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The Challenge of Potassium

 BSC fresh fruit on plate potassium

If you’re into reading nutrition labels, you’re probably pretty familiar with RDAs -Recommended Daily Allowance. For those of you who aren’t, RDA refers to how much of a particular nutrient one is supposed to take in during a day in order to avoid the negative health consequences associated with a deficiency.  

I’ve been studying nutrition for over 30 years and there has been one RDA that has baffled me for as long as I can remember – potassium. Potassium is a powerhouse of an electrolyte, playing a critical role in everything from muscle contractions and fluid balance to maintaining healthy blood pressure and lowering the risk of osteoporosis and stroke. It is so critical to various processes in the body, and for our overall health, yet it’s a struggle at best, to get anywhere close to the RDA of 5 grams a day,

You might think that if you ate 5 bananas a day (and I’m not suggesting that you do), that you would be well covered for potassium. Truth is, with only approx 400 mg per banana,  you wouldn’t even be half way there!  

I sat down with my marketing director, who happens to be an endurance athlete, and we’ve discussed what a person might eat in one day in order to meet the RDA for this particular nutrient, and it’s definitely a challenge!

So play a game with me here…putting together the foods  below, find a realistic meal plan for a day,  that would add up to the RDA of 4700 mg.  You’ll need a calculator.

1 cup broccoli:  450

½ cup baked beans:  450

8 oz yogurt:  320

5.3 oz greek yogurt:  230

1 oz chia:  115

8 oz orange juice:  500

Med baked potato:  900

Med sweet potato 430

2 pieces of 21 grain bread:  230

1 egg:  60

Med banana:  420

1 c. avocado 700

Salmon (1/2 filet):  720

Large apple:  230

½ c. cooked spinach :  415

1 mango: 560

½ c. quinoa 318

1 c. chopped kale 325

1 c. raisin bran:  350

1 c. milk:  360

1 c. coconut water: 600

6oz chicken breast: 400

Here’s a menu that we came up with:  ( Note that this sample menu does not take into consideration other nutrients, total caloric needs of individual, nor specific dietary considerations or restrictions):

Breakfast:   1 med banana, one cup orange juice, 1cup raisin bran with 3/4 c. skim milk,   (1410)

Snack:  greek yogurt  230

Lunch:  ¼  salmon filet, 1 mango, ½ c. baked beans (1370)

Snack:  ¼ avocado 175, multigrain crackers  95

Dinner:  chicken breast, ½  c. broccoli, 1 med baked potato (1525)

Total potassium for this menu is 4630 mg, just barely hitting the RDA of 4700. The point of this exercise is to show you just how difficult it is to obtain the RDA of potassium, even when you are consuming high potassium foods.  You really have to work an pay attention to get anywhere near 4700 g a day, (and it’s even more important to do so if you’re an athlete).  Furthermore, the above sample diet may possibly work for someone who is very active, but it may have too many calories for someone who is not physically active, and could cause weight gain.  The takeaway here is to become aware of good sources of potassium, experiment with your daily menu plan and bring the subject of potassium intake with your doctor.  It’s too critical of a nutrient to leave to chance!

Bruce Neeld is the founder and President of the Boulder Salt Company. He is a research scientist by day, and a holistic nutritionist by passion. He has studied nutrition for over 3o years and his personal health goals include warding off cancer, and to live to be 160 – or die trying.

What’s the story behind Boulder Salt? Click here:  The story behind Boulder Salt!

What does Bruce put in his smoothies? See an example here!

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