A diet that includes natural sources of potassium is important in controlling blood pressure because potassium lessens the effects of sodium. The recommended daily intake of potassium for an average adult is about 4,700 milligrams per day.
But potassium should be considered as only part of your total dietary pattern. Factors such as salt intake, amount and type of dietary fat, cholesterol, protein and fiber, as well as minerals such as calcium and magnesium may affect blood pressure. Researchers attribute changes in blood pressure to certain patterns of food consumption.
For example, the D.A.S.H. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan study found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk and milk products, whole grain foods, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and unsalted nuts reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 5.5/3.0 mm Hg compared to the control diet (what the average American eats). The D.A.S.H. eating plan also contained less salt and sodium; sweets, added sugars and sugar-containing beverages; fats; and red meats than the typical American diet.Many of the elements of the D.A.S.H. eating plan --- fruits, vegetables, fat-free or lowfat (1 percent) dairy foods and fish --- are good natural sources of potassium.
Potassium-rich foods include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Lima beans
- Tomatoes, tomato juice and tomato sauce (look for low-sodium versions)
- Oranges and orange juice
- Cantaloupe and honeydew melon
- Grapefruit and grapefruit juice (talk to your healthcare provider if you're taking a cholesterol-lowering drug)
- Prunes and prune juice
- Apricots and apricot juice
- Raisins and dates
- Fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk
- Fat-free yogurt
Is it possible to have too much potassium?
Too much potassium can be harmful in many older persons and those with kidney disorders. Potassium affects the balance of fluids in the body. As we get older, our kidneys become less able to remove potassium from our blood. Therefore, before taking any over-the-counter potassium supplement, consult your healthcare professional.
You should also ask your doctor before trying salt substitutes, because these contain potassium chloride and may be harmful for people with certain medical conditions.
This content was last reviewed on 04/04/2012.