Taking Minerals to Heart
Uncovering Potassium & Sodium
Hypertension is anything but heart friendly. Elevated blood pressure damages arteries, making them less elastic which decreases blood flow and oxygen to the heart. The negative impact of sodium on blood pressure and heart health is widely recognized, yet the positive impact of potassium is rarely recognized. Both are electrolytes but play a very different role in health.
Potassium and sodium are essential minerals that interact in the body, working to regulate the balance of body fluids, contract muscles, and support blood pressure. Potassium is pulled into cells while sodium is pushed out, an interaction that transmits signals along nerves and contracts muscles. A balanced intake of sodium and potassium is crucial for heart health, and many Americans get too much sodium and too little potassium to reap the benefits.
SODIUM BREAKDOWN Kidneys are the bodies efficient filters but may have trouble keeping up with excess sodium in the bloodstream. As sodium accumulates, the body holds onto water to dilute the sodium until balance is achieved, increasing the amount of fluid surrounding cells and forcing the heart to work harder and adding pressure on blood vessels. Over time, the extra pressure can stiffen blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. High blood pressure is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. It accounts for two-thirds of all strokes and half of heart disease.
BENEFITS OF POTASSIUM Adequate potassium intake relaxes blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of stroke and encouraging the body to excrete excess sodium. This decreases blood volume and relieves pressure on blood vessels. Potassium also helps the kidneys work efficiently. The 2020 U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s health claim captures these benefits: “Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.”
A recent study in Archives of Internal Medicine reveals
People who eat high sodium, low potassium diets had a higher risk of dying from a heart attack and ‘all-cause’ mortality and had a 20% higher risk of death from any cause than people with the lowest sodium intakes.
Conversely, people with the highest potassium intakes had a 20% lower risk of dying than people with the lowest potassium intakes.
Most important is the relationship of sodium to potassium in the diet: People consuming the highest ratio of sodium to potassium had double the risk of death from a heart attack, and a 50% higher risk of death from any cause, than people with the lowest ratio of sodium to potassium.
Knowledge is power. Shift your electrolytes with informed choices.
OUR BODIES NEED FAR MORE POTASSIUM THAN SODIUM.
Typically each day, Americans consume 3,300mg of sodium, while the recommended amount is 2,500mg or less. Conversely, Americans consume an average of 2,300mg of potassium daily while it's recommend adult women get 2,600mg and men aim for 3,400mg per day. The goods news: high potassium foods are naturally low in sodium!
Sources of potassium include:
HIGH: 500 mg - 1000 mg per serving
White beans, baked & sweet potatoes (with skin), canned carrot or prune juice, tomato paste, plain low fat yogurt
GOOD: 90 mg - 490 mg per serving
Avocado, acorn squash, banana, broccoli, reduced fat milk (2%), spinach, Atlantic wild salmon, dried apricots, broccoli
Making it Happen
Bottled condiments can be a major source of sodium. Bring your own flavor to a meal with homemade vinaigrettes, salsas, pestos, and sauces. With a small blender or food processor you can get creative! Try a lemon tahini dressing, thai peanut sauce or homemade spicy hummus.
Swap pre-packaged foods and snacks for vegetables & fruits naturally high in potassium and low in sodium. Use in smoothies, chop onto salads or enjoy them on the grill. Also, make the switch to plant-based proteins, sources of potassium and soluble fiber, instead of high salt, processed or cured meats.
Cut sodium by limiting packaged snacks, meals and sauces. Choose low sodium versions for 25% less sodium than the original, or choose fresh foods instead. Most people should aim for 2500 mg of sodium per day, or less. Check Nutrition Facts Labels for sodium levels, and while you're at it, peak at potassium content, too!
Add variety and reduce sodium with DIY Vinaigrettes!
Drizzle over a grain bowl, add to grilled vegetables, or mix into veggie, bean or fruit salads.
1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-4 T Red Wine Vinegar
1 T Honey or Dijon Mustard
Whisk together and savor the flavors! Add ins might include garlic, fresh herbs, black pepper, lemon juice, or dried herbs and spices.
DIY Salt Substitutes
Channel Mrs. Dash with DIY salt-free combinations
1/4 cup chili powder 1/4 cup cumin
1 TBSP onion powder 1 TBSP garlic powder
1 tsp oregano 2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground pepper
Everything Bagel Seasoning
1/4 cup sesame seeds 1/4 cup poppy seeds
3 TBSP dried garlic flakes 3 TBSP dried onion flakes
2 TBSP dried parsley 2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp garlic powder 2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp onion flakes 1 tsp dried chives
*Store mixes in airtight container for up to 1-2 months. Use on roast vegetables, proteins before grilling or seasoning, in vinaigrettes, or sprinkled into cooked whole grains for a boost of flavor.
Shift your electrolytes by reducing sodium and/or increasing potassium. Try one of the following to get started!
Hide your salt shaker. Can you avoid it for four weeks?
Season a dish with your own spice creation.
Eat at least three foods high or good sources of potassium in one day.
Assess your fluid retention by weighing yourself then tracking sodium intake daily, aiming for 2,500 mg per day or less. After 1-2 weeks, weigh yourself again. A decrease in weight may be due to less water retention.
Electrolytes play an essential role in bone health.
Potassium-containing foods support bicarbonate ions, which assist in buffering acids in the body to maintain blood pH. If deficient in potassium, the body may pull calcium from the bone. However, as the potassium intake increases, more calcium content is preserved.
Preserving strong bones! Yet another reason to focus on adding potassium-containing foods to the diet.