Potassium Could Save Your Life

Government researchers find that too little potassium and high levels of sodium in the diet can increase your risk of DEATH!

July 14, 2011

Potassium-rich greens like spinach could be a lifesaver.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—We've all heard the news—too much salt is bad for our health, and for many reasons. Excess salt (we've doubled salt intake since the 1970s) is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. Adding to the laundry list of reasons why we should decrease our sodium intake, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently released a study creating even more accusations against the salt shaker.


The study investigated the long-term effects of potassium and salt intake, given that potassium often counteracts the effects of salt in our bodies. After a 15-year-long study observing more than 12,000 people, researchers found these results: 825 people died from heart disease, 433 from strokes. When assessing their diets, the CDC found that people with a higher salt intake and lower potassium had a 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause, and a 200 percent increased risk of death from a heart attack.

So what does this mean?

The strong correlation between an increased risk of death in people with low potassium and high sodium levels tells us that it might be smart to start adding more servings of potassium to our daily meals (in addition to cutting out excess salt). It also tells us that it’s time to watch out for hidden sodium. Researchers from the CDC recommend focusing on balancing our salt and potassium intake to avoid these risks.

To increase potassium, think beyond bananas, and also eat:

• Spinach
• Grapes
• Carrots
• Sweet potatoes
• Low-fat milk or yogurt

To decrease your sodium consumption:

• First, know how much you can have. The minimum amount you should be consuming is about 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day. (That's less than a teaspoon of table salt!) The maximum recommended level of sodium intake is about 2,300 milligrams per day.

• Check the labels. Soups, microwave meals, and many processed foods tend to have sodium levels that are off the charts and are sometimes more than half of the daily-recommended amount.

• Beware of restaurant food. Chefs at restaurants may be using massive amounts of salt to create and intensify flavor. Next time you plan to go out to eat, look online at the nutritional information for the restaurant, if it's available, decide on a meal with a reasonable amount of sodium, and you won’t be fooled. For more tips check out these four ways to order low-sodium fast food.

• Cook for yourself. If you cook more meals at home, you can easily control how much salt you put into your food. Need some help? Here are five low-sodium recipes to get you started.

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