The potassium stars of summer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe hear lots of negative news about sodium — we eat too much, it’s bad for us, it leads to hypertension, everyone should cut back — WAAAAY back — and just get used to bland food.

What we rarely hear is the good news about sodium’s partner, potassium.  Maybe we should.  Most of us never consume enough potassium from food, which is a shame.  Potassium intake is linked to lower blood pressure and stroke risk.  But we really have to get it in it’s natural form from foods.  Potassium salts can’t be added to foods because they change the flavor.  And excess intake of certain potassium salts can have adverse health effects.  The FDA limits potassium supplement doses to a mere 99 mg per pill, compared to our daily requirement of 4700 mg.

Potassium is typically high in fruits and vegetables.  Potatoes, bananas, orange juice and canned tomato products are good sources all year long.  But some summer season fruits and vegetables are great sources, with the added benefit of being low calorie, high fiber and filling.  The chart below lists many popular in-season sumer fruits and vegetables that pack a potassium punch.  I’ve also arranged the chart by the “mg potassium per calorie”, to give an idea of the potassium power of these foods.  Values are for raw food, except for corn.

food           amount      mg potassium     mg per calorie
zuccuini       1 cup slices      300               15.5
tomato         1 medium          300               13.3
cantaloupe     1 cup cubes       400+               7.9
green beans    1 cup             211                6.8

honeydew       1 cup cubes       400                6.4
peach          1 large           330                4.8
nectarine      1 large           300+               4.6
blackberrie    1 cup             212                3.8
watermelon     1 cup cubes       170                3.7
plum           1 avg             104                3.5
cherries       1 cup             342                3.5
corn on the cob  1 ear           400                3.1
raspberries      1 cup           200                2.9

We knew about tomatoes, but who would have thought zucchini was a concentrated source of potassium.  Slice it into salads, grill spears or whole baby zucchini, or use raw slices for dipping.

An ear of fresh corn on the cob is also a great potassium source, although it’s higher calorie than zucchini or beans.  And keep in mind, all fruits and vegetables have some potassium.  With this list in mind, it may be hard to enjoy all the bounty of seasonal summer fruits and vegetables and not eat more potassium.



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