Foods High in Potassium for Heart Health
Getting the right high-potassium foods in your diet is essential for heart health. “Having the right amount of potassium is critical for the heart to beat properly,” says cardiologist John Day, MD, who specializes in heart rhythm disorders at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah. “If your potassium levels are too high or too low, the heart is at increased risk of a cardiac arrest.” Dr. Day adds that having enough potassium rich foods in your diet can help lower your blood pressure.
Including enough potassium-rich foods in your daily diet is important for a steady heart rhythm, too. One of the risk factors for atrial fibrillation — a common irregular heart rhythm — is not getting enough, or getting too much, potassium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends you aim for at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day in your diet. This may be more than you are used to, as national surveys show that Americans average only 2,640 milligrams of potassium in our diets each day.
Some fruits, vegetables and nuts are higher in potassium than others. Read on to discover good sources of potassium for a healthy heart.
Foods High in Potassium
Choosing potassuim-rich foods is easy because there are so many. Here are just a few:
- Potato, 1 medium has 926 mg potassium
- Sweet potato, 1 medium has 540 mg potassium
- Spinach, ½ cup cooked has 290 mg potassium
- Zucchini, ½ cup cooked has 280 mg potassium
- Tomato, ½ cup fresh has 210 mg potassium
Legumes and Nuts
- Soybeans, ½ cup cooked has 440 mg potassium
- Lentils, ½ cup cooked has 370 mg potassium
- Kidney beans, ½ cup cooked has 360 mg potassium
- Split peas, ½ cup cooked has 360 mg potassium
- Almonds, one third of a cup has 310 mg potassium
- Bananas, 1 medium has 420 mg potassium
- Apricots, ¼ cup has 380 mg potassium
- Oranges, 1 medium has 237 mg potassium
- Cantaloupe, ½ cup has 214 mg potassium
Diets With High-Potassium Foods
Diet recommendations can help get health conditions like high blood pressure under control, especially if they include potassium-rich foods. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet has become popular as an effective way to reduce blood pressure through smart food choices. The focus of the DASH diet is eating more fruits and vegetables, but less fat and less sodium. This diet is rich in foods high in potassium. “Fruits and vegetables are healthy for people with hypertension. These also help with weight control,” says Laura Jeffers, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic.
Potassium Cuts Stroke Risks After Menopause
After menopause, women who get enough potassium in their daily diet have fewer strokes, according to a September 2014 study in Stroke from the American Heart Association. The lower stroke rate could be due to the heart-health benefits of a potassium-rich diet, like blood pressure control and heart rhythm stabilization. Looking at the diets of more than 90,000 women, researchers found that those who had the most potassium in their diets were 12 to 16 percent less likely to have a stroke, report Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, lead author of the study, and other researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. The women included in the research were between 50 and 79 years old. Those who consumed the most dietary potassium were also 10 percent less likely to die over the 11 years of the study. Their potassium came from food sources rich in the mineral, rather than from supplements.
Control Blood Pressure With High-Potassium Foods
The number of American adults with hypertension, or high blood pressure, is estimated to be 75 million — that’s 32 percent of the population and climbing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Elevated blood pressure is a risk factor heart attack, stroke, and heart failure — the leading causes of death in the United States today. It’s also a cause of atrial fibrillation. Because of this, controlling blood pressure is on many people’s lists of important things to do each day.
Normal blood pressure should be at or below 120/80 mmHg. Prehypertension describes blood pressure between normal and high, up to 139/89. High blood pressure is over 140/90 mmHg. Work toward your blood pressure goal by including plenty of potassium-rich foods like potatoes, soybeans, bananas, and oranges in your diet.
Are You Eating Enough High-Potassium Foods?
If you’re eating a well-balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables, you don’t have to worry about getting too much potassium. “The challenge is that most Americans do not get enough potassium in their diets,” Dr. Day says. You can actually lose a lot of potassium from excessive sweating during endurance sports or while exercising on a hot summer day, Day notes.
And unless you have kidney failure or are on certain medications, you don’t need to worry about getting too much potassium. “Fortunately, if you get enough potassium in your diet the kidneys do a remarkable job at regulating the body’s potassium level,” Day says.
Jeffers agrees that eating too many high potassium foods is only a concern for patients with kidney problems, who should consult with their doctor about how to balance potassium levels.
This article was originally published in Everyday Health.