Just a few changes in your diet can make a big difference in the balance of sodium and potassium in your body, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Since both minerals regulate vital functions, such as your heartbeat, be sure to consult your physician if you have any health concerns related to your sodium and potassium intake. Otherwise, take the first step toward correcting your intake by tracking the amount you eat each day.
Determine Your Intake
Before you make any changes in your diet, determine how much sodium and potassium you consume in a day. Write down all the food you eat for several days. Then use the nutrition facts label or the U.S. Department of Agriculture's database to determine the amount of sodium and potassium in each item. If the portion you eat is different from the serving size on the nutrition facts label, adjust the amount of nutrients accordingly. Compare the amount you consume to the recommended daily intakes -- 1,500 milligrams of sodium and 4,700 milligrams of potassium -- to see whether you need to increase or decrease your intake.
Adjust Your Potassium
You don't have to worry about consuming too much potassium through foods, but it can accumulate to dangerous levels if you take high doses of supplements, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Most supplements contain no more than 99 milligrams per serving because higher doses should be monitored by your physician. Add potassium-rich foods to your diet to boost your intake or reduce your intake with low-potassium foods, which have less 250 milligrams of potassium per serving. High sources of potassium include nuts, bananas, oranges, broccoli, greens, potatoes and tomatoes. Apples, blueberries, cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, green peas and sweet peppers are examples of healthy, low-potassium replacements.
Watch the Sodium
About 90 percent of the sodium in a typical diet is already in the food at the time of purchase, whether it comes from a grocery store or restaurant, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you need to cut back on sodium, choose low-sodium brands in the grocery store, limit eating restaurant food, and boost the amount of fresh foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish and lean meat. These foods are naturally low in sodium, and if you cook them at home, you avoid the sodium added during processing and you can control the amount used during cooking.
Impact on Your Health
Most Americans consume more sodium than the tolerable upper intake of 2,300 milligrams, yet they only get about half of their recommended daily potassium, according to reports from the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” and the Food Surveys Research Group. Consuming too much sodium raises your blood pressure. Potassium offsets the impact of high sodium by lowering your blood pressure. You also need the right amount of both minerals to keep your nerves and muscles working, including your heartbeat. An imbalance of potassium and sodium may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Shifting the Balance of Sodium and Potassium in Your Diet
- USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov: Super Tracker and Other Tools
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes
- UpToDate: Foods With High Levels of Potassium
- UpToDate: Foods With Low Levels of Potassium
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vital Signs -- Food Categories Contributing the Most to Sodium Consumption -- United States, 2007-2008
- Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 10: Potassium Intake of the U.S. Population: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2009-2010
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Sodium and Potassium Intakes Among US Adults: NHANES 2003-2008
- UpToDate: Patient Information: Low-Potassium Diet (Beyond the Basics)