Your sodium-potassium ratio directly influences your blood pressure. Because most of the foods you eat contain either sodium or potassium -- or both -- your food choices are critical to controlling your intakes of these minerals. Food processing, cooking and flavoring methods also determine foods’ mineral values. Some high-potassium beans, for example, may also contain both natural and added sodium. The National Institutes of Health report that achieving the correct dietary sodium and potassium balance is even more important if you have high blood pressure, or hypertension.
Recommended Potassium and Sodium Intakes
For potassium to have a beneficial blunting effect on sodium-induced high blood pressure, you need to get about a two-to-one or three-to-one ratio of these minerals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests 4,700 mg of potassium for all adults, 2,300 mg of sodium for healthy adults and 1,500 mg of sodium for hypertensive adults. Track your intakes from beans and other food sources via the nutrition data on food labels.
Cooked dry beans, peas and lentils can be good protection against high blood pressure due to their large potassium contributions to your diet. Legumes with the highest amounts of potassium per cup include white, Lima, pinto, kidney and navy beans, as well as split peas, lentils and soybeans. Black-eyed peas and Great Northern, black and garbanzo beans offer significant potassium. Green and yellow snap beans have much lower potassium content.
Keeping potassium-rich beans healthy for hypertensive conditions hinges on salt reduction. Canned beans with added salt deliver far more sodium than dry, minimally processed beans. Compare the 660-mg sodium content of canned kidney beans to the 4-mg content of kidney beans cooked at home from dry sources. Rinsing canned beans removes some of the sodium from salt. When fresh dried beans are not available, choose frozen beans without added salt and canned beans with reduced sodium, to decrease the effect on your blood pressure.
Your food choices can affect your longevity and quality of life. Achieving the correct sodium-potassium ratio by eating the right types of beans and other vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, can help you avoid some of the painful and potentially fatal complications associated with hypertension. These include heart failure, stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. Heart failure can permanently reduce your exercise tolerance, while kidney disease may lead to a need for dialysis or organ transplants.