Donate |

Potassium helps rid the body of sodium

Last updated: April 2011

In the dietary battle against high blood pressure, sodium restriction gets the glory but potassium is the unsung hero. It helps rid the body of sodium and protects cells that line blood-vessel walls. In fact, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) works not just by minimizing sodium but also by emphasizing fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, all of which are good sources of potassium. In addition to blunting the effects of sodium, a potassium-rich diet is also associated with a reduced risk of bone loss, kidney stones, strokes, and type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, nearly all Americans consume too much sodium and far too little potassium. "There's a mismatch between what our biological systems are designed for and what we try to make them handle," says R. Curtis Morris, Jr., M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

A September 2010 study suggests what might happen if people corrected the sodium-potassium ratio. It found that even if sodium consumption stayed high, increasing potassium to the recommended levels (4,700 milligrams a day) could reduce the risk of heart-disease mortality by up to 11 percent and stroke mortality by up to 15 percent.

So is it enough to simply take potassium supplements or use salt substitutes made with the mineral? Probably not. "Those are different forms of potassium and likely will not provide the same benefit as the form found naturally in foods," says Morris, a member of a panel convened by the Institute of Medicine to establish potassium recommendations.

Too much potassium is not a problem for most people, but certain conditions and drugs can interfere with the body's ability to get rid of the excess. So talk with a doctor before increasing your potassium intake, even from food, if you have a disorder that causes potassium retention, such as diabetes, heart failure, or kidney disease. Also seek a doctor's opinion if you take ACE inhibitors, such as lisinopril (Prinivil and generic) and ramipril (Altace and generic); angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), such as losartan (Cozaar and generic) and valsartan (Diovan); and potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone (Aldactone and generic).

Good dietary sources of potassium Amount (mg)
Potato, baked: With skin (1 medium) 925
Avocado (½ cup) 585
Yogurt: Plain, low-fat (8 oz.) 575
Beans, boiled: Black, lentils, lima, kidney, pinto (½ cup) 305 to 485
Greens, cooked: Spinach, Swiss chard (½ cup) 420 to 480
Orange juice (8 oz.) 475
Squash: Winter (½ cup) 450
Artichoke (1 medium) 425
Banana (1 medium) 420
Milk: Skim (8 oz.) 410
Recommended daily intake
Men and women: 4,700 mg.
No upper limit.  
   

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from safety, health, cars, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

PREPAID PLAN COMPARISON
How to choose the right prepaid phone plan See which of four common phone-usage scenarios fits your needs.
LEAF BLOWER REVIEWS
Leaf blowers that don't raise a ruckusVideo Gas models are less noisy than they used to be, but electrics are quietest.
SUV REVIEWS
On the road: 10 best vehicles for family vacations When you're traveling with a crowd, comfort is key for an enjoyable trip.
VACUUM REVIEWS
5 ways to unclutter and clean up your home If you've procrastinated this spring, try these organizing and cleaning tips.
SMART PHONE REVIEWS
Get the best deal on the new Samsung Galaxy S 5 The lowest up-front price could cost you more in the long run.
WASHING MACHINE REVIEWS
Best appliances: Top-rated washer-and-dryer pairs These laundry duos cleaned up in our latest lab tests.

Connect

and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:

Cars

Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more