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Issue 138: Go Bananas!

Go Bananas

No doubt you’ve heard of potassium. It’s an important mineral that’s necessary for proper, healthy bodily function. Crucial for heart function, bone health and playing a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, potassium also supports digestive and muscular function. Likewise, potassium is an electrolyte—a substance present in the human body that serves to conduct electricity in the body so that the body’s cells, tissues and organs work as they should.

In short, adequate amounts of potassium are important to health, and potassium-rich foods, including vegetables and fruits, have a reputation for supporting heart health and overall health. The problem is that many Americans aren’t getting enough of it. The recommended amount of potassium intake is about 4,700 milligrams per day, but the average woman gets only about half that, while the average man gets just a little over half that amount.

A potassium shortfall is a problem in and of itself, but a newer study suggests that eating too much salt—which many Americans do—while not getting enough potassium could be a double whammy. Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City’s health commissioner whose commentary on this study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, says, “If you have too much sodium and too little potassium, it’s worse than either one on its own.”

Too much sodium, for instance, increases the risk of high blood pressure, which is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke, and salt is the primary source of sodium for most folks. A teaspoon or so (preferably less) is an upper limit for salt daily, but putting down the salt shaker may not accomplish cutting back on sodium, since about 75 percent of the sodium in America’s diet comes from processed foods. Perhaps that’s why only about one in 10 Americans follow the teaspoon of salt (or less) a day guideline. The rest—9 out of 10—overdo their salt intake.

That could be a big problem, too. The study found that those who eat a lot of salt and very little potassium are more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those who ate nearly equal amounts of both nutrients. Potassium, says Dr. Elena Kuklina, one of the study’s authors, may neutralize the heart-damaging effects of salt. That’s not a license to eat unhealthy amounts of salt, but it does highlight the importance of getting enough potassium, while reducing salt intake. So, where can you find some of those potassium-filled foods?

When people think about foods with potassium, many instantly “go bananas” since bananas are a food that contains substantial amounts of potassium. Bananas aren’t the only foods filled with potassium, however. Other foods include: spinach, avocados, beets, kiwi, broccoli, raisins, sweet potatoes, meats (organic, grass-fed, of course), fish such as salmon and cod, legumes, cantaloupe, dates, prunes and dairy products (organic) as well as coconut water.

Try some of these yummy foods today. What a tasty way to “go bananas” with potassium-filled foods!

 

 

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.


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