Potassium and High Blood Pressure in Type 2 Diabetes – All You Need To Know
Last updated: March 2022
Today in the United States, 73% of adults with type 2 diabetes have high blood pressure. That number may be surprising, but it’s important to acknowledge because high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease. But don’t worry – you can take steps to make sure you don’t fall into these statistics.
Potassium can help lower blood pressure
Prevention is the best place to start but it’s never too late to change! First, know your personal risk factors. There are some risk factors we can’t change (like family history, age, gender, and race), and there are many risk factors we can change. These include lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet – especially one high in sodium, being overweight or obese, drinking too much alcohol, smoking and tobacco use, and stress. You don’t need to make a lot of changes at once. Improving one factor can have a very positive effect on your overall health! So focus on just one important nutrient this week in your diet that will help you with high blood pressure - potassium.
How much potassium should I have per day?
Consuming potassium-rich foods is recommended as part of a healthy dietary pattern and is especially beneficial for those who have elevated blood pressure or hypertension.1 For the average American adult, the recommended dietary intake of potassium is 4.7g/day. However, the average American adult only consumes 2.2g of potassium per day.2 If your blood pressure is over 120/80 (and you have healthy kidneys, metabolize potassium normally, and are not taking any medications that interact with potassium), it is especially important to increase your intake of potassium-rich foods.1
Why is potassium important?
Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that lowers blood pressure by balancing salt in the diet.3,4 Eating a diet rich in potassium helps the body to excrete sodium in the urine, which in turn, helps to decrease blood pressure.1 Other important functions of potassium include building protein and muscle, metabolizing carbohydrates, aiding with growth, controlling the heart’s electrical signals, and maintaining the acid-base balance of the body.3
What are good sources of potassium?
The DASH diet is one approach that can help you increase your potassium intake and improve your blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and it is a dietary pattern that is low in sodium, high in potassium, and mostly plant-based. It has been shown in many medical studies to effectively lower blood pressure.5
1. Focus on fruits and vegetables
Fruits high in potassium include dried apricots (1101 mg/ ½ cup), prune juice (707 mg/cup), bananas (487/medium banana), cantaloupe (473 mg/cup), and raisins (322 mg/medium box). Good vegetable sources include cooked beet greens (1309 mg/cup), avocado (1166 mg/cup), baked sweet potatoes (950 mg/c), baked white potatoes with skin (941 mg/cup), tomato juice – opt for low sodium! (921 mg/cup), and baked acorn squash (896 mg/cup). (6)
2. Include some beans!
Certain types of beans are also good sources of potassium. White beans (1004 mg/cup), baby lima beans (969 mg/cup), pinto beans (746 mg/cup), black beans (739 mg/cup), and lentils (731 mg/cup) are some of the richest legume sources of potassium. (6)
3. Incorporate nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds make a great snack or salad topping, and they can also boost your potassium! Consider including almonds (246 mg/ ¼ cup), pumpkin seeds (232 mg/ ¼ cup), hazelnuts (195 mg/ ¼ cup), or sunflower seeds (164 mg/ ¼ cup). (6)
4. Potassium in your protein
Certain meats, fish, and dairy products are good sources of potassium but can also be high in sodium with flavor enhancers. Choose herb and citrus based marinades for meats and fish and add fresh fruit to dairy. Here’s a breakdown of the potassium levels in different protein sources:
- Meat: Cured ham (500 mg/1 slice), pork loin (448 mg/3 oz.), beef tenderloin steak (447 mg/117g), chicken – dark meat (354 mg/1 cup), ground turkey patties (288 mg/1 patty)
- Fish: Yellowtail (785 mg/ ½ fillet), bluefish (558 mg/ 1 fillet), mahi-mahi (453 mg/ 3 oz.), Atlantic cod (449 mg/ 3 oz.), skipjack tuna (444 mg/ 3 oz.)
- Dairy: Low-fat yogurt (367 mg/ 6 oz.), low-fat milk (342 mg/ 1 cup), part skim ricotta (155 mg/ ½ cup), low-fat cottage cheese (97 mg/ 4 oz.)6
5. Go for some whole grains
A few whole grains also contain potassium. Whole wheat pasta (395 mg/1 cup dry), fresh spinach pasta (348 mg/4.5 oz.), or teff (270 mg/ 1cup cooked) are among the top grain sources.6
Things to keep in mind
Potassium is one element… Keep in mind that increasing your potassium intake should be one part of your approach to decrease your blood pressure; you should also focus on consuming an overall healthy diet, decreasing your sodium intake, and increasing your physical activity.1
Is consuming a diet rich in potassium safe for everyone? If you have impaired kidney function, your body may be unable to excrete potassium properly. If you have kidney disease or impaired kidney function, check with your doctor to find out how much potassium is safe for you to consume.1
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