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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-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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Dental pain ruining your weekend? Essentia Health to partner with area Dentists for pain relief

Essentia Health and Brainerd Lakes Area Dental Offices are Working together for solutions to emergency dental care.

The Emergency Department at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center can now offer patients with emergency dental problems more than antibiotics and pain medications. Patients can also get a referral to a local dentist to treat the underlying problem.

Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center

The Brainerd hospital is partnering with seven local dental offices and the United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties in a project called “Help Crow Wing County Smile.”  The community collaboration is aimed at helping patients who lack the ability to pay for dental care or who rely on state or federal medical insurance to get connected to the place the patient can receive the care they need – a dentist office.

“Many people on Medical Assistance can’t get dental care so we become their only resource,” explains Terry Wurtzberger, director of St. Joseph’s Emergency Department. She estimates 25-35 patients visit the department each month due to dental emergencies. Another 10-20 patients go to Urgent Care in the Baxter Clinic.

Dr. Kevin Dens, a Baxter dentist, began researching the problem when he served on the hospital’s board and also on the board of the Minnesota Dental Association, where he now serves as president.

“The emergency department is not equipped to deal with dental problems,” Dr. Dens explains. “They can’t address the underlying problem. By the time people have pain, the decay is so deep into the teeth that it is a major problem.”

Dr. Dens helped recruit six other dental offices to treat patients who come to the Emergency Department and don’t have their own dentist. Those patients are referred to a participating dentist and make their own appointments.

Low reimbursement rates have prompted some dentists to quit accepting patients on government programs, which has reduced access to dental care. That has contributed to the number of people seeking emergency dental care at hospitals, Dr. Dens says.

To help launch the program, the Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Foundation contributed $15,000 to a pilot project in which the United Way partially reimburses the participating dentists for their services when they accept these patients. In addition to Dr. Dens and his son, Dr. Chris Dens, at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, the participating dental offices are Dr. Paul Perpich, Lakes Country Dental, Design Dental, Edgewood Dental, Lakes Dental Care and Winegar Dental.

Patients that are referred for emergency dental care through “Help Crow Wing County Smile” are asked to given back to the community an hour of volunteer time in exchange for each $25 worth of dental care they receive. The United Way coordinates the giving back part of the program through their online volunteer hub, Get Connected?, at volunteer.unitedwaynow.org.

“We want to offer the best solution for the patient, the hospital and the dentist,” says Dr. Dens. “We want to make a difference and help people cope with dental problems.”

 

“We’re trying to help people connect with the right care at the right time with a dentist,” says Jessica Martensen, the Essentia Health-Baxter Clinic manager who also worked on the project. “We’ve come together with dentists to see how we can help our community.”

 

 

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No Need to Cry-Let’s Celebrate the Onion

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

onion recipe

The onion is a hardy vegetable that can be planted right now. It does well in cool climates and can be planted five to six weeks before the final spring frost date, which is early June here in the Northland. You can plant seeds or small starter bulbs.

Onions are the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States, according to the National Onion Association. Per person consumption is about 20 pounds per year, which translates to more than 450 semi-truck loads of onions used each day.

There are two main kinds of onions, fresh and dry. Fresh onions include green onions, also known as scallions, and sweet onions, such as Vidalia, that are availablein spring. Dry onions, also known as storage onions, can be yellow, white or red. Dry onions usually have a stronger, more pungent flavor.

The onion’s strong flavor and odor come from sulfuric compounds. These compounds cause our eyes to tear. To keep tearing to a minimum, refrigerate an onion for 30 minutes before cutting and leave the root end on as long as possible, which reduces the release of the sulfuric compounds.

Onions provide a little vitamin C, folate, calcium and potassium. Onions are high in flavonoids, the antioxidants that can neutralize harmful free radicals and suppress inflammation in our bodies. One flavonoid is quercetin, which has been linked to protection from lung cancer and asthma.

For some people, onions can increase the symptoms of gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome. Onions, especially when eaten raw, can bring on symptoms of GERD or heartburn because the valve between the esophagus and stomach does not to close well, allowing the acid from the stomach to come up into the esophagus. Some people can tolerate cooked onions or onion powder better than raw onions.

For those with irritable bowel syndrome, onions are a source of fructans that need to be broken apart by an enzyme in the small intestine. If they don’t have enough of this enzyme, the fructans continue into the large intestine where they ferment and result in gas, bloating and/or diarrhea. Avoiding all types of onion is best. Try adding onion flavor by sautéing large pieces of onion in oil, removing them and then only using the flavored oil.  This doesn’t work with soup because fructans are soluble in water and remain in the soup.

Here are two recipes featuring onions.

Marinated onions are a great addition to sandwiches and salads. Try different onions, such Vadalia onions for something sweeter or red onions to add some color.

Marinated Onions

1 medium onion

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup rice vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons honey or granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Peel and thinly slice onion. Separate into rings. Combine remaining ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until well blended. Add onions. Shake to coat onions. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.

Nutrition facts

Serving:  About 6

Calories:  40

Total fat: 2 grams

Saturated fat: 0 grams

Trans fat: 0 grams

Cholesterol:  0 milligrams

Sodium: 1 milligram

Potassium: 35 milligrams

Carbohydrate:  6 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Protein: 0 grams

French onion soup is usually very high in saturated fat and sodium but this one is more heart-healthy.

The traditional soup uses toasted French bread but whole-grain bread makes it more nutritious.

 

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced sweet Vidalia onions

4 cups thinly sliced red onions

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon ground pepper

¼ cup dry white wine

1½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

6 cups unsalted beef stock (140 milligrams sodium or less per cup)

½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

3 slices whole-grain bread, toasted and cubed

¾ cup shredded Swiss cheese

Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, pepper and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in wine, broth and thyme, bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Preheat broiler. Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a pan. Add 1 cup of soup to each bowl. Add ½ slice of toast cut into cubes and then top with 2 tablespoons of Swiss cheese. Broil for 3 minutes until cheese begins to brown.

Nutrition facts

Servings: 6

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories: 195

Total fat: 7 grams

Saturated fat: 3 grams

Trans fat: 0 grams

Cholesterol: 13 milligrams

Sodium: 250 milligrams

Potassium: 150 milligrams

Carbohydrates: 21 grams

Fiber: 3 grams

Protein: 10 grams

Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

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