Harvard Heart Letter

Sodium, potassium together influence heart health

When it comes to salt and food, the sodium in table salt gets most of the attention for its role in boosting blood pressure and contributing to cardiovascular disease. Potassium should get equal billing for its role in keeping blood pressure in check. Before processed foods became widely available, humans consumed much more potassium than sodium. Today, we get almost twice as much sodium as potassium. A new report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests that this imbalance — more sodium than potassium — contributes to heart disease and premature death. Here are some foods rich in potassium and low in sodium. Note the huge differences between unprocessed foods and the processed or salted foods marked in italics. (A more extensive list of potassium in foods, ranked high potassium content to low, is available from the US Department of Agriculture.)

Food

Amount

Potassium (mg)

Sodium (mg)

Potassium to sodium ratio

Banana, raw

1 medium

422

1

422:1

Black beans, cooked without salt

1/2 cup

305

1

305:1

Orange

1 medium

232

1

232:1

Orange juice

3/4 cup

357

2

178:1

Grapefruit juice

3/4 cup

252

2

126:1

Peanuts, dry roasted, no salt

1 1/2 ounces

280

3

93:1

Peanuts, dry roasted, with salt

1 1/2 ounces

280

346

0.8:1

Avocado

1/2 medium

487

7

69:1

Raisins

1/2 cup

543

8

68:1

Prune juice

3/4 cup

530

8

66:1

Baked potato, plain, with skin

1 medium

926

17

54:1

Fast-food French fries

1 medium order

655

266

2.5:1

Peanut butter, without salt

2 tablespoons

208

5

42:1

Peanut butter, with salt

2 tablespoons

208

147

1.4:1

Brussels sprouts, steamed

1/2 cup

248

7

35:1

Applesauce (jar), no salt

1/2 cup

92

3

31:1

Applesauce (jar), with salt

1/2 cup

78

36

2.2:1

Oatmeal, regular

1 cup

164

9

18:1

Quaker's Instant Oatmeal

1 packet

116

249

0.5:1

Cantaloupe

1/4 medium

368

22

17:1

Halibut, baked

3 ounces

490

59

8:1

Spinach, boiled

1/2 cup

420

63

7:1

Salmon, baked

3 ounces

244

39

6:1

Salmon, canned

3 ounces/em>

311

399

0.8:1

V8, low-sodium

1 cup

820

140

6:1

V8, regular

1 cup

470

480

1:1

Carrots, raw

1/2 cup

205

44

5:1

Beet greens

1/2 cup

655

173

4:1

Milk, 1%

1 cup

366

107

3:1

Cheerios

1 cup

171

186

0.9:1

Marinara sauce, prepared

1/2 cup

406

527

0.8:1

Pork and beans, canned

1 cup

726

1075

0.7:1

Fast-food cheeseburger

1 regular

444

1176

0.4:1

French bread

1 medium slice

82

416

0.2:1

Cornflakes

1 cup

33

266

0.1:1

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database

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