Am I getting enough potassium?

Healthy bodies need potassium because this mineral blunts the effects of sodium, so it helps control blood pressure. It does this in two ways: More potassium helps us eliminate sodium through our urine. It also helps ease the tension or pressure in the walls of our blood vessels.

So, are you getting enough? If you are an average American, probably not. It is recommended that adults take in 4,700 milligrams (mg) per day. Men average less than 3,200 mg/day, and women eat even less, about 2,400 mg/day.

Most of us are getting too much sodium and not enough potassium, and we have the blood pressure numbers to prove it.

What foods have potassium?

The DASH diet with its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) dairy foods and fish can be good natural sources of potassium.

Following is a partial list of foods containing potassium from the National Institutes of Health that may help inspire ways for you to get the recommended 4,700 mg of potassium daily:

Aim to eat an overall healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, poultry, fish, legumes (peas and beans), fat-free or low-fat dairy products, non-tropical vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. A healthy diet should also limit red meat, saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars.

Increasing your potassium intake doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to how much sodium you’re eating. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) a day and an ideal limit of 1,500 mg or less per day for most adults, especially for those with high blood pressure.

It is better to get your potassium from your food rather than from supplements.

Can you get too much?

For some people, too much potassium can produce a condition called hyperkalemia, which in severe cases can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, heart palpitations, burning or prickling feeling in the extremities, and cardiac arrhythmias that could be life threatening. Hyperkalemia may result from chronic kidney disease, diabetes, heart failure and other diseases or certain blood pressure and heart medications. If you’re considering an over-the-counter potassium supplement or salt substitutes that have much potassium and little sodium, have a conversation with your healthcare provider first.

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