Striking a Balance with Sodium and Potassium
It’s no secret that too much salt is bad for you, but what about getting enough potassium? A recent study suggests balancing sodium and potassium intake could lower the chance of death from heart disease, but Americans' are anything but. Americans reportedly get more than twice the adequate amount of sodium daily, 4,000 mg or more. Less than 10% limit daily sodium intake to the recommended 2,300 mg (for salt-sensitive populations not more than 1,500 mg). On the flip side, Americans are only getting about 2,600 mg of potassium, about half the daily recommended amount of 4,700 mg.
A Delicate Balance
The study, authored by epidemiologist Paul Whelton, found those who consumed the most potassium and the least sodium (about twice as much potassium as sodium) were 50% less likely to die from heart disease than those who had the lowest levels of potassium and the highest levels of sodium. Whelton says, "Potassium and sodium are like peas in a pod, except they're in opposite pods." Its findings suggest the ratio of sodium to potassium intake may be more important than how much of either nutrient you get. While the National Institutes of Health (NIH) relates getting the daily recommended intake of potassium to lowering blood pressure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes a sobering statement about sodium intake: “If all Americans followed the recommended limits for sodium, national rates for high blood pressure would drop by a quarter, saving tens of thousands of lives each year.”
Cutting Sodium in Half
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), processed and restaurant foods make up 77% of Americans’ sodium intake. Pizza, pasta sauce, breads, and cookies were some of the processed foods listed. The USDA also noted that many salty foods may not be obvious such as cheeses and soups. By removing processed foods from your diet, even little by little, you can ensure lowering your daily sodium intake. Specifically, cut back on the following:
- Boxed mixes of pancakes, cornbread and biscuits and other packaged pastries
- Salad Dressings, barbecue, pasta, and steak sauces, ketchup, mustard
- Marinated or meats with added salt
- Flavored Rice
- Canned vegetables and legumes with added salt
Potassium is found in large amounts in leafy greens, fruits and vegetables. Eating all of the following foods in a day would slightly exceed the daily recommended intake for potassium:
- 694 mg from 1 baked sweet potato (146 g)
- 422 mg from 1 medium banana (118 g)
- 378 mg from ¼ cup dried apricots
- 244 mg from ¼ avocado (50.3 g)
- 839 mg from 1 cup cooked spinach
- 186 mg from 1 medium peach (98 g)
- 496 mg from 1 cup orange juice
- 600 mg from 1 cup of coconut water
- 502 mg from ½ cup white beans, canned
- 369 mg from ¼ medium cantaloupe (138 g)
What are your favorite food sources for potassium?
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