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Got high blood pressure? Reach for the potassium.

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  August 20, 2012 05:29 PM

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According a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, most Americans are falling short of their daily potassium needs, which could be wrecking havoc with their blood pressure. Over 55 percent of Americans have high blood pressure or are on their way to getting high blood pressure in the very near future according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.

Individuals with chronic high blood pressure increase their risk of developing heart disease and stroke, two of the top three killers of Americans. While losing excess weight, reducing sodium in the diet, and being physically active all can reduce blood pressure, so can consuming adequate amounts of potassium-rich foods.

Research suggests that a diet plentiful in potassium lowers blood pressure, especially in salt-sensitive individuals who respond more intensely to sodium’s blood pressure –raising capabilities. Potassium helps negate some of the blood pressure-raising effects of excessive dietary sodium as it causes the kidneys to excrete excess sodium from the body. Reducing sodium levels in the body helps lower blood pressure.

While the current recommendation is for healthy Americans to consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily, males are consuming only 3,200 milligrams daily, whereas females fall even shorter, consuming only 2,400 milligrams a day, on average. The good news is that potassium is found in a variety of foods, with vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy foods, and beans being potassium powerhouses:

Potato, baked including skin, small, 738 mg
White beans, ½ cup, 595 mg
Yogurt, nonfat, plain, 579 mg
Sweet Potato, baked with skin, medium, 542 mg
Orange juice, 1 cup, 496 mg
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces, 490 mg
Soybeans, cooked, ½ cup, 485 mg
Cod, cooked, 3 ounces, 439 mg
Banana, 1 medium, 422 mg
Spinach, cooked, ½ cup, 370-419 mg
Tomato sauce, ½ cup, 405 mg
Milk, skim, 1 cup, 382 mg
Apricots, dried, ¼ cup, 378 mg
Soy milk, 1 cup, 372 mg
Kidney beans, cooked, ½ cup, 358 mg

Here’s some easy ways to pump up your daily potassium:

• Pour an 8-ounce glass of orange juice at breakfast to begin your day with a potassium boost.
• Add leafy greens to all your sandwiches. Spinach in particular is a potassium dynamo!
• Add dried apricots to your mid-morning yogurt for a one, two (apricots and dairy)
potassium punch.
• Have bean soup with your lunchtime sandwich for a warm way to enjoy your potassium.
• Baked regular or sweet potatoes are potassium powerhouses on your dinner plate (see
recipe below).

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Ingredients:
1-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, washed
2 ounces orange or apple juice
3 teaspoons margarine, melted
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. With a fork, prick holes in sweet potatoes and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and cool slightly for better handling. Once cooled, slice each potato in half diagonally. Scoop out most of the potato, leaving approximately 1/4 inch around skin. Put potatoes in mixing bowl along with apple juice, sugar, 2 teaspoons margarine, and nutmeg and whip until smooth. Place potato skins into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and fill with potato mixture. Set aside. In nonstick fry pan, add remaining margarine and sauté walnuts until toasted. Sprinkle potatoes evenly with walnuts. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until thoroughly heated. Makes 8 stuffed potatoes. Note: Leftovers can be reheated the next day for a potassium-packed lunchtime meal.


Follow Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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