February 2009

You probably need more potassium. Potassium is a mineral that may help lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. The recommended level of potassium right now is 3500 mg a day. But some experts recommend as much as 4500 mg a day. Why so much?

Researchers have found that people who got twice as much potassium as sodium in their diets were half as likely to die from heart disease.

The problem with switching your balance of potassium to sodium is that the average American only eats 2600 mg potassium a day but over 4000 mg sodium. That's almost the opposite of where those numbers should be! Health experts recommend at least 4700 mg of potassium and 2300 mg of sodium or fewer daily!

Start loading up on fruits, vegetables, milk and yogurt to up your potassium. Here are some of the best sources:  

  • baked potato with skin: 850 mg
  • 1 cup yogurt: 500 mg
  • ½ cup lima beans: 500 mg
  • 1 cup orange juice: 475 mg
  • 1 medium banana: 450 mg
  • 1 cup milk: 400 mg
  • 3 ounces canned salmon: 300 mg
  • ½ cup pinto beans: 300 mg
  • 1/3 cup raisins: 250 mg

You can see the key to getting more potassium is really getting a couple of servings of dairy foods a day and at least 5 to 8 servings of fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes.

Be sure to read food labels for sodium. Processed foods like fast food and canned foods are the biggest source of sodium in our diets - not the salt shaker!

Beth Kitchin PhD RD
Assistant Professor
UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences

Cook NR, Obarzanek E, CutlerJA, Buring JE, Rexrode KM, Kumanyika SK, Appel LJ, Whelton PK. Joint effects of sodium and potassium intake on subsequent cardiovascular disease. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:32-40.