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December 2013

Sodium and Potassium: A Balancing Act

Due to the strong evidence linking sodium to high blood pressure, the current Dietary Guidelines recommend significantly reducing sodium in the diet.  If left untreated, high blood pressure can damage the heart, blood vessels and kidneys, potentially leading to heart disease, stroke or kidney failure.  Although reducing the amount of salt in the diet is critical, increasing your potassium can help offset the adverse effects of sodium on blood pressure! 

Minimize Sodium
Sodium, an essential nutrient, is needed in small quantities.  Salt is just one source; most sodium is being added to foods during processing.  Significant sources of sodium include:

  • Prepared and Processed Foods
  • Processed, Smoked or Cured Meats
  • Salad Dressings and Condiments
  • Breads, Rolls and Bagels

One teaspoon of salt has 2325 mg of sodium.  To cut back on sodium, use herbs instead of salt, oil & vinegar to dress salads, minimize processed and packaged snack foods. 

Potassium, Just The Facts

  • Potassium is found in all cells of the body and plays
    a role in many vital functions.
  • The more potassium that is consumed, the more
    sodium is excreted from the body.
  • Potassium helps the blood vessel walls relax, in turn reducing blood pressure.
  • Studies show higher dietary potassium can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and  stroke.

Optimize Potassium
To boost potassium, have plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and low fat dairy products. 

Potassium Rich Foods Include:

White Beans 1/2 cup 500 mg
Baked Potato 1 small 740 mg
Plain NF Yogurt  1/2 cup 500 mg
Spinach 1/2 cup 420 mg
Cantaloupe 1 cup 430 mg
LF Milk 1 cup 370 mg
Tomato 1 Medium 425 mg
Banana 1 Medium 420 mg
Orange 1 Medium 230 mg
Broccoli (cooked) 1/2 cup 230 mg

The Right Balance is Key

  • Try to limit sodium to 1500 mg or less each day.
  • Boost potassium to approximately 4700 mg daily.
  • If you have kidney disease or severe congestive heart failure you may need to limit potassium.  Otherwise, a diet rich in potassium will not lead to toxic levels.
  • Check with your physician before taking potassium supplements.


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