Wellness Pathway #257 The Potassium / Sodium Balance

By now you hopefully know that lowering your sodium chloride intake, the stuff of table salt, is a healthy thing to do. The issue is so important that it gets an entire chapter in the newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The concern is that too much sodium chloride elevates blood pressure and contributes to other chronics diseases and health problems, such as the loss of calcium through the kidneys. So “cut the salt” is a maxim to live by — reducing your consumption of both sodium and chloride.

There is absolutely no reason for anyone to add salt to their food. For one thing, it is an acquired taste largely unknown to our healthy, hunter-gatherer ancestors. Cut the salt and you will eventually come to appreciate the tastes of foods themselves. For another thing, there is no way to live in modern society and not get some added salt into your diet. Food manufacturers put salt in everything.

So it becomes important to read labels and to know how much salt is too much. The Dietary Guidelines recommends that no one consume more than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 tsp of salt) on a daily basis, from all sources. They note that staying below 1,500 mg is even better for controlling hypertension. But 1,500 mg can be found in just one can of soup or bottle of vegetable juice.

No wonder there’s no reason to add salt to our food! We have to become sodium chloride sleuths, buying no-salt added products and specifying no-salt when we order at restaurants, if we have any hope of staying under the maximum daily recommendation.

But the problem for heart health and other sodium-related health problems is not just that we are taking in too much sodium. It is also that we are taking in too little potassium. The potassium / sodium balance is even more critical than the total quantity of either one. The Dietary Guidelines recommends 4,700 mg of potassium per day, which is more than 3 times as much potassium as sodium. Others say even that is not enough.

Loren Cordain notes that virtually everything our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate — meats, fish, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds — contained about five to ten times as much potassium to sodium. By staying with these healthy whole foods, and avoiding unhealthy processed foods, we will naturally return our bodies to the high-potassium / low-sodium diet they require.

Some of the best dietary sources of potassium include: sweet and white potatoes, tomato products, beet greens, white beans, blackstrap molasses, prune and carrot juice, fish, shellfish, winter squash, soybeans, bananas, and spinach. Do what you can to increase your intake of these potassium-rich foods at the same time as you decrease your intake of sodium-rich foods.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you know how much sodium chloride you eat everyday? Is your ratio of potassium to sodium better than 3:1, if not 5:1 or more? How could you stop eating unhealthy processed foods and start eating healthy whole foods? What’s on your menu tonight?

To reply to this Pathway, use our Feedback Form. To learn more about our Wellness Coaching programs and to arrange for a complimentary wellness coaching session, use our Contact Form or Email Bob.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
2010-2011 President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org

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