High blood pressure is a common and dangerous condition that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke—two of the leading causes of death for Americans. Moreover, African American men and women have higher rates of high blood pressure than any other race or ethnic group. The good news is, there are steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure or to control it if your blood pressure is already high.
Most everyone knows that if you have high blood pressure, you should ditch the salt shaker and shy away from packaged, processed, store-bought and restaurant foods. These foods are loaded with sodium. But you might be surprised to know that potassium also affects your blood pressure. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day. Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t getting nearly enough potassium.
Scientific evidence shows that an average increase of 1,540 mg of potassium—about three extra servings of high potassium foods—a day can help prevent some of the harmful effects that sodium can have on blood pressure.
The best sources of potassium in the diet are vegetables, fruits, beans, dairy products, fish and nuts.
Vegetables: Beet greens, tomato products, winter squash and spinach are rich sources of potassium. Vegetables should be consumed in a nutrient-dense form, with limited additions such as salt, butter or creamy sauces. When selecting frozen or canned vegetables, choose those lower in sodium.
Fruit: Prune juice, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, prunes, dried peaches or apricots, orange juice, and plantains are all high in blood pressure-lowering potassium. Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories. Eat fruits raw, as juice with no sugar added, or canned in their own juice. Avoid canned fruit in heavy syrup.