|

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 cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

DISHWASHER REVIEWS
You're probably loading your dishwasher wrongVideo Your dishes will get cleaner, and fragile items will be less likely to break.
PERSONAL FINANCE NEWS
Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Softcard, LoopPay reviewVideo Which one of these virtual wallets stands out from the pack?
SPACE HEATER REVIEWS
Best space heaters for $100 or lessVideo Check our winners for warming a room or spot heating just one area.
NEW CAR REVIEWS
We test BMW's in-car night vision tech for drivers Can the safety tech help make nighttime driving less scary?
HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE REVIEWS
Boost the payout from your home insurance claim You'll need to do the right kind of inventory to get full-replacement value.
HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS & GUIDE
Expert picks: Best holiday gift ideas for kidsVideo Get a jump on holiday shopping with these presents for children.

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