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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Powerful Potassium

By: Karen McPartland, RD
Senior Dieitian

Potassium is a mineral that works with sodium to balance fluid and electrolyte levels in your body.  An adequate intake of potassium may help to regulate your heartbeat and protect against heart disease by helping to keep blood pressure at normal levels.  Although we should get 4,700 mg of potassium a day, most of us don’t consume enough foods rich in potassium to get that amount.

Recently, Dutch researchers have highlighted that increasing potassium consumption to the recommended level of 4,700 mg per day might help to lower some people’s diastolic blood pressure.  They feel that this could possibly reduce stroke and heart disease mortality.  Along with increasing our potassium intake, many of us also need to reduce our intake of sodium to keep a proper balance between these two minerals in our bodies. 

Increasing potassium intake is actually quite simple!  Just take a look at your diet…it might mean eating a few extra servings of certain vegetables throughout the week, adding more bananas to your diet, trying more bean-based meals or simply replacing the salt you use for cooking and flavoring with a potassium-rich salt substitute.  Foods rich in potassium include bananas, tomatoes and tomato juice, potatoes, apricots, spinach, zucchini, avocado, low-fat yogurt, milk, lentils, soybeans, and kidney beans.  Morton’s Lite Salt is a salt substitute that is half sodium and half potassium, so if you use salt regularly, switching to this “salt” will help to boost potassium intake as well as reduce sodium intake. 

Here is a quick look at what it takes to reach the goal of 4,700 mg of potassium per day: (this sample only focuses on potassium so you’d have to add additional foods based on your individual caloric needs and preferences)

Breakfast:
1 banana (420 mg potassium)
A Serving of Cereal with 2 Tbsp Wheat Germ (320 mg potassium depending on type/brand of cereal chosen)
1/2 cup skim milk (190 mg potassium)

Snacks to eat throughout the day: 1/3 cup almonds (310 mg potassium), 1 cup low-fat yogurt (370 mg potassium), an apple (150 mg potassium), ½ cup cantaloupe (214 mg potassium)

Lunch:
Salad: Raw spinach, romaine lettuce, cucumber, mushrooms, tomato, sunflower seeds, and 3 oz. chicken breast (~740 mg potassium)
8 oz. low sodium V8 (820 mg potassium)

Dinner:
4 oz. halibut (~300 mg potassium)
1 Medium baked Sweet Potato (540 mg potassium)
½ cup cooked zucchini (280 mg potassium)

This day provides approximately 4,654 mg of potassium!

Although most people would benefit from a higher potassium intake, it’s important to keep in mind that too much potassium can be harmful if you have kidney problems or are taking certain medications.  Please check with your physician to see if a potassium-rich diet and/or a potassium based salt substitute is the right choice for you before working to increase your intake of this mineral.

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