The electrolytes potassium, sodium and chloride help ensure your heart functions, your muscles contract and your nerves transmit important messages throughout your body. Sodium and chloride are usually present together in foods as sodium chloride, or salt. Eating too much salt may increase your risk of heart disease. Counteract the effects of excess sodium chloride by getting enough potassium in your diet, recommends the American Heart Association.
Watch the Salt
Keep your daily sodium intake below the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association. This means cutting down on high-salt foods, such as soups, cured meats, saltwater-injected poultry, breads and rolls, pizza and fast-food sandwiches. A cup of canned chicken noodle soup contains almost 750 milligrams of sodium, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database. Other foods that contribute to high salt intake include cheese, pickled vegetables, cereals, crackers and commercial muffin and cake mixes.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
To get the recommended 4,700 milligrams per day of potassium, you have to eat your vegetables. A medium baked potato with skin provides about 900 milligrams of potassium. One-half cup of spinach, acorn squash or lima beans contains more than 400 milligrams. Fruit is also a good source of potassium. Enjoy a medium orange or banana for between 200 and 400 milligrams. One-half cup of raisins or prunes packs around 600 milligrams of potassium. You'll get around 430 milligrams of potassium from 1 cup of cantaloupe.
Indulge in Dairy
Milk is good for more than just calcium. A cup of low-fat milk contains around 370 milligrams of potassium and only about 100 milligrams of sodium. An 8-ounce serving of yogurt provides almost 500 milligrams of potassium. Enjoy 1/2 cup of cottage cheese for 118 milligrams.
Break Out the Salt Substitutes
If you tend to go heavy on the salt shaker, sprinkle a reduced-salt product or salt-free salt substitute on your food instead of regular table salt. Salt substitutes contain either a mix of potassium chloride and sodium or potassium chloride on its own. Ask you doctor before using salt substitutes, though. If you have kidney problems, your body may not be able to deal with the excess potassium. Other salt-free seasonings that contain potassium include fresh parsley -- 21 milligrams per tablespoon -- and fresh basil, which provides 18 milligrams for a 1/4-cup serving of leaves.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Sodium and Chloride
- American Heart Association: Striking a Balance: Less Sodium (Salt), More Potassium
- American Heart Association: The Salty Six
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database: Soup, Chunky Chicken Noodle, Canned, Ready-to-Serve
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- Harvard School of Public Health: Shifting the Balance of Sodium and Potassium in Your Diet
- National Dairy Council: Potassium Recommendation Fact Sheet
- Cleveland Clinic: Salt Substitutes
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database: Parsley, Fresh
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database: Basil, Fresh