Potassium Rich Foods (cont.)

Appel, who has studied the effects of diet on blood pressure, tells WebMD that potassium may curb elevated blood pressure by contributing to more flexible arteries, and by helping the body get rid of excess sodium. Sodium promotes fluid retention, which may result in higher blood pressure.

Potassium may bolster bone strength by helping guard against bone loss, and it helps to reduce the risk for kidney stones.

Potassium's Partners in Better Blood Pressure

Potassium is important, but there's more to lowering blood pressure than a single mineral.

"Diets that include foods rich in potassium are associated with lower blood pressure, but it's not entirely accurate to give all the credit to potassium," says Marla Heller, MS, RD.

Appel has researched the effects of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on elevated blood pressure and found that it's capable of lowering blood pressure, often in a matter of weeks.

Heller, author of The DASH Diet Action Plan, says the relatively low-sodium DASH diet is based on large amounts of fruits and vegetables, low-fat and nonfat dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean meats, fish, and poultry.

Although the DASH diet is a treasure trove of potassium, it's also rich in calcium and magnesium, which help reduce blood pressure.

Got Potassium?

Experts suggest 4,700 milligrams of dietary potassium a day for adults as part of a balanced diet.

But average intake is lower for U.S. adults. Men average 3,200 milligrams per day of potassium, and women average 2,400 milligrams.

"Relying on convenience and restaurants foods and not eating enough fruits and vegetables is why so many people don't get enough potassium," Heller says. "Fresh and lightly processed foods, including dairy and meat, have the most potassium."

Home cooking determines potassium levels in produce, too.

Boiling depletes potassium. For example, a boiled potato has almost half the potassium of a baked potato. To preserve potassium, eat fruits and vegetables raw, or roast or lightly steam them.