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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Will a banana a day keep the doctor away?

There is an old saying, “An apple a day will keep the doctor away”.  But what about bananas?  Will “A banana a day keep the doctor away?”  Will eating a banana a day improve our health so we are less likely to need a doctor?   In a way, yes.  Bananas are a rich source of potassium.   We hear so much about sodium in our diets and how we all should control our sodium but very little about potassium.  But potassium helps control the harmful effects sodium has on our bodies.  Eating foods like bananas that are rich in potassium and low in sodium can help us lower our blood pressure, prevent heart disease, and reduce our risk of stroke.   So while sodium raises blood pressure, potassium has the opposite effect and helps keep our blood pressure normal.  People with high blood pressure or those having a family history of high blood pressure, should focus on lowering sodium in their diets but they should also focus on increasing the potassium by eating foods rich in potassium. 

So much has been written about lowering our sodium intake.  Every student I teach knows that we should watch the sodium in our diets.  But not one student has heard that potassium foods can counter the harmful effects of sodium.  There is so much emphasis on sodium but little on raising the potassium content of our diets.  Most Americans eat diets loaded with processed foods which are often high in sodium and low in potassium, compounding the bad health effects of sodium. 

For adults, the recommended intake of potassium is 4700 mg a day.  Yet most of us take in only 2000 to 3000 mg a day.  So we eat diets higher in sodium than recommended and lower in potassium than recommended. 

So how can you increase your potassium intake?  One way is to eat less processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables.   Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium but many are good sources of potassium.   Eating fresh corn on the cob is a healthier choice than canned corn as the canned corn would have added salt. 
Some easy ways to add potassium to your diet –

  • serve 2 vegetables at dinner
  • pack 2 pieces of fruit in your lunch, one for lunch and one for a midday snack.
  •  Drink real orange juice at breakfast, not Sunny D or some fruit drink

Add high potassium foods to your diet every day:

  • Vegetables – beans, potatoes, dark leafy greens like spinach, acorn squash, mushrooms, carrots, pumpkin, tomatoes, vegetable juices
  • Fruits – bananas, apricots, dried fruit, cantaloupe, figs, honeydew, kiwi, mango, nectarine, avocados, orange, orange juice, prunes, raisins
  • Other foods – nuts, bran, chocolate, granola, milk, yogurt, peanut butter

So this week try adding some potassium rich foods to your diet and improve your health. 


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