Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Canadians' Diets are Potassium Poor

In each and every one of the cells that makes up our bodies, sodium and potassium act as a team. These two minerals, if properly balanced, drive the reactions that keep our hearts pumping, muscles contracting and our cells healthy. Start tipping the scales in either direction, however, and you can expect trouble. This is why a new report outlining the fact that Canadians' diets are too low in potassium is particularly disturbing.

We already know that the average North American's diet is too high in sodium. The sodium in our diets is most often added by the food industry and hidden in the processed foods we eat, especially canned foods, where it acts as a preservative. Before the advent of home refrigeration, salting foods was a great way to preserve them. Today, however, we are bombarded with absurd amounts of sodium in the foods we eat, and us consumers take the blame for having high blood pressure. We're told to cut back on sodium, so most logical reaction is to leave the salt shaker behind, but that's not really where the problem lies. With potassium, on the other hand, it's difficult to get enough each day, so in that case, more would actually be better.

Canadian adults are advised to consume at least 4,700 mg of potassium each day, which can help reduce blood pressure levels and help counteract or balance the effects of a high salt diet. The fact that many Canadians are deficient in potassium suggests that we're not eating enough fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes. Some of the best sources of potassium include sunflower seeds and almonds, dark leafy greens including dill, cucumber, avocados, yams and other potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, bananas, squash and broccoli. Fruits and veggies that are brightly coloured, especially those that are red, orange and yellow like cantaloupes and sweet peppers also tend to be high in potassium.

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