Essentia Health Smarts | Pump up your potassium!

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

Potassium is an essential mineral for our bodies, but many of us are not getting enough in the foods we eat.

Potassium is important for our bodies to digest food efficiently and help avoid constipation. It helps build strong muscles and makes them properly relax and contract. Potassium keeps our hearts beating correctly and our blood pressure in a good range. It also helps lower our risk for kidney stones and bone loss.

The Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Science recommends adults get at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day. We should consume two to three times more potassium than sodium for our bodies to function well. But many of us have this ratio upside down. The average American gets only 2,500 milligrams of potassium daily while consuming 3,450 milligrams or more of sodium.

If we are healthy, it is almost impossible to consume too much potassium because our kidneys control how the mineral is eliminated. If we eat a lot of potassium, more is eliminated. When kidneys are damaged, or when certain medications are taken, potassium balance can be affected.

Too little potassium, or hypokalemia, can cause weak muscles, abnormal heart rhythms and higher blood pressure. Too much potassium, or hyperkalemia, may cause dangerous heart rhythms and needs to be addressed by your health care provider. It’s important to know that you can be deficient in potassium even if the level is normal in your blood. That’s because we need potassium throughout our body, not just in our blood.

Fortunately, potassium is found in a wide range of foods. Here are some good sources:

foods with potassium

  • Vegetables: broccoli, peas, dried beans, tomatoes, potatoes (especially their skins), sweet potatoes and winter squash
  • Fruits: citrus fruits, cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi, prunes and dried fruits.
  • Milk, and yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Meats: Red meats, chicken
  • Fish: salmon, cod, flounder and sardines
  • Soy products, including veggie burgers

 

If your potassium level is too high in your blood, choose lower potassium foods. It is impossible to eat a potassium-free diet. Just eliminating a few of the higher potassium foods will usually help.

 

Potassium supplements are not recommended, unless prescribed by your health care provider. A supplement could affect your heart rhythm. Getting more potassium from food is the better option, unless you are on a medication that warrants a potassium supplement.

It is hard to accurately estimate our potassium intake since nutrition labels on foods don’t include the mineral. A good resource is the USDA food database, which you can find on the internet.

Here are some high potassium foods with an estimate of the amount of the mineral found in each:

 

Vegetables

Broccoli, cooked                       1 cup                                        460 milligrams

Brussel sprouts, cooked             1 cup                                        500 milligrams

Mushrooms, cooked                  ½ cup                                       280 milligrams

Potato, baked with skin              1 medium                                  925 milligrams

Rutabaga, parsnips                   1 cup                                        560 milligrams

Spinach, cooked                       ½ cup                                       420 milligrams

Sweet potato, baked                 1 medium                                  450 milligrams

Tomato, raw                              1 medium                                  290 milligrams

Tomato sauce or puree              ½ cup                                       400-550 milligrams

Winter squash                           1 cup                                        500 milligrams

 

Fruits

Avocado                                   ¼                                              245 milligrams

Banana                                     1 medium                                  425 milligrams

Cantaloupe                               1 cup                                        430 milligrams

Kiwi                                          1 medium                                  240 milligrams

Orange                                     1 medium                                  240 milligrams

Prune juice                                ½ cup                                       370 milligrams

Raisins                                     ¼ cup                                       270 milligrams

Strawberries, raw                       1 cup                                        250 milligrams

 

Meats and fish

Beef, cooked                            3 ounces                                   270 milligrams

Chicken, cooked                       3 ounces                                   220 milligrams

Fish: cod, salmon, perch            3 ounces                                   300-480 milligrams

Pork, cooked                            3 ounces                                   350 milligrams

 

Other foods

Lentils, cooked                         ½ cup                                       365 milligrams

Beans and peas, cooked           ½ cup                                       300-595 milligrams

Nuts, seeds                              1 ounce                                     200-300 milligrams

Milk                                          1 cup                                        350-380 milligrams

Soy milk                                   1 cup                                        300 milligrams

Yogurt, plain or fruited               6 ounces                                   260-435 milligrams

 

Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health

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Tell Fat to Fork Off-Diet-Proof Your Kitchen

Tell Fat to Fork Off

You can only overeat unhealthy foods if you stock them in your kitchen. But old habits are hard to break; you buy what you buy at the store because it’s what you’re used to, or what your family likes. Until you give your kitchen an overhaul, though, and diet-proof your pantry, weight loss and healthy eating habits are going to remain elusive.

It’s important to admit your weaknesses regarding diet – we all have them, and those who understand them are the ones who are more likely to implement healthy habits and shun the bad ones. For instance, if you know you can’t eat just one or two potato chips, then it’s probably a good idea not to have them in your house.

So what do you do? How can you diet-proof your kitchen? Here are some tips that may help, starting with a list of foods to avoid buying. Keep this list in mind when you make your grocery list…because you are making a list, aren’t you? That’s one of the keys to beginning the diet-proofing of your kitchen!

