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Are you getting enough potassium?  With emphasis on limiting sodium, potassium gets forgotten.   Yet, potassium can help in your effort to lower blood pressure.

In the U.S. one in three adults has high blood pressure and 56% do not have it under control.  So what does potassium have to do with it?  Potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure.  Studies have shown that people with higher potassium intakes have lower blood pressures.  High levels of potassium have also been associated with a reduced risk of bone loss, kidney stones and type 2 diabetes.  Low potassium levels are a predictor for stroke.    That’s why the new USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend you choose foods that provide more potassium.

Can’t potassium supplements work?  They can but they also can be hazardous, especially if you have kidney disease and don’t know it.   Having too much potassium in your blood can be life-threatening.    However, getting your potassium from foods usually does not cause any problems.  If you have a disorder that causes potassium retention, such as diabetes, kidney disease or heart failure, check with your doctor before increasing your potassium intake. 

Eating more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products is the BEST way to increase your potassium.   Bananas may come to mind when you hear the word potassium.  Bananas are a good source and so are potatoes, oranges or orange juice, beans, yogurt, milk, tomato products, spinach, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and prunes.  Follow “Choose My Plate” (http://www.choosemyplate.gov ) and fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables.   You will be getting the potassium you need as well as other nutrients and fiber.  With summer here, now is the time to enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables and get your potassium, too.

References:  USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010; Nutrition Action Healthletter, Getting Enough? September 2010.

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