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Potassium ain’t B-A-N-A-N-A-S

In our busy-every-damn-day culture of I-only-have-15-mins-to-eat, adding potassium to your diet is a LIFE HACK, because convenient + processed foods contain a lot of sodium as a preservative.

Sodium is stored OUTSIDE of your cells, so when you eat too much sodium, it draws water OUT of your cells (because water always tries to equalize solute concentration) and INTO your bloodstream – raising your blood pressure.

Potassium is in stored INSIDE of your cells, so when you eat enough potassium, the concentration gradient across the cell membrane is less affected by the increased amount of sodium (because the concentration is more balanced) – thereby reducing the increase in blood pressure.

If you find yourself eating high-salt foods, adding more potassium to your diet may be the single-most effective dietary change you can make.

Pop Quiz: What’s one food that’s high in potassium?

Betcha said bananas. They always get the credit for being potassium badasses, but there’s actually several other food that contain even MORE.

The majority of potassium in our bodies is intracellular (inside the cell) with a smaller amount living in extracellular fluid (outside the cell). Because the intracellular concentration is 30 times higher than the extracellular, the difference creates a gradient in electrochemical charges across the cell membrane. This gradient is needed for nerve transmission, muscle contraction and normal kidney function.

Potassium is absorbed in the small intestine and can drop dramatically when someone experiences diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating or a side effect of medication. It may become elevated due to kidney dysfunction, certain medications or excessive supplemental use.

The FDA decided in 2016 that potassium was one of four nutrients that impact public health. A deficiency in potassium may increase the risk of chronic disease (hypertension), while adequate amounts reduce hypertension. Right now, potassium is a voluntary nutrient on the nutrition facts label (unless a nutrition claim has been made about it on the product’s package), but it will be added to the new food label because of its role in blood pressure reduction.

Most Americans consume about 2700 mg of potassium per day, which is well below the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation of 4700 mg per day. (The addition of potassium on the Nutrition Facts label should make it easier for people to obtain enough of this vital nutrient in their diet. It will also simplify meal planning for those individuals requiring a potassium restriction, as in chronic kidney disease.)

An easy way to get more potassium in your diet is to include more green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard and mustard greens, spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Dark orange and red fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, acorn + butternut squash, cantaloupe, peaches, mango, watermelon, tomatoes and citrus fruit, as well as kiwi, potatoes and avocado are also good sources of potassium. Bran cereal, dried fruits such as apricots, dates, prunes and raisins, as well as yogurt, milk, beans + lentils also provide a decent dose.

Here are a few high-potassium foods:

  • Baked potato with skin, 925 mg

  • 1 banana, 425 mg

  • 1 cup cooked beans, 400 mg

  • 2 cups of milk, 700 mg

  • 1/2 papaya, 390 mg

  • 1 cup orange juice, 470 mg

  • 1 pear, 200 mg


By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD  |  Copyright, reprinted with permission

I hope you’ve found this interesting + useful!


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