Foods to Avoid Buying

This is only a partial list which is meant to act as a springboard – listing all unhealthy foods not to buy would take volumes! This list focuses on foods that tend to be “go to” foods when you have a craving, or foods you may just be buying for their convenience or out of habit.

1. Peanut butter that’s been highly processed with added fat and sugar
2. Toaster pastries
3. Potato chips
4. Ice cream (especially rich, fatty ice cream with lots of added ingredients)
5. Candy
6. Packaged cakes (such as those individually wrapped ones)
7. Shortening or lard (if you don’t have it on hand, you can’t reach for it to bake an impromptu batch of midnight cookies)
8. Foods that contain high fructose corn syrup
9. Sugary drinks (colas)
10. Sugary cereals
11. Fatty cuts of meat, such as ground chuck or “marbled” beef roast or stew meat
12. Fatty dips, spreads, and salad dressings

Foods to Stock Up On

Here is a partial list of foods to have on hand:

1. Cut-up vegetables with low-calorie dip
2. Whole wheat tortillas
3. Fresh fruit (frozen grapes are especially good for sweet cravings)
4. Nuts (raw without added fat)
5. Healthy oils
6. No-sugar-added condiments like jelly and jam
7. Whole wheat bagels
8. Low-fat cream cheese
9. Low-fat yogurt
10. Granola
11. Fresh garlic
12. Flavorful, low-calorie condiments, herbs and spices, such as mustard, hot sauce, salt-free spice mixes, etc.
13. Frozen fish fillets

We all know that fruits and vegetables are essential parts of a healthy diet. The vitamins and nutrients from them helps make the body stronger and can boost the immune system. Each fruit and vegetable has its own natural properties that are beneficial. For instance, a tomato has antioxidant properties that help cleanse the body of toxins and free radicals. It is great for preventing cancer too.

You can easily find fruits and vegetables in the grocery store.  But how do you choose the good ones from the bad ones? Read on for some great tips.

Tips for Finding Good Produce:

Fruits

Oranges– Good oranges are firm, heavy and have a smooth texture. Do not buy oranges that are lightweight, dull, spongy, and have a rough texture.

Peaches– Good peaches are firm and plump. It should be white or yellow in color with a red blush. Do not buy peaches that are very cushiony or shriveled.

Grapes- Good grapes are tender, plump, firmly attached to the stems and have a slight amber blush (green grapes). Bad grapes are brown in color, have a wrinkled surface and brittle stems.

Apricots– Good apricots have a uniform golden color and they are firm. Do not buy apricots that have a pale yellow or greenish color. Bad apricots can be very soft or very hard.

Cherry– Good cherries have new looking stems and a smooth and shiny surface. Bad cherries have dried steams and dull surfaces.
Cantaloupe- Good cantaloupes have a delicate aroma, yellowish skin and a thick texture on the rind. Do not buy cantaloupes with a sweet and pungent aroma as well as those with a soft rind.

Watermelon– Good watermelons are symmetrical in shape and have a cream-colored underside. Do not buy watermelons with cushiony spots.

Vegetables

Broccoli– Good broccoli is firm, have closed florets and have a deep green color. Do not buy broccoli that are yellow in color, with open florets and water-soaked spots.

Asparagus- Good asparagus have closed tips and straight green stalks. Bad asparagus have open tips and the stalks are curved.
Bell Pepper- Good bell peppers have bright and glossy skin. They are firm and thick while bad bell peppers have soft spots and shriveled surfaces.

Carrots– Good carrots are firm and have a bright orange color. Bad carrots have a rough texture, soft and have green roots.

Tomato– Good tomatoes are plump, smooth and have a rich red color. Bad tomatoes look shriveled and have blemishes.

Now that you know how to choose good produce, you will spend your money wisely. Do not rush choosing good produce though, take your time and make sure you buy the best, it will be worth it.

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#Essentia Health offers Free Community Seminar and Vein Screenings in Crosslake

FREE COMMUNITY SEMINAR AND VEIN SCREENING IN CROSSLAKE
Feel confident and pain free again

Essentia Health Vein clinic

Painful veins in your legs can be a symptom of serious health problems. Yet many people defer treatment, thinking that varicose veins are merely cosmetic, and they don’t want to appear vain. Others grow accustomed to the swelling and pain because their condition progresses slowly, creating a “new normal.”

Learn more about vein conditions and treatment options from general surgeon Dr. James Dehen and have an initial screening. The complimentary seminar is from 10:30a.m.-12:30p.m. on Thursday, June 29, following SilverSneakers class at the Crosslake Community Center, located at 14126 Daggett Pine Road in Crosslake. Lunch and beverages will be provided.

“Vein conditions are not solely a cosmetic problem,” according to Dr. Dehen, who sees patients at the Essentia Health clinics in Pine River and Brainerd. Swollen or discolored veins can be symptoms of other medical conditions that need to be treated to avoid serious complications, he explains.

