hair, nails, skin, and teeth.

Iron: Hemoglobin and myoglobin formation, oxygen and CO2 transfer, red blood cell formation, and energy release.

Magnesium: Helps heart rhythm, muscle and nerve function, and bone strength.

Phosphorous: Helps cells to function normally. Helps your body produce energy. Key for bone growth.

Potassium: Important in maintaining normal fluid balance; helps control blood pressure; reduces risk of kidney stones.

Selenium: An essential trace element; protects cells from damage; regulates thyroid hormone.

Sodium: Primarily controls the body’s osmotic pressure, hydration, and electrical activities.

Zinc: Supports the body’s immune and nerve function; important in reproduction.

Protein: A necessary major nutrient in the diet, providing amino acids, which are necessary for growth and development.

Carbohydrate: Provides basic source of energy; stored as glycogen in all tissues of the body, especially the liver and muscles.

Fat: Also known as adipose tissue. Serves as an energy reserve.

Fiber: Aids digestion, helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.

And here’s a free printable copy of the handout!

Whats In Your Food Handout

Looking for more nutrition education materials? Here are some of the newest resources to hit the store!

Digital MyPlate Poster and MyPlate Food Photo Collection

Sodium Math Handout

Floor Sticker: Make Your Salad a Rainbow