A banana a day?
We’ve all heard the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (thank you, Benjamin Franklin!), but a potassium-rich banana might help, too.
A recent study looking at stroke risk in post-menopausal women (ages 50-79) found that, overall, women with the highest dietary potassium intake were 12% less likely to suffer a stroke.
And women who didn’t have high blood pressure and ate a lot of potassium-rich foods had a 21% lower risk of stroke.
But don’t go running to the drugstore for potassium supplements! This study didn’t look at the effect of potassium supplements on health, and high doses of supplemental potassium can cause dangerous heart arrhythmias. It’s safer (and more delicious) to get your potassium in your meals.
Related post: Boning up on calcium
In the study, the highest level of potassium was more than 3198.6 mg/day; the lowest was less than 1925.5 mg/day.
The USDA recommendation for dietary potassium is 4700 mg/day, but the study found that “Only 2.8% of women in our study met or exceeded this level.”
It sounds like we all need to examine our diets and try to add more potassium-rich food items.
Honestly, I’m not sure how much potassium I’m getting in my diet every day. And I don’t like calculating the milligrams of this and that in every bite I eat. But now that I know potassium can help lower my stroke risk, I intend to be more deliberate in working these foods into my weekly meal plans.
I always associate bananas with potassium, but it is not the richest source of dietary potassium.
Here are the top 10 potassium-containing foods:
- White beans – 1000 mg/1 cup cooked beans (other beans such as soy, kidney, lima, pinto are also high in potassium)
- Dark leafy greens – 840 mg/ 1 cup cooked spinach (also consider chard, kale and collard greens)
- Baked potatoes – 926 mg/average sized potato (an average sweet potato has 542 mg of potassium)
- Dried apricots – 755 mg/.5 cup (other dried fruits such as raisins, prunes and peaches are good, too, but all are high in sugar)
- Baked acorn squash – 899 mg/1 cup cooked (also zucchini and butternut squash)
- Yogurt – 625 mg/1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt (avoid yogurts loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners)
- Fish – 534 mg/3 oz salmon (most other fish are good, too)
- Avocados – 975 mg/average sized avocado (yay! guacamole!)
- Mushrooms – 428 mg/1 cup sliced white mushrooms (also portobello, crimini and shitake)
- Bananas (finally!) – 422 mg/average sized banana
Looking over this list, I’m probably getting an adequate amount of potassium every day, or at least every week. I often have a banana with a 1/2 cup of plain, homemade yogurt for breakfast. And I love beans, leafy greens, mushrooms, and squash. But I’ll look for more recipes that use these items and have fun trying new dishes.
Although this study only looked at post-menopausal women, but I think everyone, male or female, young or old, can benefit from adding more of these nutrient-rich foods to their daily diets.
Getting our nutrients from food rather than pills is both safer and cheaper, and will hopefully go a long way in keeping us healthy and out of the doctor’s office.