Sodium-Potassium Ratios

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What is the difference in the sodium potassium ratio between processed fast food versus whole foods prepared in a healthy manner?

Answer: Let’s compare:

Menu 1: Fast Food Meal

• McDonald’s Big Mac • Medium Fries • Medium cola drink

1130 calories, 48 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 1325 g sodium, 151 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 29 g protein, 1051 mg potassium

Sodium/potassium ratio: 1.26

There is more sodium than potassium here which is bad news for your heart!

Menu 2: Healthy Home-Cooked Meal

• Salad with vinegar • Poached Salmon with ginger • Baked potato • Tea, unsweetened

372 calories, 7.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 81 mg sodium, 47 g carbo- hydrate, 8 g fiber, 28 g protein, 2017 mg potassium

Sodium/potassium ratio: .04

There is a lot more potassium than sodium here which is very good news!

What’s Optimal:

In February of 2004 the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the “Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate”. They recommend an adequate intake for sodium at 1500 and an ideal potassium intake of 4700. Clearly this shows that the ideal ratio should be about .31 sodium/potas- sium. (or .48 if you use the upper intake level of sodium which is 2300 mg)

How to Lower Sodium:

• Start reading nutrition facts labels and choose foods that have 5% of the daily value or less for sodium.

• Avoid high-sodium food: fast food, frozen food, processed meats, picked foods, processed grains, cheese, canned foods with added salt and most processed and fast foods.

• Remember, 90% of the sodium you eat comes from salt and 75% of that comes from processed foods and foods eaten away from home.

How to increase potassium:

• Get enough fruits and vegetables

• Choose fresh meat, poultry and fish items that are made without added salt. Include plenty of nuts and legumes (dried beans).

• Some superstars (>500 mg potassium) include: apricots, bananas, lowfat yogurt, kidney beans, lima beans, white beans, beet greens, black-eyed peas, lentils, winter squash, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, melon, raisins, avocados, dates, figs, and carrot juice.

Fortunately these strategies are almost one and the same. If you choose lower-sodium, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains that are low in sodium, beans/legumes, unprocessed meats and lowfat dairy you will get more potassium and displace high-sodium processed foods from your diet.

A recent study found a strong correlation between poor sodium to potassium ratios (1.46 to 2.15) and mortality! (Arch Intern Med. 2011;171[13]:1183- 1191). A study published in Circulation found the average sodium to potassium ratio in the American diet was about 2.0, which is high. Researchers found that a 10% reduction in sodium and a 10% increase in potassium can decrease blood pressure by 2 to 4 mmHg. (Circulation 77, No. 1, 53-61, 1988.)

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