“If your legs are swollen, fatigue easy, or have unsightly or painful leg veins, you should talk to your primary care physician or a surgeon experienced with treating veins.”

Venous diseases are caused by poorly functioning valves within veins. This inefficiency causes spider veins – red or blue web-like veins on the skin’s surface. Untreated, they can grow into varicose veins, which appear as bulges on the leg’s surface. The disease can progress to include swelling, pain, clotting, ulceration and skin inflammation.

Space is limited, so please register by calling 218.828.7583 or email jeri.hughes@essentiahealth.org.

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Tell Fat to Fork Off-Adding a Rainbow of Color to your Diet

Health Benefits of a Colorful Diet

Professional chefs will tell you there’s a visual element to food, and they work on their presentation as much as the food’s flavor. Given this human tendency, it’s interesting that some of nature’s most visually appealing foods are also the healthiest.

However, in our modern culture of artificially-colored foods, many of us have lost the sensitivity to foods’ natural colors, and we may think of brightly-colored foods as unhealthy (in the case of artificial colors, this may be true!). It’s time to look at nature’s food rainbow and point out the health benefits!

Red

Red-colored foods tend to be high in lycopene, which acts as an antioxidant and possible cancer preventative. Lycopene (sometimes called anthocyanins) is actually the pigment that makes red foods red, and has also been implicated in promoting heart health. In addition, red foods are often high in Vitamin C and other important nutrients. Here is a list of some healthy red foods:

Tell fat to fork off

* Pink grapefruit
* Watermelon
* Tomatoes (particularly cooked or canned tomatoes – this processing seems to help the lycopene be absorbed by the body)
* Raspberries
* Strawberries
* Rhubarb
* Cherries
* Beets
* Red/Purple cabbage
* Red bell peppers

Yellow and Orange

Tell Fat to Fork off

Yellow and orange foods are usually lumped together in the same category, all getting their color from carotenoids. Carotenoids, or beta-carotene, are converted to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is said to be an important nutrient for eye health and hormone regulation (especially in women). Studies have also shown beta-carotene to promote heart health. Here are some yellow and orange foods to include in your diet:

* Cantaloupe
* Sweet potatoes
* Yellow and orange bell peppers
* Carrots
* Peaches and apricots
* Yellow corn (note that white corn does not contain as many carotenoids)
* Oranges
* Papayas
* “White” grapefruit
* Pineapple

Blue and Purple

Tell Fat to Fork off

Again with anthocyanins – blue and purple foods contain these antioxidants which are reputed to protect against a host of diseases, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. Blue and purple foods are also said to help prevent memory loss. Here are some to try:

* Purple grapes
* Blueberries
* Eggplant
* Raisins
* Plums
* Blackberries
* Prunes

Green

Tell Fat to Fork off

When you think of vegetables, this is probably the color you think of first. The darker the green, the healthier the food, say multiple sources. The green pigment is due to chlorophyll, the plant chemical that makes all green plants green, from broccoli to oak trees. Some dark leafy greens contain lutein, another eye-healthy nutrient; others, like broccoli, contain indoles which are said to protect against cancer. Go green by adding some of these foods into your diet:

* Brussels sprouts
* Spinach
* Kale
* Lettuce (leaf varieties)
* Cucumbers
* Green bell peppers
* Kiwi fruit
* Asparagus
* Green cabbage
* Peas

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently reviewed more than 1,300 books on anti-inflammatory diets. While the books offered variety of ideas, the basic concept of an anti-inflammatory diet matches the Mediterranean style of eating that I often advocate. This plan, which is also heart-healthy, says:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, at least four cups a day. Enjoy bright-colored berries and cherries. Eat a variety of vegetables, including leafy greens such as spinach, kale and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.
  • Consume good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon, whitefish, trout, tuna or walnuts, canola oil and flaxseed. Two to five servings a week is a good insurance plan.
  • Turn to more plant-based proteins, such as beans, nuts and seeds. Limit red meat, processed meats and high-fat dairy products.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined ones to get more anti-oxidants. Look for the whole grain symbol on packages of breads, crackers, cereals, rice and pasta.
  • Use the monounsaturated “good” fats found in olive oil, nut butters, avocados and seeds that lubricate blood vessels. Avoid trans fats and saturated fats that clog arteries.
  • Avoid refined foods and processed foods, which fuel inflammation. Limit baked and boxed goods.
  • Add herbs and spices, especially ginger, turmeric, curry and garlic. They pack a flavorful and anti-oxidant-rich punch.

Remember, diet is only one risk factor. Smoking, excess alcohol use and excess calories that cause weight gain boost chronic inflammation. The best way to decrease inflammation is to lose weight because fat cells release inflammatory signals, explains Dr. Walter Willet, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Getting adequate sleep and regular physical exercise can also help.

 

 

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