Are Your Potassium Levels Dangerously Low?

banana-kiwiAre your potassium levels dangerously low? When most people hear “potassium”, they think about bananas, and not much more. But did you know that potassium plays a critical role in the function of your heart and other muscles?

While you may be aware of the downsides of eating a high-sodium diet, many people are unaware of the importance of their potassium to sodium ratio. The potassium to sodium level in the human body should be between 2.5-to-1 and 4-to-1. This means we should be eating two-and-a-half- to four-times as much potassium as sodium.

The problem is that the Standard American Diet (SAD), consisting mostly of high-sodium processed foods, flips that ratio around. Most Americans eat twice as much sodium as potassium each day.

What happens when your potassium to sodium ratio gets out of whack?

New scientific research has shown that several things can start to go awry in your body. Most notably, your risk of heart attack can increase by 200% if you eat too much sodium and not enough potassium. It is thought that potassium helps to protect the heart from the ill effects of sodium. Adrenal disease and thyroid disease have also been linked to having low potassium/high sodium ratios.

The recommended daily allowance for potassium is a minimum of 4,700 milligrams a day. But the average American woman gets only half that amount, while the average man gets just slightly more.

The recommended daily allowance for sodium is a maximum of 2,300 milligrams a day, equal to about a teaspoon of salt. However, most Americans are getting far more than the recommended amount of sodium in the form of processed and restaurant foods. Only 10% of Americans currently meet the guideline for sodium intake.

Not only are most people’s potassium levels too low, their sodium levels are generally too high as well. This can make for for a dangerous combination.

How can you get more potassium into your daily diet? Though the banana is relatively high in potassium, there are several other foods that are actually higher.

12 high-potassium foods:

  • White beans (1 cup cooked) = 1004mg
  • Baked Potatoes (with skin) = 926mg
  • Sweet potato (1 cup with skin) = 950mg
  • Spinach (1 cup cooked) = 839mg
  • Baked acorn squash (1 cup cubed) = 899mg
  • Banana (1 cup, mashed) = 806mg
  • Dried apricots (1/2 cup) = 755mg
  • Plantains (1 cup sliced) = 284mg
  • Yogurt (1 cup, plain, skim/non-fat) = 625mg
  • Avocado (1/2 cup, mashed) = 558mg
  • Salmon (3oz fillet) = 534mg
  • Kiwi/Nectarine/Peach (1 whole fruit) = 285mg each

It is nearly impossible to get an overdose of potassium from natural food sources, so eat up!

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