When it comes to blood pressure and heart health one of the most common recommendations is to reduce your sodium intake. You often hear people saying “I need to cut down how much salt I eat”. But you rarely hear people saying “I need to get more potassium”. A new study from Boston University shows that people who have increased potassium intakes have reduced rates of cardiovascular disease.
What Are The Recommended Daily Allowances?
According to the Institute of Medicine (2005) the RDA for sodium is 2400mg and the RDA for potassium is 4700mg. That’s almost a 1:2 ratio of sodium to potassium and that’s what would be desired according to them. However, according to the Food Safety Authority in Ireland our RDA for sodium is 4000mg and RDA for potassium is just 2000mg. That’s a 2:1 ratio of sodium to potassium. Heart disease is a very common problem in Ireland. I wonder why? I don’t know about you but I’m going to side with the Institute of Medicine and researchers at Boston University on this one.
What The Boston Study Found
The scientists followed over 2,000 people, ages 30-64, and tracked their eating and health data over 12 years. When the study started, none of these folks had cardiovascular disease. They found that the more potassium people ate, the less risk of cardiovascular disease they had. Specifically, risk was elevated at potassium intakes of less than 2500 mg, but began to drop once people were eating more than that.
This is just another example of how you can improve your diet by adding something to your nutrition. In this case it’s potassium. Instead of cutting something out like almost every diet out there. It’s not my place to tell you reduce your sodium intake but it’s worth looking at what kind of ratio you might have.
Where Can You Get More Potassium?
Many fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and legumes are packed with potassium. For perspective, here’s a shortlist of how much potassium a typical serving of a few popular foods contain. (List taken from https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/food-sources-potassium)
- Potato (1 medium): 926 mg
- Acorn squash (1 cup cooked): 896 mg
- Spinach (1 cup cooked): 839 mg
- Butternut squash (1 cup cooked): 582
- Plain lowfat yogurt (8 ounces): 573
- Sweet potato (1 cup cooked): 572
- Kiwifruit (1 cup): 562
- Clams (3 ounces): 534
- White beans (½ cup cooked): 480
- Cantaloupe (1 cup): 473
- Banana (1 medium): 452
- Soybeans (½ cup cooked): 443
- Grapefruit (1 fruit): 415
- Carrots (1 cup): 410
- Milk (1 cup): 382
- Pinto beans (½ cup cooked): 373
- Lentils (½ cup cooked): 366
- Kidney beans (½ cup cooked)
- Split peas (½ cup cooked): 355
- Navy beans (½ cup cooked): 354
- Tempeh (½ cup): 342
- Edamame (½ cup cooked): 338
- Mandarin oranges (1 cup): 324
- Cauliflower (1 cup raw): 320
- Red bell pepper (1 cup raw): 314
- Raisins (¼ cup): 307
- Black bans (½ cup cooked): 306
- Pork (3 ounces): 303
- Pickering RT, Bradlee ML, Singer MR, Moore LL. Higher Intakes of Potassium and Magnesium, but Not Lower Sodium, Reduce Cardiovascular Risk in the Framingham Offspring Study. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 19;13(1).
- Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Electrolytes and Water. The National Academies Press. 2005.