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Potassium and Your Blood Pressure

May 10, 2016 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Potassium and blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure (hypertension) you’ll be happy to hear that there are several lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce and control your blood pressure.

In terms of changing what you eat and drink, the main focus is on reducing sodium (salt). But, did you know that potassium plays an important role in reducing blood pressure too? Potassium is an important nutrient that helps the cells in your body to function normally. Nerves and muscles can’t work without it and it helps control blood pressure.

Like two sides of a coin, sodium tends to raise blood pressure, while potassium tends to lower it. On average, Canadians eat too much sodium (more than double the recommended amount) and not enough potassium. High sodium levels are often the result of eating too many highly processed foods that have added salt or other high sodium ingredients like soup base, processed meats and soy sauce.

How to Eat More Potassium-Rich Foods

Start by filling half your plate with fruits and veggies. While leafy greens, squash and root vegetables are great sources of potassium, you also can’t go wrong by simply eating more of the vegetables and fruit you enjoy.

A few tips:

  • Double up on veggies the next time you make sandwiches, soups or stir-fries.
  • Get into the habit of having salad or a plate of cut veggies and dip with your supper.
  • Try making fruit-based desserts like baked apples with nuts and raisins or pumpkin custard, instead of having cakes, squares or ice cream.

Add these Potassium-Rich Foods to Your Meals

  • Vegetables like sweet potatoes, tomato paste and chard
  • Fruit like bananas, apricots and kiwi
  • Grain products like wheat and oat bran, whole grain pasta or oats
  • Milk products like plain milk and yogurt
  • Soy products like fortified soy beverage, roasted soy beans or textured soy protein
  • Bean and lentils like refried beans, baked beans or split red lentils
  • Nuts and seeds like sunflower seeds, peanut butter and almonds
  • Fish and lean meat like salmon, chicken thighs or pork loin

Potassium Packed Recipes

Simple Fruit Salad

Try making a simple fruit salad like this one for a snack instead of having a cookie or muffin.

Mix together the following ingredients and enjoy. Makes two servings.

  • 1 orange, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 apple, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 30 ml (2 Tbsp) raisins, or 1 cup (250 ml) grapes, cut in half
  • 30 ml (2 Tbsp) vanilla or plain yogurt (sauce ingredient)
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) poppy seeds (optional)
  • 1 ml (¼ tsp) cinnamon

Potassi-yummy Smoothie*

Get an energy boost with this smoothie. Enjoy it instead of a sugary drink.

Blend together the following ingredients until smooth. Makes two servings.

  • 250 ml (1 cup) of unsweetened milk or fortified soy beverage
  • 250 ml (1 cup) of spinach or tender kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 large banana
  • 15 ml (1 Tbsp) nut butter
  • 15 ml (1 Tbsp) flax or chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 ml (¼ tsp) cinnamon

Eating more potassium-rich foods is just one part of healthy eating that can help reduce your blood pressure. For a more detailed eating plan check out the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It’s a well balanced approach that aligns with Canada’s Food Guide and has been proven to reduce blood pressure.

Speak with your doctor or dietitian before deciding to eat more potassium-rich foods. If your kidneys are not working properly, or you are taking certain medications, potassium can build up in your blood and cause health problems.

If you have more questions about lowering your blood pressure, call 8-1-1, toll free, for personalized advice from a registered dietitian at HealthLinkBC Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm or send us an email.

* Recipe based on the Classic Green Monster Smoothie recipe from Oh She Glows.

Related blogs

What Makes Vegetables and Fruit So Special?
High Blood Pressure & How it Affects You
The Health Effects of High Sodium

Recommended resources

HealthLink BC: High Potassium Eating and Eating Less Sodium
Canadian Diabetes Association: Dash Diet
BC Renal Agency: Potassium and Your Kidney Diet
HealthyFamiliesBC: Sodium Articles and Sodium Sense

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